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Owls find few positives in loss to Gators

Howard SchnellenbergerJeff DempsChris Rainey

 GAINESVILLE – Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger doesn’t mind playing games in which his team is a big underdog because he believes they benefit from the experience.

 But after watching Florida destroy the Owls 41-3 Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Schnellenberger wasn’t sure if that had been the case.

  “As I watched the game unfold it became obvious we weren’t prepared mentally or didn’t expect them to be as good as they were,” Schnellenberger said. “But more important than that is I can’t determine how hard they played, I can’t determine how talented or lack of talent we have because we made an error on most every play.”

 OFFENSE GROUNDED: The Owls problems on the offensive side was that the line was again overmatched and getting driven back on play after play.

 “Their kids were coming off the ball and exploding into our offensive line and holding them at bay and them throwing them down,” Schnellenberger said.

 That meant FAU had nowhere to run, as evidenced by their 30 net yards on 30 carries, for a 1-yard per rush average.

 “Kudos to their front four. They were pushing us into the backfield and making it tough on us,” said FAU running back Alfred Morris, who was held to 16 yards on 14 carries.

 Quarterback Graham Wilbert, who was making his first start since 2007 when he was in high school, appeared flustered early but was able to avoid a turnover and was 14-of-26 for 107 yards.

 “It was loud. We had a few miscues early and the noise had a little bit to do with it,” Wilbert said.

 “It was so disjointed I can’t grade him very low or very high,” Schnellenberger said.

 As was the problem in the preseason, FAU could not complete a deep pass, and thus could not stretch the Gators defense.

 TURNOVERS THE POSITIVE: The only major bright spot was provided by the defense, which intercepted three passes, with one leading to the field goal for the Owls only points.

 The Owls ended up plus-3 in turnover ratio as a result.

 “There were a lot of errors,” said safety Marcus Bartels, who had one of the interceptions. “It took us a while to get on track.”

 Why Florida was passing so much was a mystery, since running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were using their superior speed to break off big gains.

 “They are a fast team,” Bartels said.

 Things do not get any easier for the Owls, who are at Michigan State Saturday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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