That fact is the Owls HAVE to run well for the pro-style offense to work, and when they don’t, like last year and the year before that, they have trouble finding the end zone.
Before we get into specifics, here’s QB Rusty Smith’s take on the importance of the game.
Before we move on, Rusty’s statement reminds me of an interesting interlude during Wednesday’s media session with The Voice.
He said FAU was taking on the Belt champions, and someone reminded him that MTSU was actually the co-champion with Troy, both having gone 6-1 in the conference.
This led into a discussion of who went to the New Orleans Bowl (Troy) and why (because Troy beat MTSU), which made The Voice wonder how MTSU could be co-champions if they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. He was told that the Belt allows co-champs, even tri-champs, and they all get rings.
"You’re kidding me? And I have been
saying Middle is the champions. I am
incorrect. I am going to lodge a complaint.
How can they do that? Is it in the bylaws
Voice was joking. I think. At least about filing a complaint.)
The Voice then revised his opening statement: "We are playing somebody up there close to the top of the [conference] last season..."
BACK TO THE GAME
OK, so FAU has to improve on the 2.9 yards per rush it averaged last season. Here’s what else has to happen Saturday on the offensive side of the ball if FAU is to start the season off with a win:
O-LINE MUST HOLD ITS OWN
The Voice said his offensive line is more physical that it ever has been, and Saturday would be a good day to show that.
The running game can only succeed if holes get opened, and the passing game only if Big Red gets time to throw.
Trench warfare has been a big part of practices in preseason camp, and should help now that the season is starting.
The left side of the line, with junior John Rizzo (6-4, 300) at tackle and senior Jarrid Smith (6-2, 280) at guard is where most of the beef and experience is.
Rizzo and Lavoris Williams (6-3, 250) will have to keep MTSU’s talented DE’s away from Smith.
TIGHT END MUST BE INVOLVED
Big Red to TE Jason Harmon (88) needs to become a regular scenario for FAU to have success. In The Voice’s offense, the TE is often the primary receiver, and can do a lot of damage if it works out that way.
MTSU is replacing all three linebackers this season, so Smith/Harmon need to take advantage of the green crew that will be out there. A linebacker is the one who most often will have to cover the TE, and Harmon should be able to win that battle every time.
What Smith will need is time to let Harmon get open.
TAKE CARE OF THE BALL
In last year’s loss to the Blue Raiders, a fumble was returned for a touchdown, and Smith and Sean Clayton each threw an interception. The Owls fumbled three times and lost two of them.
SPECIAL TEAMS NEED TO BE THAT
The Voice spent a lot more time than usual in preseason camp on the kicking game, and that can only be a good thing, especially with MTSU. The Blue Raiders ran a kickoff back on FAU last year that was a decisive moment in the game
Warley Leroy needs to get the ball deep or keep it away from Damon Nickson, and the coverage teams can’t allow long runbacks.
A PAIR TO WATCH
Lestar Jean (No. 80, left) and Avery Holley (No. 1) are now both No. 2 on the depth chart at receiver. Both are potential game breakers, with Holley possessing the speed and moves to dance through the secondary, and Jean the length and speed to get behind the corners for long bombs.
Right now this is mostly POTENTIAL, especially for Jean, who has never played in a college game before.
Holley didn’t get in a lot last year as a true freshman, but he made his time count, with two of his 18 catches going for touchdowns, which is a nice percentage to have. It looks like Holley will be the primary punt returner this season, which will have him on the field even more.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about what the Defense needs to do to throttle the Blue Raiders.
Coach Rick Stockstill whined a bit about having to open with a big road conference game, but he only has to walk down the hall and blame MTSU AD Chris Massaro.
The FAU/MTSU game was originally set for Oct. 13, with the Blue Raiders scheduled to open at LSU. But then MTSU shuffled a bunch of games, including adding Memphis and Virginia, and LSU then opted for an ESPN game against Mississippi State to open the season.
The Suit had to agree to the change, and did so, thus creating Saturday’s matchup.
ANSWER OF THE DAY
Some excellent guesses, but Anonymous (is that you Warley?) got it. When I was taking the picture, kickers were trying to get the ball up and over the yellow bar. That gets the ball up in the air in a hurry. I can see where it can be used for other types of kicks.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What are these? This is a tough one, and kind of inside the lockerroom, but here’s a hint: They are worn by one of the defensive units. And dogtags is not enough. I need to know what is written on them.
Coming tomorrow: Meet Digger, the burrowing owl that is my official FAU mascot and will predict the outcome of the game; special human celebrity game predictions, and more.