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FAU O-line very tough matchup for Marshall

November 3, 2017

What has made Florida Atlantic such an offensive juggernaut?

Is it first-year coach Lane Kiffin?

Is it star running back Devin Singletary?

Is it the Owls’ up-tempo pace that wears down foes?

All those factors play a role in FAU averaging 51.8 points in Conference USA play heading into a matchup against Marshall at 6 p.m. Friday in Boca Raton, Florida.

But the biggest reason?

Literally, it is Florida Atlantic’s brawny, battle-tested offensive line. Those five guys average 6-foot-3, 300 pounds and include three redshirt seniors, a redshirt junior and a sophomore.

It isn’t a coincidence FAU has rushed for 2,367 yards on 376 attempts, averages an eye-popping 6.3 yards per carry, has scored 32 rushing touchdowns and is ranked No. 8 in the nation in rushing.

Those numbers are evidence of how thoroughly FAU’s offensive line blows opponents off the ball.

So, will Florida Atlantic be as good an offensive line as Marshall has faced?

“Oh, yeah, for sure,” said Blake Keller, MU senior defensive end. “They have a lot of older guys, a lot of guys who have played a lot of ball over there. So, they definitely know what they’re doing.

“Obviously, their rushing numbers speak for their O-line. They have a really good offensive line. They have some big guys, who definitely can move some people around.”

Plus, FAU has a pound the ball mindset. There’s a reason the Owls have rushed for 32 touchdowns, but passed for only eight.

“I don’t know the mindset of their team,” said Keller, “but it seems like if they could just run the ball a hundred times a game they would be happy with it. We’ll definitely have to try to force them into some throwing situations.”

Yet, quarterback Jason Driskel completed 24 of 35 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns in a 69-31 win over North Texas. Besides that, he also averages 6.2 yards per carry.

“They run zone read and he’ll keep the ball,” said Keller. “He’s an athletic type of runner and he’s not a sit in the pocket-type of quarterback. He can run around. That’s another element we have to prepare for. We definitely have to account for him.”

Phew, I know CPAs that don’t have to do that much accounting. Yet, that is what’s Marshall’s defenders will face. And they know it.

“Offensively,” said linebacker Artis Johnson, “they have good coaching, good talented players and have about eight seniors. They have a good offensive line. They have running backs. They have guys who make plays. Those are the aspects that make them good.”

But is the offensive line the key?

“The offensive line is pretty good,” said Johnson. “It’s one of the best in Conference USA. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

So, does FAU’s offensive line jump off the film?

“Yeah, on film we’ve seen how aggressive they are,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a pretty big challenge for us this week. But we should matchup against them pretty well.”

How?

Marshall’s defensive front averages only 254 pounds, so it is giving up 46 pounds per man to FAU’s offensive line.

“Our defensive line is quick and fast,” pointed out Johnson. “We’re going to attack them and still be aggressive and physical. We’ll probably win with our speed. I feel like that’s what we’re best at, defensively.”

MU’s speed vs. FAU’s offensive line.

Quite a challenge.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.