Billed as a battle between 2 teams whose foundation can be traced back to a single figure, legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger, the Miami Hurricanes vs FAU Owls was always going to be a weird game.
Scheduled for a Friday Night on National TV (Fox Sports 1), it was a chance for both teams to strut their stuff while the entire Nation watched. And what the Nation saw was, well, weird.
Fans on hand, a Palm Beach County and FAU record 30,321, saw 5 turnovers (all by FAU), several dropped balls, myriad referee missteps and mistakes, among other oddities.
But, the weirdest thing that happened during this game was a 1 hour 7 minute lightning delay...that didn't have any lightning. Yeah, you read that right.
Looking at weatherbug (app HS's use for lightning/weather notifications), closest lightning strike in last 30 mins is 24miles away from here— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 12, 2015
So yeah, it was a weird night to say the least.
Even weirder than the lightning delay with no lightning was the fact that Miami played FAU to a 20-17 halftime score, and were tied with the Owls at 20 in the 3rd quarter.
Miami, frequently out of place and out of sync on the defensive side of the ball, were able to do precious little to slow down the FAU up tempo offense. While that by itself is something that needs to be addressed, the previous sentence looks worse because starting FAU QB Jaquez Johnson and starting RB Jay Warren were both out of the game with injuries by the middle of the 3rd Quarter.
Johnson left the game in the first quarter with an injured ankle and was replaced by Jason Driskel, brother of former UF QB and current La Tech QB Jeff. The younger Driskel did his best to lead the upset bid, finishing 17/30 for 155 yards and a TD. His undoing, however, were the 2 interceptions that he threw on the night.
Warren gashed the Miami defense with his quick and powerful running style. That is, until he ran into a brick wall named Jamal Carter.
Jamal Carter with the hit stick pic.twitter.com/MhfYgWxyki— Alejandro Narciso (@Ale_Narciso1) September 12, 2015
Warren left the game and with him went FAU's offensive mojo. After Warren exited the game, the Owls only scored 3 points, none of them coming after the 9:44 mark of the 3rd quarter.
For Miami, it was the Joe Yearby show for most of the night. The talented sophomore ran 18 times for 146 yards and a TD, and caught 3 passes for 97 yards and a TD as well. Yearby's 243 are a career-high, as were his 2 TDs.
But, he didn't do it all alone. Freshman RB Mark Walton chipped in with a solid night, ending with 42 yards rushing and 3 TDs of his own. While Yearby has gotten bigger compared to last year, Walton is the power back that the Canes use to finish drives.
QB Brad Kaaya had another solid, if unspectacular, day, finishing 21/32 for 287 yards and a TD. There were times that Kaaya had to run for his life, a victim of an offensive line that is well below average in pass protection situations. However, the sophomore superstar played with his typical calm and focused demeanor, and helped to lead the team through their performance lull in the middle of the game.
Compared to the performance of the offense, the defense was the unit that needed some key plays to keep FAU from making this a game for longer than they already did. The Canes defense, which struggled through the 2 1/2 quarters with substitution errors, mental mistakes, missed tackles, and overall poor play, rallied when they needed to in order for the Canes to win.
The Canes forced 5 FAU turnovers (3 fumbles and 2 interceptions), and played much better after halftime. Miami held FAU to only a FG after the break, and stifled the pesky Owl offense. After allowing nearly 70 yards on the first drive of the 2nd half, the Miami defense stiffened and held FAU to just 48 yards over their final 4 drives. That is a level of performance that the Canes will look to repeat moving forward.
After FAU tied the game at 20 early in the 3rd Quarter, Miami went on a 24-0 run to close the game, leading to the 44-20 final score. Mark Walton, who started the scoring with a first quarter touchdown, scored two 4th quarter TDs to ice the game for Miami.
A win is a win, that's for sure. But I'm sure the Canes will look to leave the lightning delays, and the general malaise, behind them as the schedule starts to pick up, and the quality of competition increases.