Published On: Fri, Sep 16th, 2016

FAU Starts the Season on the Right Foot

By Stephanie Fonseca

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Anticipations were high and Florida Atlantic University was ready to redeem themselves from last years rocky season.

With a crowd just under 15,000 in the stands, FAU students anxiously awaited kickoff.

It was a rough start for Southern Illinois (0-1), and FAU (1-0) didn’t think twice about exploiting gaps in SIU’s defense. Southern started with the ball but quickly passed possession to FAU. Two minutes into the game, Greg “Buddy” Howell put FAU on the board with 48-yard touchdown run, the longest rushing play of his career.

SIU quickly responded on the next possession but FAU reacted. On a miraculous catch, which was tipped off by three SIU defenders, found the hands of redshirt freshman receiver Tavaris Harrison for a 85-yard touchdown.

The first half was a back and forth between possessions. FAU started ahead, but lost their lead
at the half with a 48 yard field goal, scored by Southern Illinois’ Austin Johnson.

“We really didn’t have to get after them after halftime. We reminded them to do the things we witnessed and do so well at all football camp,” said FAU Head Coach Charlie Partridge about being down at the half .

To many FAU students, the first half looked all too familiar. But to those who left at halftime missed a second half dominated by FAU, with a 17-point lead that went unanswered until the final moments of the game.

Although Southern Illinois tried getting back in the game, a missed kick by Austin Johnson didn’t help. But FAU was showing that this wasn’t going to be a game they would let go of.

A punt from Southern Illinois led to one of FAU’s longer possessions. Driskel, who was 23 of 31 passing for 287 yards with two2 touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown of his own, got into his rhythm a
nd found a balance between the usual running game and made the passing game look natural for the Owls.

With most scoring plays by FAU lasting under a minute, the Owls didn’t need much time with the ball as the offense, led by Driskel, Howell and Bussey were efficient and the offensive line was able to open up gaps in Southern Illinois’ defense leading straight towards the end zone.

“When you trust in something, you have a great outcome. It’s me just trusting my read and trusting my guys. They opened it up for me and I made my read. [It’s all about] trusting the program, trusting the stuff that we’re taught day in and day out, and just doing your job,” said Howell about his explosive start which led to his two touchdowns.

The Owls defensive line held their own versus a potent Southern Illinois team that would not quit. And in the last minutes, with a QB change, Sam Straub reacted with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Newquist.

“They did a nice job[…] I was proud of their effort. Our D-line kept getting push. I thought Driskel made a lot of plays with his feet where we couldn’t tackle him. We have to tackle better. I mean Driskel is a big strong kid, but we could have got him down a couple times,” said SIU Head Coach Nick Hill.

FAU didn’t need much time, most scoring runs were on minimal plays wasting the least amount of the clock as possible. The offense was efficient and exposed Southern Illinois’ weaknesses and the defensive line made it hard for Southern Illinois to come back in the game.

Being the first time since 2012 that the Owls began the season with a win, FAU left  Saturday’s game on a sweet note. Now they prepare for their first away game of the season and first-ever away game versus The University of Miami, this Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

 

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