Last night – and early this morning – the Miami Hurricanes became the first team from a power 5 conference to visit Schnellenburger Field at Florida Atlantic University Stadium.
Howard Schnellenburger was in attendance himself, appearing on the field for the opening coin toss, and FAU recorded their highest attendance ever with 30,321 fans in attendance.
Coach Schnellenburger was the architect of the Hurricanes dynasty; bringing them from obscurity in the late 70s-early 80s, and was later tasked with building the program at FAU when they decided to add football in 1998, coaching the Owls for their first 10 years of play.
Miami vs Florida Atlantic Recap
After their crushing loss last week in Tulsa, the festivities surrounding their former coach, and playing in front of their largest crowd ever, one factor that may be missed by the analyst is that Florida Atlantic wanted this game more – a factor that won’t be reflected in the final score.
Miami’s Lightning Start
Miami started the game with a 14 play 78 yard drive, ending with a touchdown run by Mark Walton for 4 yards. The drive took up just over five minutes of the first half, and after a 69 yard drive by Florida Atlantic that resulted in a field goal, Miami was struck with a lightning delay. Again.
After a one hour delay, play resumed with a Florida Atlantic kickoff to Miami. The break during the delay seemed to provide the Hurricane’s with some time to settle down, as they went 78 yards in 4 plays, picking up big chunks of yardage from Joseph Yearby (146 rushing 97 receiving on the night) who had a rush of 42 yards and scored on a 34 yard touchdown pass from Brad Kaaya (21/32 287 yards 1 touchdown). The touchdown put the ‘Canes up 14-3 and brought Kaaya’s streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 15 – the third longest streak in the nation.
Owls’ quarterback Jaquez Johnson went out with an injury early in the first quarter and was replaced by the little brother of former Florida Gator’s quarterback Jeff Driskel, Jason Driskel. Relying primarily on the legs of Jay Warren, the Owls scored their first touchdown of the night on a 4 yard Driskel pass to Nate Terry, preventing a goal line stand by the Hurricane defense.
On the ensuing drive after a Miami field goal, Driskel took over, accounting for 46 yards both through the air and on the ground on the Owls second touchdown drive of the night finished by a Jay Warren run. Miami would add a field goal to enter halftime with a 20-17 lead.
Florida Atlantic Battles Back
Receiving the second half kickoff, Florida Atlantic marched down the field for a field goal, tying the game 20-20 midway through the third quarter.
The defense that we witness smother Bethune-Cookman had yet to show up, and at this point was outgained 355-234 by Florida Atlantic’s backup quarterback and running back.
Miami scored a field goal on their next possession, and the defense caught a much needed break with a Greg Howell fumble recovered by Ryan Mayes at the FAU 25. Miami was able to convert the turnover into a field goal, extending their lead to ten at 30-20.
On their first play from scrimmage after Miami extended the lead to ten, Driskel was picked off by Rayshawn Jenkins. Miami took full advantage of the turnover this time, scoring a touchdown making the score 37-20, finally taking control of the contest, with a final score of 44-20.
Miami’s Takeaways and Looking Ahead to Nebraska
After opening the season with a dominating performance against Bethune-Cookman, a defensive letdown was to be expected, but if not for crucial turnovers late when Florida Atlantic seemed to be mounting a comeback, this game had the potential of being an early season upset.
The ‘Canes made adjustments on defense in the second half, but with Nebraska coming up next week, Miami may not have the offensive strength, or catch the lucky breaks to survive a similar dogfight with the Cornhuskers.
The offensive line also needs work. Danny Isidora was beat badly on a second quarter sack, and the line struggled in pass protection most of the night. The offense also had too many drives stall, finishing 3/13 on 3rd down, bringing the total to 6/24 for the year; a 25% conversion rate.
Coach Al Golden was quoted saying that Miami “Put ourselves in a bad position…we just climbed out of it.” During a postgame interview, running back Mark Walton said “the biggest takeaway from tonight is playing thru adversity.” For the Hurricanes, let’s hope there aren’t too many more nights like this.