Analysis: Keys to the FAU vs. MTSU game

After a conference opening win at Charlotte, the Owls return home to take on Middle Tennessee in a pivotal C-USA matchup.

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Analysis: Keys to the FAU vs. MTSU game

A key to the game today is getting pressure on Middle Tennessee QB Asher O'Hara. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A key to the game today is getting pressure on Middle Tennessee QB Asher O'Hara. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A key to the game today is getting pressure on Middle Tennessee QB Asher O'Hara. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A key to the game today is getting pressure on Middle Tennessee QB Asher O'Hara. Photo by: Alex Liscio

Joseph Acosta, Contributing Writer

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On Saturday, the Owls aim to notch their second conference win against Middle Tennessee State University at 4 p.m. at FAU Stadium.

FAU comes back to Boca Raton off of a dominating 45-27 win on the road against Charlotte. The Owls dominated the ground game, rushing for 236 yards on the day. Malcolm Davidson led the charge for the Owls rushing attack, rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. 

James Charles and Larry McCammon each tacked on a touchdown as well, and backup QB Nick Tronti also got in on the ground game, rushing for 48 yards. 

QB Chris Robison was surgical through the air, completing 20 of his 27 passes for 312 yards, along with two touchdowns and an interception. One of those touchdowns went to wideout Tavaris Harrison on an 18-yard strike and the other was a two yard pass to TE John Raine. 

On defense, FAU stifled the 49ers all game, with safety DaVon Brown leading the way with six tackles. As a group, the Owls stifled Charlotte’s famed rushing attack, allowing only 52 yards on the ground. 

With both FAU and Middle Tennessee coming off of big conference wins, this will be a pivotal game for Conference USA standings. Here are the keys to the game for the Owls.

Continued success on the ground 

The Owls have been well-balanced on the ground so far this season with RB’s Larry McCammon, Malcolm Davidson, and James Charles each having over 100 yards this season. 

FAU has rushed for over 100 yards in the last two games, and that success has opened up the passing game for Robison and the receivers. With the offensive line meshing together and the offense moving the ball effectively, the Owls offense has slowly gained its form.

Middle Tennessee allows an average of 253 rushing yards per game. In their last game against Marshall, the Blue Raiders allowed 202 rushing yards. With the rushing attack working so well right now and MTSU’s lack of success stopping the run, expect Davidson, McCammon, and even Tronti to have success on the ground.

Contain MTSU quarterback Asher O’Hara

On a conference call Monday, FAU head coach Lane Kiffin said, “[O’Hara] gets out of a lot of trouble and makes plays with his feet.”

In last week’s game against Marshall, O’Hara threw for 261 yards and a touchdown, while adding 76 rushing yards and a TD. O’Hara can move the ball through the air and on the ground, and through the first five games, he has accounted for about 79 percent of Middle Tennessee’s total yards of offense. 

For the Owls to win on Saturday, the defensive front seven will have to make an effort to contain O’Hara. The defensive line is going to have to push the pocket and make O’Hara uncomfortable — and with Ray Ellis and Tim Bonner up front, the defensive line will need to have a big day. Linebackers Akileis Leroy and Rashad Smith will have to continue their stellar seasons and make plays in the open field. 

Win the turnover battle

Against Charlotte, FAU forced three turnovers  and only turned the ball over once. In comparison, Middle Tennessee forced four turnovers while never giving away the ball. In his press conference Monday, Kiffin said the Blue Raiders did a great job of protecting the football. 

While FAU is tied with Middle Tennessee in turnover margin, the Owls do a stellar job in forcing turnovers, ranking at 13 in the nation with an average of two takeaways per game. In a game where betting lines opened up with FAU as the favorite, a turnover can swing momentum, and can lead to points as well. 

Joseph Acosta is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @acosta32_jp.