FAU’s stifling defense, strong offensive start lifts Owls’ to 24-3 win vs. UTSA

Khobi Price, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read

FAU coach Willie Taggart and the Owls were looking for better offensive execution versus UTSA in their first set of consecutive games after having a slow offensive start to the season.

And they got it — at least early in the game — in their 24-3 win versus the Roadrunners Saturday at FAU Stadium.

The Owls (2-1, 2-1 Conference USA), who had significantly fewer inactives versus UTSA than they did was against Marshall last weekend, had their best start to a game offensively of the season.

FAU scored on its first two drives of the game for its first points in the first quarter on the season. The Owls, who had a 17-3 lead at halftime, recorded more yards in the first half versus the Roadrunners (241 yards on 36 plays) than they did against the Thundering Herd (234 total yards on 67 plays).

Despite the offense sputtering by only seven points in the second half, the Owls' defense once again held strong to help FAU secure the 21-point victory.

Malcolm Davidson, who started at running back with BJ Emmons and Larry McCammon III both inactive with ankle injuries, was the offense’s engine and rushed for 115 yards on 14 attempts (8.2 yards per carry). The junior running back had four different rushes of at least 15 yards, with three of those carries eventually leading to FAU scoring.

The Owls didn’t allow the Roadrunners to score in the second half, holding UTSA to 83 yards on 36 plays in the final two quarters.

FAU finished with seven sacks, with defensive end Jaylen Joyner recording three. Defensive lineman Alvin Dempsey finished with two tackles-for-losses and the Owls had 10 as a team.

The Owls opened the game with a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended with Vladi Rivas kicking a 24-yard field goal to give FAU a 3-0 lead with 10:58 left in the first quarter. Davidson had a 28-yard run during the drive that put FAU on UTSA’s side of the field.

After forcing a three-and-out, the Owls scored their first touchdown of the game with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that lasted four minutes.

Davidson and James Charles both had 15-yard rushes on the drive. Nick Tronti connected with wide receiver Aaron Young for the 27-yard touchdown pass to give the Owls a 10-0 lead with 4:55 left in the first quarter.

Tronti finished with 11 of 19 for 136 yards and one touchdown in the air. He also recorded 32 rushing yards on 14 attempts with a touchdown on the ground.

UTSA made a field goal with 8:55 left in the second quarter for its lone score of the game. The Owls forced five three-and-outs and two turnovers-on-downs.

FAU held the Roadrunners to 104 rushing yards on 37 attempts, with reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Week UTSA sophomore running back only rushing for 54 yards on 16 attempts.

Willie Taggart Jr. led FAU for two drives in the third quarter, with both sequences finishing with the Owls punting after gaining a combined nine yards on eight plays. The true freshman quarterback had an incompletion on his lone pass and was sacked once.

The Owls put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive that finished with Tronti rushing for a 2-yard touchdown toward the end of the second quarter to give FAU a 17-3 lead heading into halftime.

FAU scored its final points of the game in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when it ended a five-play, 19-yard drive with Charles rushing for a two-yard touchdown to seal the victory.

The Owls will return to FAU Stadium next Saturday when they host Western Kentucky.

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