The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 20th, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119) -- Austin, Texas. Television: FSN-SW+. Home Record: FAU 2-1, Texas 1-4. Away Record: FAU 2-3, Texas 3-1. Neutral Record: FAU 0-1, Texas 0-1. Conference Record: FAU 3-3, Texas 2-5. Series Record: Texas leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Texas Longhorns will try to snap out of their terrible funk when they host the Florida Atlantic Owls this Saturday in a non- league affair.
After scuffling through a five-game skid, the Owls have slowly turned the tables on the season, but it has not been easy. FAU snapped the slide with a 21-9 decision over FIU, and followed that with back-to-back heart-stopping one-point wins over Western Kentucky (17-16) and Louisiana (24-23). Now the team can move one step closer to bowl eligibility, but to do that the Owls must do something no other Sun Belt Conference team has ever done, and that is defeat the Texas Longhorns.
Texas has had a season to forget, and the Longhorns head into this action this week mired in a four-game losing streak. It is the first time Texas has dropped four consecutive games since 1997. Last week's 33-16 setback to Oklahoma State was the fourth straight home for coach Mack Brown's squad, a stretch that Texas has never endured while in the Big 12 Conference. Now with time running out, the Longhorns are on the verge of witnessing their string of 12 straight bowl appearances coming to an end.
This will be just the second-ever meeting between these two teams. The first matchup took place in 2008, and it was a lopsided affair to say the least as the Longhorns won easily, 52-10. Texas is 14-0 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt.
The last time the Owls were in action they jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Louisiana, but because of a late charge by the Ragin' Cajuns, FAU had to settle for a one-point win, their second in as many games. Jeff Van Camp only threw for 183 yards, but made the most of his 18 pass attempts, as he completed 11 passes, three of which went for touchdowns. Alfred Morris was on the receiving end of one of those touchdowns, but did most of his damage on the ground, rushing for 143 yards on 22 carries. The Owls might be on a winning streak, but the offense has been nothing special, as coach Howard Schnellenberger's squad is posting a lackluster 18.2 ppg. Although the team had success on the ground against Louisiana, the Owls are only averaging 102.8 ypg, and the lack of consistency has put all the pressure on Van Camp and the passing attack. Through nine games, the quarterback for FAU has done an admirable job, throwing 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions, but he has just 1,741 yards to show for his efforts.
As mentioned earlier the defense for FAU stumbled in the fourth quarter and almost gave the game away to Louisiana, as the Cajuns scored nine straight points, and lost after not converting a two-point conversion after a touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation. Even though the Owls were victorious, the defense left a lot to be desired, as the team allowed 173 rushing yards, and was also torched through the air for 254 yards and two touchdowns. The poor effort against the run is not surprising considering opponents have exploited this area against FAU all year, racking up 193.1 ypg. However, what was concerning for coach Schnellenberger was the performance of the secondary. Throughout the year FAU has done a commendable job against the pass, holding teams to just 180.9 ypg and it has more interceptions (10) than touchdowns allowed (nine).
The Longhorns threw up 13 points in the final quarter against Oklahoma State last weekend, but it was far too late for the team to make a legitimate comeback. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert had another rough outing, throwing for just 202 yards on 19-of-32 passing, and he was also intercepted once. Gilbert was able to contribute 55 rushing yards in the loss, while Cody Johnson led the ground attack with 68 yards, to go along with one touchdown. Johnson now leads the team in rushing, but he has just 361 yards on the season, and as a whole the rushing attack has not been an overwhelming force. The fact that coach Brown does not possess a devastating tailback has made things harder for the first-year quarterback, who has thrown just seven touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 10 games.
The Texas defense surrendered 26 points in the first half last week, and that was too much considering the offense has been very inconsistent. Texas only surrendered one touchdown through the air, but most of the damage caused by Oklahoma State came via the pass, as the Cowboys torched the Longhorns for 409 yards. The poor effort against the pass is only half the story however, as the front line, which is usually solid against the run, was punished for 123 yards and three touchdowns. It was one of the worst overall performances by the UT defense this season. The breakdown against the pass was definitely shocking as well, considering Texas ranks eighth in the nation in that area, holding opponents to just 160.1 ypg.
It has been a long season for the Longhorns, but there is still time for the team to salvage some respect and maybe even get into a bowl. That time is now, and Brown will likely have his troops ready for battle.