Football: FAU’s loss to ULL proves team is still far from ready

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FAU defensive back Demetrius Williams drives his shoulders into ULL wide receiver Darryl Surgent to make a tackle. FAU would go on to lose 37-34 on a last second field goal. Photo by Ralph Notaro.

Zack Duarte

FAU defensive back Demetrius Williams drives his shoulders into ULL wide receiver Darryl Surgent to make a tackle. FAU would go on to lose 37-34 on a last second field goal. Photo by Ralph Notaro.

Lafayette, La.– All the makings were there for FAU (0-4,0-1) to upset Louisiana Lafayette (4-1,2-0) and get its first win in conference play. .

Even after being outscored 27-3 and then scoring 14 consecutive points to tie the game with 1:48 to play, FAU’s defense couldn’t come up with one final stop when it mattered most.

An aura of disarray surrounds the team and it showed more than ever after the game. Even head coach Howard Schnellenberger may not know what to do with his squad.

“The decision I made late in the game was to substitute [David] Kooi for [Graham] Wilbert and thank god I didn’t,” said Schnellenberger. “After I told [Kooi] that he was going to go in, I was asked by the coaching staff that I would relent. I used the better part of judgment and left [Wilbert] in there. That’s what made a game of it.”

Schnellenberger almost removed Wilbert in the first half as well.

“The unusualness of this is that it turned out wonderfully and stimulated the right people,” said Schnellenberger. “It helped make the aforementioned situation continue to improve. I don’t know what happened to Graham the first part of the game, he was not good at all and I’m so happy for he and for our team that he responded with those touchdowns.”

So here we are, fourth game of the year, getting ready to move into a new on-campus stadium and the team has two important conference games before that.

Two opportunities to move into a tie for first place in the conference even with all the horrendous play shown in the first three games of the season.

And they still don’t know who the quarterback should be?

FAU wide receiver DeAndre Richardson bolts past ULL cornerback Melvin White as the defender slams into the turf. Photo by Ralph Notaro.

Missed Opportunities

The Owls had a 17-7 lead in the second quarter before the offense went on a hiatus until the fourth quarter. Even with all the penalties (11 for 100 yards), a missing offense and a defense that was slapped around like a cat plays with a ball of yarn, FAU was never really out of it.

On the Cajuns first possession of the game they were held to a three-and-out series. Then, on the ensuing punt, freshman Ash Cortez was called for roughing the punter which gave ULL a first down and 15 extra yards.

Three plays later and the Cajuns took a 7-0 lead.

Simple mistakes let ULL back in the game after the Owls scored 17 consecutive points. Instead of taking further control, the offense fell asleep and the defense did little to get in the way of the Cajuns offense.

Playing superior competition this season the Owls have allowed an average of over 400 yards a game and against the Rajin’ Cajuns the outcome was no different — in fact it was more.

ULL totalled 459 yards of offense on the FAU, who specifically switched its defense in the offseason from a 4-3 to a 3-4 to try to better defend offenses like this: a team with a dual threat quarterback and an offensive system that tries to spread the ball around.

The Cajuns also took a play from the Gators playbook.

Against the University of Florida, Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss screened and slanted FAU’s defense to death daring Owls defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh to stop him.

The Cajuns did the same thing and found the same success the Gators did.

Cajuns wide receiver Harry Peoples had 12 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown. Most of his receptions came on bubble screens and slants that FAU was unable to stop.

Besides those types of plays the Cajuns offense game plan was as vanilla as they come, and still the Owls couldn’t defend it.

When asked after the game if the Cajuns offense did anything special on the game winning drive coach Schnellenberger responded with “No. That’s their basic offense.”

The Owls got beat by a basic offense. No trick plays, no masterful playcalling, no spectacular catches that will make ESPN and no bone crunching runs that make the crowd gasp, stand up and cheer.

For all the positives anyone wants to take out of this game there are two negatives.

For all the coaches and players who were saying how well the defense played, there are points left on the board by the Cajuns, such as Brett Baer’s two missed field-goals and Harry People’s fumble at the FAU 30 yard line.

The Cajuns could have easily put up 50 points against the Owls.

And for all the talk about “small victories” and “momentum building” for the Owls offense, they were plagued today by the same things that have plagued them all season: turnovers, penalties and mental mistakes.

While on paper it seems FAU is close to putting a win together, when closely examined it seems like even they themselves aren’t sure what they should be doing.

“We’re 0-4 now,” said Schnellenberger. “That puts a burden on us and puts us in jeopardy. But we’ve been there before and bounced back.”

If the Owls are going to bounce back it’s put up or shut up time. If FAU loses three more games they become ineligible for a bowl game. After all the talk the team had of sending Schnellenberger out with a bang, right now it’s looking more like a whimper.