By: David DiPino Contributing Writer
In the FAU Football season home-opener with Dallas Cowboys return man Lucky Whitehead on the field to support his FAU alma mater, the Owls took leads on three separate occurrences. The leads happened thanks to the explosive speed of running back Buddy Howell Jr. and quarterback Jason Driskel’s clever running and passing attack, which led to a 38-30 FAU win over the Southern Illinois Salukis at FAU Stadium’s Schnellenberger Field. Howell Jr. had first half touchdown runs of 48, 37 respectively and on his first three carries had 87 yards rushing.
“If you block for Buddy to get you six yards he gets you 10 and if you block for him to get 10 yards he runs for 15,” FAU Head Coach Charlie Partridge said. Howell Jr. finished with 129 yards rushing.
“It was one of those moments we were practicing day in and day out. Going through my reads and just hitting it hard and it was wide open and I’m just blessed the line made that hole for me and I was able to complete the mission by running fast and getting into the end zone,” Howell Jr. said.
Driskel had two touchdown passes, the first to Tavaris Harrison for 85 yards in the second quarter and another to former Jupiter High School quarterback and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cameron for a four-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. The latter gave FAU an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Maybe it was Lucky Whitehead’s Owls hand sign he flashed thumb to index finger with middle, ring and pinky finger up to the team and fans while wearing the brightest orange, John Lennon like glasses which seemed to reflect the new shine of a young season for the FAU Owls.
“Back in Boca watching my boys work!!! Let’s get this Victory #GoOwls,” Whitehead tweeted from his @ninjafast22 Twitter handle.
Whether it was Lucky or a better FAU football team, the Owls are hungry to get off to a soaring start following consecutive three win, nine loss seasons which mirrored the program in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Even the Owls defense looked much improved in the second half when defensive line leader Trey Hendrickson blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt by the Salukis Austin Johnson.
“I think it was huge. Our scouting report did show at times he had a low trajectory on his field goals. We thought if we didn’t catch it we’d be able to catch it in the back of the end zone and build a return off of it. Our players executed the game plan by knowing that and getting their hands up at the right time,” Coach Partridge said.
The win was FAU’s first season opening win since 2012, when the Owls defeated Wagner 7-3. Starting out the season (1-0) was short lived for the Owls. In week two, FAU traveled to the newly named Hard Rock Stadium to play the No. 25 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes in week two action. While FAU was able to hold the Miami Hurricanes scoreless until deep in the second quarter, Miami was too overpowering for FAU in the end and the Owls lost the game 38-10. The Owls defense looked impressive in the loss, namely in shutting down Miami’s passing attack. Where the Owls did falter against Miami were in their offensive passing game, allowing Miami five rushing touchdowns, including four rushing touchdown by Hurricanes running back Mark Walton. Howell Jr. did score again for the Owls, on a 38-yard touchdown for the Owls, the longest of his FAU career and kicker Greg Joseph connected on a field goal for all of the scoring against Miami. Owls defensive end Trey Hendrickson blocked a field goal for the second straight game during the contest.
In their first trip out of the state this year, the Kansas State Wildcats handed the Owls their worst loss in FAU Football program history, 63-7 in Manhattan, Kans. Howell Jr. scored his fourth rushing touchdown in three games for FAU with a one-yard touchdown run to prevent Kansas State from a defensive shutout.
Owls games in October: FAU vs. Florida International University Panthers (FIU), 7 p.m., Oct., 1, Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium; Charlotte 49ers vs. FAU, 3:30 p.m., Oct. 8, Howard Schnellenberger Field; FAU at Marshall Thundering Herd, 7 p.m., Oct.15, Huntington, W.Va.,;Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers, 3:30 p.m., Oct. 29, Howard Schnellenberger Field.
By: David DiPino Contributing Writer