Preview: FAU goes on the road to face Old Dominion

After falling to Marshall, FAU will hope to quickly recover against Old Dominion.

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Preview: FAU goes on the road to face Old Dominion

A concern from last weeks loss was the struggles from the offensive line in trying to protect QB Chris Robison. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A concern from last weeks loss was the struggles from the offensive line in trying to protect QB Chris Robison. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A concern from last weeks loss was the struggles from the offensive line in trying to protect QB Chris Robison. Photo by: Alex Liscio

A concern from last weeks loss was the struggles from the offensive line in trying to protect QB Chris Robison. Photo by: Alex Liscio

Kevin Fielder, Contributing Writer

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After a loss to Marshall, the FAU Owls (4-3, 2-2 C-USA) will travel to Norfolk, Virginia to battle against the Old Dominion Monarchs (1-6, 0-3 C-USA).

While ODU has struggled to win games this season, with their last loss against University of Alabama at Birmingham, head coach Lane Kiffin praised the Monarchs. 

“[ODU] were ahead of Virginia, I think, heading into the fourth quarter. One score in the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech, one score in the Marshall game,” Kiffin said during his press conference on Wednesday. “Really, outside of UAB, I think for the most part [ODU] have been in every single game.”

A win for FAU would put them at five on the season, meaning the Owls would need just one win out of their final four games to clinch bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons under Kiffin. The win would also allow FAU to stay neck-and-neck with Marshall and Western Kentucky for the C-USA East championship.

Here are things to watch ahead of a critical road game for the Owls:

FAU Offensive Line Struggles

It’s no question that the FAU offensive line performance has been concerning early in the season.

While they had success against Middle Tennessee, the struggles that plagued them, especially in pass blocking situations, arose against Marshall.

Chris Robison was sacked a season-high seven times against Marshall, and was hurried another five times. As a team, Marshall had 12 tackles for loss and allowed just 52 yards to Malcolm Davidson. 

On Sunday’s press conference, however, Lane Kiffin was hesitant to blame the offensive line for all the sacks.

Even though five of the seven weren’t even normal passes, just poor quarterback decisions,” Kiffin said during his weekly teleconference. “[They] were RPOs. They are named RPOs for a reason – Run/Pass Options, not run, pass, hold the ball – RPHO. Unfortunately, that cost us on offense.”

Beginning Saturday, the offensive line will have to improve to not only beat ODU, but also beat other conference opponents.

As a team, ODU have sacked opposing quarterbacks a total of nine times, with junior defensive tackle Juwan Ross leading the way with 3.5 sacks.

Quarterback Questions for ODU

The ODU offense is struggling as a whole, and no position has had more question marks than the quarterback position. ODU head coach Bobby Wilder began the season with Stone Smartt under center but after poor performances in the Monarchs’ first five games, the Monarchs switched to Messiah De Weaver.

While De Weaver has been better statistically compared to Smartt, the junior De Weaver still hasn’t been terrific. In his two starts for ODU, DeWeaver has completed just 36% of his passes for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. DeWeaver has also been sacked eight times.

The FAU defensive line has been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and the secondary has shown its ability to create turnovers, so the FAU defense could be in for another strong day.

The X-Factor

As is the case for FAU every week, someone is going to have to step up for the Owls. In their 28-13 victory over Middle Tennessee, it was running back Malcolm Davidson who took control for the Owls, running for 149 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

While ODU has allowed just 326 yards per game this season, it has been their inability to stop running backs in conference play that have driven the Monarchs to three consecutive losses in conference.

In three conference games, ODU has allowed at least 100 rushing yards a running back in each game. In their 38-14 loss to UAB last week, the ODU defense allowed 116 yards and a touchdown to running back Jermaine Brown.

Look for either Malcolm Davidson or Larry McCammon to step up for FAU should the Owls continue their success on offense.

Other Players to Watch

For FAU, keep an eye on the play of linebackers Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy. The two linebackers have dominated opposing defenses this season, combining for 98 total tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. The two will look to continue their domination against a struggling ODU offense who have scored just 16 points per game. 

Keep an eye on ODU running back Kesean Strong. Strong currently leads the Monarchs in rushing yards (200), receptions (18) and receiving yards (133). FAU struggled with their run defense against Marshall, allowing over 200 rushing yards to Brenden Knox, so Strong could be in for a terrific day.

On defense, FAU should keep an eye on defensive backs Geronda Hall and Kaleb Ford-Dement. The two cornerbacks have been bright spots for ODU early on, combining for 10 pass deflections and two interceptions. The two could provide tough games for FAU wide receivers John Mitchell and Pico Harrison.

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