Owls' offense knows it needs to put up points

Boca Raton - After the Owls 49-34 win over Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday, coach Howard Schnellenberger met with reporters before he had been given a sheet with final statistics from the game.

"Rusty had a great game. I don't know what his stats were, but they were good enough to win two games," Schnellenberger said.

Smith passed for 325 yards, completing 21-of-34 with three touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.

FAU had 554 yards of offense and scored on seven of its nine possessions, punting once with Warley Leroy missing a 34-yard field goal attempt on the other.
 

Smith's stats might have been good enough to win two games, but he would have to have been playing for a team with a better defense than the one currently employed by the Owls.

FAU needed nearly every one of those yards and points against UAB since the defense gave up 482 yards and did not stop the Blazers until late in the fourth quarter when they were down 42-34 and driving for a potential game-trying score.

So the Owls head to East Lansing for Saturday's ESPN2 game at Michigan State confident that it can score points, but not sure how many they will need to overcome the shortcomings of the defense.

Asked about the defense, Smith said, "It's something I can't control."

He was then asked if the offense could score enough to win every game. "If we have to score 49 points a game, I think we have the manpower to do it," Smith said.

"I think we can do it week in and week out. We finally have the depth on the offensive line. We used no huddle and pressed the tempo [against UAB]," Smith said, something they have not been able to do in the past.

Taking notice: MSU coach Mark Dantonio has done his homework.

"Their quarterback, Rusty Smith, is outstanding," Dantonio said during a press conference this week, rattling off some statistics � 32 touchdowns and 3,688 yards passing last season.

Dantonio also talked about Smith's main targets, wide receiver Cortez Gent (11 catches, 205 yards, 18.6 yards per catch, 1-2.5 per game) and tight ends Jamari Grant and Rob Housler (combined 12 catches for 253 yards, both more than 20 yards per catch).

"For anyone to sit there and say here comes Florida Atlantic and count that as a win is completely inaccurate. We're going to have to play and play well," Dantonio said, echoing the message Mack Brown sent to his Texas team.

The Owls moved the ball on Texas, and Smith had 253 yards in a little more than two quarters of play, but turnovers ended two early scoring chances.

FAU corrected that problem against UAB, and now is 5-of-8 in red zone opportunities.

"I was proud of the way our offense moved the ball," FAU offensive coordinator Gary Nord said about the win over UAB. "We had long, drawn out drives and not quick scores. We used up the clock and moved consistently."

The Owls converted seven of 10 third down conversions and converted on their only fourth down attempt.

But Nord knows Michigan State is no UAB.

"This week is an entirely different team. Big, strong, physical, geared to stop the run in the Big Ten. Their corners and safeties would be good linebackers for us," Nord said.

FAU is hoping that such a run-stopping defense will be vulnerable to the Owls passing attack, and that the defense can slow down the Spartans and keep the game within reach