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at Auburn 30 … Florida Atlantic 14

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 24, 2011


Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Florida Atlantic at Auburn


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 4 - Florida Atlantic at Auburn

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Sept. 24 at Auburn 30 … Florida Atlantic 14
CFN Analysis: Now it’s really time to worry. This is a Florida Atlantic offense that came up with one first down against Michigan State, but it looked like the New England Patriots at times throwing for 199 yards and rushing for 108 – a huge number the pathetic Owl offense. Auburn went through the motions and didn’t seem to bring the A effort, and it showed with no pop to the passing game and no big runs. The Tigers put the game away in the third quarter, but it should’ve been over in ten minutes. After the loss to Clemson, Auburn needed the break. Now it’s time to turn it back on with South Carolina up next.

At least the Owls got the running game moving a bit. Last in the nation, they were able to come up with 108 yards on the ground and didn’t stop pushing even after getting down big in the third quarter. This was a no-win situation against Auburn on the road, and the three interceptions were a big problem, but Graham Wilbert wasn’t too bad with 191 yards and a score. Against Louisiana, the Owls have to come up with scores early and have to keep getting several options involved to get the running game moving. Alfred Morris finally got going, with 85 yards on 15 carries, and now he has to be the workhorse again.

(AP) AUBURN, Ala. -- Interceptions by Jermaine Whitehead and Neiko Thorpe led to third-quarter scores that helped Auburn stamp out a Florida Atlantic upset bid 30-14 on Saturday night.

With the Tigers (3-1) leading by just four points, Whitehead stepped in front of a Graham Wilbert pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 17-6 Auburn lead 1:26 into the second half.

After Onterio McCalebb took a Barrett Trotter screen pass 51 yards for an Auburn touchdown 5:27 later, Thorpe intercepted another Wilbert pass on the next scrimmage play for Florida Atlantic (0-3) and returned it 46 yards to the Owls' 19, setting up a 31-yard field goal by Cody Parkey.

The Auburn defense, which gave up 624 yards at Clemson last week in a loss that snapped the defending national champions' 17-game winning streak, seemed set for more struggles throughout the first half. The Owls moved the ball at will at times, managing 153 yards and six first downs, both significantly more than they managed all game in a 44-0 loss at Michigan State two weeks ago. However, the Owls saw several drives stall out inside Auburn territory, and settled for two Vinny Zaccario field goals.

Florida Atlantic, which entered Saturday averaging only 92.5 yards a game, finished the night with 307. It also managed its first touchdown of the year midway through the fourth quarter, a 12-yard screen pass from Wilbert to Alfred Morris, but that score came after Auburn sat most of its starters.

Auburn's offense managed only 315 yards.

It was a subdued atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium, possibly due to the aftermath of the Tigers' first loss in two years and certainly due to the team's struggles in the first half. The attendance was announced as 82,345, but several sections in the upper deck were half-empty. And during a particularly bad stretch for the offense late in the first half, boos could be heard from the student section.

It was the defense, surprisingly, that kept coming through for Auburn on Saturday night.

Trotter was picked off by the Owls' Cory Henry on the first play from scrimmage, setting up Florida Atlantic at the Auburn 35-yard line. After a first down, FAU was forced to settle for the first of Zaccario's field goals, this one from 39 yards.

Florida Atlantic drove into Auburn territory five times in the game but came away with only three scores. Auburn's defense forced three turnovers on the night, all interceptions of Wilbert.

Trotter, trying to fill the shoes of Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, had an uneven night, finishing 16-of-28 for 178 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but he spent much of the night scrambling due to suspect blocking from his young offensive line.

The Tigers also failed to run the ball effectively. Sophomore Michael Dyer managed only 68 yards on 14 carries to lead the Tiger attack.

Morris led the Owls with 85 yards on 15 carries and 43 yards receiving with the touchdown. Wilbert finished 20-for-31 passing for 191 yards.

Florida Atlantic (0-2) at Auburn (2-1) Sept. 24, 7:00, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal … No one has started out the season with three more entertaining games than Auburn has dealt with. The Utah State game was a heartstopper, the Mississippi State win was a classic, and last week’s Clemson loss was as fun to watch as any game of the weekend. Auburn can’t seem to play anything but great games.

This won’t be one of them.

There was a time when Florida Atlantic seemed like it was growing into a strong Sun Belt program worthy of hanging around with several BCS-level teams. After years of horrible recruiting, and with the emergence of FIU just down the road, the Owls have become awful. There’s no offensive production, the defense hasn’t been lose, and the special teams are miserable. Other than that, everything is just great.

This is the third road game in a row for FAU, with two more coming up starting out the Sun Belt season at Louisiana next week, while Auburn has to use this game to have fun and enjoy the easy blowout before going continuing the SEC slate with at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, and at LSU. Uh oh.

Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: If the running game was ever going to work, this would be the week with Auburn’s defensive interior being gouged by anyone who wants to try to work up the middle, while the linebackers are tackling like the runner is covered in grease. There’s no pass rush, there’s no consistent production, and there aren’t enough big plays. If FAU can get creative in any way, this might finally be the game when Alfred Morris and the running backs have a little room to move after being stuffed cold by Florida and Michigan State on the road in the first two weeks.

Why Auburn Might Win: One. Against Florida, FAU managed to come up with 137 yards of total offense but came up with 11 first downs. Against Michigan State, FAU ran for22 yards on 20 carries and completed 6-of-13 passes for 26 yards to finish with a grand total of one first down. The Owls have had two weeks to regroup and try to find something that works, but in two games they’ve scored three points, amassed 185 total yards, and ran for 52 yards. How bad is the offense? UAB has the third-worst offense in America, averaging 202.5 yards per game, and Kent State is second-worst averaging 158.3 yards per outing. FAU is averaging 92.5 yards per outing. While Auburn is hardly a brick wall on defense, and the Owls will move the ball a little bit, the game should be over after two drives.

What To Watch Out For: Alfred Morris is way too good a running back to come up with just 37 yards on the ground. Morris is a big, bruising, 5-11, 222-pound runner who carried the load throughout last year running for 928 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Strong enough to handle 20+ carries on a regular basis without a problem, he’s physical and has just enough wiggle to break off big runs now and then. Now he needs room to move.

For Auburn, it’s time to start feeding the man the ball. Michael Dyer has been unstoppable over the last two games, running for 150 yards against Mississippi State and 151 against Clemson, while scoring twice in each of the first three games. With only 48 carries so far, the coaching staff is limiting the workload, and he should be fresh and healthy for the nasty SEC slate coming up. Dyer doesn’t need to be a workhorse against FAU, and this might be the game to rest the star back as much as possible, but he could end the game in a hurry and he could hit the 100-yard mark on just a few carries.

What Will Happen: Florida Atlantic will score a touchdown, but it won’t do much more. Auburn will score on its first three drives and should be able to coast from there. For the first time this year, it’ll be bench-emptying time.

CFN Prediction: Auburn 48 … Florida Atlantic 10
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