Owls will keep tempo fast in season opener

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeFranks Staff writer mde­franks@ sun-sen­tinel.com; On Twit­ter @MDe­Franks.

BOCA RA­TON — There’s a cer­tain aura of mys­tery sur­round­ing Florida At­lantic’s foot­ball team ahead of its season opener against Navy on Fri­day night.

It hasn’t de­cided on a start­ing quar­ter­back or even how many will play. Which trans­fers will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact is un­known. Even the of­fense — mostly of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken­dal Briles’ scheme with some con­cepts from FAU coach Lane Kif­fin — is some­thing of a mys­tery en­ter­ing the season.

Navy coach Ken Ni­u­ma­tololo said his staff has been study­ing both Kif­fin’s and Briles’ his­tory at schools such as Alabama, USC, Ten­nessee, Bay­lor and Hous­ton.

“You just try to do your home­work, try to see what peo­ple have done,” Ni­u­ma­tololo said. “Ob­vi­ously, we’ve looked at Ken­dal Briles’ back­ground, you look at Lane’s back­ground and try to pre­pare for what you think they’ll do.”

Kif­fin has ceded the play­call­ing du­ties to Briles, opt­ing to act as a chief ex­ec­u­tive of the pro­gram in­stead of fo­cus­ing on pre­par­ing the of­fen­sive game plan. FAU has in­stalled Briles’ sys­tem, a spread of­fense that re­lies on push­ing the tempo and run­ning the ball.

De­spite rank­ing fourth in the coun­try in plays per game last year (85.2), Bay­lor pos­sessed the ball less than all other Big 12 teams. The Bears ranked 111th in the coun­try by av­er­ag­ing 27 min­utes per game with the ball.

The up-tempo FAU of­fense, com­bined with Navy’s pos­ses­sion-heavy of­fense, cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing propo­si­tion for the Owls. Should FAU slow down its at­tack to give its de­fense a chance to rest?

“I think you could do that if you knew you were good enough on of­fense to do that,” Kif­fin said. “I don’t know that we are. I think we have to uti­lize what our of­fense is built on: dif­fer­ent for­ma­tions, speed, tempo. I don’t think slow­ing down would be in our ben­e­fit a lot.”

Un­der Ni­u­ma­tololo, Navy is 61-16 when it wins the time of pos­ses­sion bat­tle. It is 16-26 when it loses it.

Kif­fin hasn’t pub­licly an­nounced a start­ing quar­ter­back against Navy, with the FAU staff choos­ing from among Jason Driskel, De’An­dre John­son and Daniel Parr. Kif­fin did not rule out a multi-quar­ter­back sys­tem Fri­day against the Mid­ship­men.

Throw­ing in an ad­di­tional wrin­kle such as chang­ing the tempo could dis­rupt an al­ready un­set­tled quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion.

De­spite the po­ten­tial ad­di­tional time on the field for the de­fense, Kif­fin said the game is not as tir­ing as when FAU will play against quicker of­fenses.

“It’s not an ex­haust­ing game de­fen­sively like some tempo games,” Kif­fin said. “Your play count won’t be like play­ing re­ally fast teams. Then, some­times, you say we need to slow this down be­cause our de­fense is just too tired be­cause they’re go­ing too fast.”

In ad­di­tion to main­tain­ing its fast tempo, FAU’s of­fense also won’t be hid­ing parts of its of­fense, Kif­fin said. Some coaches and teams opt to roll out a vanilla of­fense in the season opener to con­ceal other for­ma­tions or plays for later in the season.

But Kif­fin said that won’t be the case Fri­day night.

“We want to win the game,” Kif­fin said. “We’re go­ing to have to move the ball. We’re go­ing to have to score points. These guys score a lot of points and they hold the ball. I hope we don’t hold any­thing back. We’re go­ing to try to win this game. We’ll worry about the next one after that.”

After Navy, FAU trav­els to No. 9 Wis­con­sin on Sept. 9.

AP/FILE

Un­der coach Ken Ni­u­ma­tololo, Navy is 61-16 when it wins the time of pos­ses­sion bat­tle. It is 16-26 when it loses it.

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