FAU's Rusty Smith on pace to become Owls' new standard-bearer at QB
Former Florida Atlantic quarterback Jared Allen
has been following the Owls since he graduated in 2004.
Allen, a four-year starter who holds nearly every FAU single-season and career passing record, said he expects current quarterback Rusty Smith to surpass many of those records.
"He will probably zoom by me, and that's great," said Allen, who lives in Oklahoma with his wife and 3-week-old son.
With six games left in the regular season, Smith, a redshirt
sophomore, has thrown for 1,548 yards and 12 touchdowns. Allen
passed for 3,003 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games in 2003.
Smith is averaging 258 yards per game, ahead of Allen's record of 214.5, also set in 2003. That is the year FAU played three games in the Division I-AA playoffs.
Allen said learning the position in coach Howard Schnellenberger's pro-style offense takes time.
"There is no shortcut. It just takes game experience. I see Rusty going through the same things I did, but he is doing it faster," Allen said.
Allen was on the sidelines when FAU lost at Oklahoma State 42-6 on Sept. 8, and then watched the FAU-South Florida game on TV. He said Smith's improvement was apparent.
"He's really reading defenses better. Once you get enough experience, the game slows down."
Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Gary Nord said yards and touchdowns are important, but there are other statistics that show how Smith has matured.
"He has really learned how to manage the offense and protect the football," Nord said.
Smith has thrown three interceptions in 209 attempts. "Two of those hit the receivers where they were supposed to, but they were bobbled to a defender," Nord said.
FAU quarterbacks were sacked 25 times last year and have been sacked seven times midway through this season.
"He knows our offense better, knows it well enough now to make calls on the field that get us out of a bad play," Schnellenberger said.
"The main thing on offense is the line," Smith said about his performance. "That is where everything starts."
Answers like that are why teammates and coaches said another important part of Smith's game is his leadership.
"He's a big leader on and off the field, and he's great at making plays when we need them," tight end Jamari Grant said.
Smith and the Owls (3-3, 2-0 Sun Belt) start the second half of the season Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette (1-6, 1-2), with kickoff at 5 p.m.
Ragin' Cajuns coach Rickey Bustle knows he will see a different quarterback from the one who was 10 of 19 for 88 yards and an interception last year when ULL beat FAU 6-0.
"Along with the rest of the team, he's maturing into his position. He's a heck of a good quarterback," Bustle said.