Football: Offense shines in Owls’ 2023 Spring Game

On Saturday, the Owls’ played their 2023 Spring Game, completing head coach Tom Herman’s first spring camp at FAU.


Nicholas Windfelder

Graduate running back Kobe Lewis leaps over a defender during FAU’s Spring Game on April 15, 2023.

Zachary Watts, Staff Writer

FAU Football hosted its 2023 Spring game on Saturday, live from its home stadium at Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla. Led by new head coach Tom Herman, who signed on with the Owls this past offseason, the exhibition completed his first spring camp at FAU and gave an early look at what the team will look like next fall. 

The Owls took the field at 12:30 p.m. with the team split into two sides, Red & White. Both teams split the coaching staff responsibilities with Herman, working for both sides throughout the game.

Although the score of the game would not reflect on the team’s record, players still value the competition of playing against one another. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Merrifield spoke about the opportunity the spring game provides for the team.

“It’s always fun getting out on that field. You work so much for these kinds of moments,” said Merrifield.

The white team won a pregame “Oklahoma Drill” to earn a starting edge with a 3-point lead before the teams took the field for the first drive.

Both teams came out of the gate slowly, failing to put together scoring drives and settling for punts, as the three quarterbacks on the roster played on a rotation, taking reps for both teams.

The Red team got the scoring started on their second drive of the game. The duo of junior quarterback Daniel Richardson, who transferred this past season from Central Michigan, and senior running back Larry McCammon III put together a 9-play, 50-yard touchdown drive which put the Red team up 7-3.

After a three-and-out by both offenses, the White team responded with an 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive. The longest-scoring drive of the day was capped off by Richardson’s second touchdown pass, linking up with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Je’Quan Burton for a 29-yard touchdown pass to regain the lead 10-7.

On the following drive, the Red team immediately responded with a scoring drive of their own, this time led by graduate transfer quarterback Ben Ballard, who came from the University of Texas a season ago. Ballard threw six consecutive completions on the drive, finished off by a 4-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jayshon Platt, retaking the lead for the Red team 14-10.

The White team would come close to regaining the lead, but a goal-to-go fumble resulted in a touchback for the Red side and took away the momentum.

Richardson would respond with a scoring drive capped off by the longest scoring pass of the day. Junior tight end Jackson Sumlin found a hole in the defense where Richardson would find the wide-open man for a touchdown pushing the lead to 21-10.

The Red team, led by Ballard once more, would extend their lead on a 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with huge completions in the process. The first of which was a 53-yard gain to junior wide receiver Jymetre Hester, and then capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore running back Zuberi Mobley, making it a 28-10 game.

Both teams moved the ball effectively, but after a turnover on downs, the Red team would resume their scoring streak as Richardson threw his third passing touchdown of the game, finding Hester for a 10-yard completion extending their lead to 35-10.

Richardson would end his day following the drive, with a final line of 18 completions on 22 attempts, 238 yards, and three touchdowns. When asked to assess his performance following the game, he spoke highly of his supporting cast instead of himself.

“Hats off to the offensive line on both sides, as well as the wide receivers and running backs making plays for me,” said Richardson. “Without the offensive line, nothing can get started and get the ball into the playmakers’ hands and allow them to do the rest.”

The White team would find their way back into the endzone to begin the fourth quarter, ending a 28 unanswered point streak from the Red team. Redshirt Junior running back Glover Cook III had five carries on the drive putting them in the red zone which set up Ballard’s third touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kobe Stewart, making it a 35-17 game. 

The Red team would find the endzone once more before the end of the game after redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyriq Starks found redshirt sophomore receiver BJ Alexander, who broke off a 31-yard touchdown. Capping off the scoring in the matchup with a final of 42-17.

Following the game Tom Herman sat down to talk about the culture at FAU and the expectations he wants to set.

“I hope that the people here have seen a change in physicality, a change in effort, and a change in the ability to love one another and play for each other to put yourself aside and play for the guy next to you,” said Herman.

When asked about his evaluation of the team and the importance of the game, Coach Herman jokingly mentioned that this game means nothing, while at the same time, every practice and scrimmage matters. 

“Everyday matters and every rep matters,” said Herman. “But to say this day was more important than Thursday, that’s not true. When they walk into this building, I think the culture has begun to form where they understand the urgency, the attention to detail, and the level of intensity that is necessary.”

The Owls will now enter the off-season as they prepare for their first season in a different conference after departing from Conference USA this past year. The shift to the American Athletic Conference will put Herman in familiar territory after his two-year stint as head coach at the University of Houston. 

If this spring game was a sign of what’s to come, the Owls trust in the culture being built and will be up to the challenge once the 2023 season rolls around.

Zachary Watts is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories email [email protected] or tweet him at @ZachWatts1_