Line­backer Smith has ca­reer day with 16 tack­les

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Colleges - By Shan­del Richardson srichard­[email protected]­sen­tinel.com or Twit­ter @shan­del­rich

BOCA RA­TON — Florida At­lantic line­backer Rashad Smith spent the past two sea­sons learn­ing from se­nior Azeez Al-Shaair.

Now, the stu­dent is per­haps be­com­ing the teacher. For a sec­ond straight game, Smith led the Owls in tack­les. He fin­ished with a ca­reer-high 16 in Satur­day’s 33-27 vic­tory over Air Force.

“Rashad re­ally had my back,” said Al-Shaair, who has led the team in tack­les the past three sea­sons. “The tack­les that he made re­ally cov­ered my butt. I’m just so proud of him how he played.”

Smith helped the Owls seal the win with an in­ter­cep­tion on Air Force’s fi­nal drive with the out­come still in doubt. It was the first of his ca­reer.

“Just one stop,” Smith said of the play. “All we needed was one stop to win the game.”

Smith was one of the few Owls de­fend­ers to earn praise from coach Lane Kif­fin af­ter the blowout loss at Ok­la­homa. He fin­ished that game with nine tack­les.

“An­other year and be­ing around Azeez,” Kif­fin said of Smith’s im­proved play. “The guy just works and does a re­ally good job. Six­teen tack­les, that’s amaz­ing and last week he was prob­a­bly one of our only guys that did play well.”

Al-Shaair has played a large role in the de­vel­op­ment. The two have formed a strong re­la­tion­ship the past cou­ple years. Smith is hop­ing it can lead to him fol­low­ing AlShaair’s lead. Al-Shaair is con­sid­ered an NFL draft prospect by most scout­ing ser­vices.

“Just pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail and just work­ing,” Smith said. “Since Day One, [Al-Shaair has] al­ways been there for me.”

Young leaves game, list at ques­tion­able

Safety Jalen Young, a pre­sea­son Con­fer­ence USA first-team se­lec­tion, left the game with an undis­closed in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter. He did not re­turn.

Although Young was able to walk off the field, he spent the sec­ond half on the side­line in street clothes. Kif­fin listed Young as ques­tion­able for next week’s game against Bethune-Cook­man at FAU Sta­dium.

Last year, Young ranked sec­ond na­tion­ally with seven in­ter­cep­tions.

Early strug­gles con­tinue for RB

The first two games haven’t been kind to run­ning back Devin “Mo­tor” Sin­gle­tary.

Satur­day marked the sec­ond straight game he was held un­der

100 yards. That was also the case last sea­son, but he went on to top that bar­rier in the next 12 games on the way to a school-record

1,920 yards.

Dur­ing postgame avail­abil­ity, Kif­fin play­fully joked the rea­son for the strug­gles was be­cause of ath­letic di­rec­tor Brian White’s de­ci­sion to put up two Sin­gle­tary bill­boards on In­ter­state 95 as part of the school’s Heisman Tro­phy cam­paign.

Al-Shaair sets an­other record with tackle

Al-Shaair added yet an­other record to his long list.

With five tack­les, he is now the school’s ca­reer leader in solo tack­les with 187. He sur­passed Frantz Joseph, who played from 2006-08.

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