Stadium-sized letdown

Franco Panizo

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Just weeks into the college football season, FAU made a huge stride toward becoming a more serious university and football program when it received approval to construct a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium, slated to open in 2011.

Sadly for the program, the football team did little to match that on the field in 2010.

For the second straight season, the Owls failed to reach a bowl game, going 4-8 (3-5 in Sun Belt Conference games) in a season that can only be labeled a disappointment.

If the record wasn’t ugly enough, the manner in which the team played was. FAU was stagnant offensively for much of the year, finishing 109th (out of 120) in the nation in total offense. Even running back Alfred Morris, the defending Sun Belt rushing leader, had a down year, rushing for just 928 yards and seven touchdowns.

The defense made noticeable progress, especially in the turnover column, but it still fell prey to its troubling penchants far too many times. Just as it had during its disaster of a season in 2009, the defense struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks from scrambling out of the pocket. The unit also gave up far too many big plays at what seemed to be the most untimely moments.

Head coach Howard Schnellenberger also had lapses this season. The most noticeable moment came in the loss against Detroit, when he opted to have Ross Gornall kick a field goal late in the game instead of going for a touchdown that could have given the Owls a chance to tie the game.

Schnellenberger should shoulder the blame for many of the Owls’ woes this season, but not all of them.

For instance, no one expected Van Camp to pass as inaccurately as he did at times this season, especially after his strong showing in tail end of the 2009 season. Too many times this season did Van Camp just make bad reads and throws. Maybe it was the result of being hit so many times with the lack of protection given to him from the offensive line, or maybe it was just who Van Camp was. Regardless, the lanky quarterback’s turnovers were an issue this season.

So where does the program go from here? Unless there’s some remarkable discovery of talent among the younger players, or unless the current underwhelming bunch of returning starters surprises, FAU is headed for another rough season in 2011.

The defense has lost its nucleus, with linebacker Michael Lockley, safety Ed Alexander and cornerback Tavious Polo, among others, graduating.

As for the offense, Van Camp is graduating, leaving the offense in the hands of either David Kooi or Graham Wilbert, both of whom are fairly unproven and inexperienced.

Running back Alfred Morris will be back, but so will the offensive line that struggled mightily this season. To top it all off, wide receiver Lester Jean — arguably the Owls’ biggest playmaker this season — will be graduated, leaving the thin wide receiver corps further depleted, and growing the laundry list of issues FAU faces as it heads into 2011.

Well, at least there’s a stadium to look forward to.