Nebraska Opponent Offensive Scouting Report
Who:Florida Atlantic Owls
School Location: Boca Raton, Florida
School Colors: Blue and Red
2008 Record: 7-6
National Ranking: Unranked
Head Coach: Howard Schnellenberger (Kentucky, 1956): 48-48 in 11th season as head coach at Florida Atlantic; 148-25-3 overall as a head coach.
Offensive Coordinator: Darryl Jackson
When: Saturday, Sept. 5, 6 p.m.
Where: Tom Osborne Field - Memorial Stadium (81, 067)
TV: Pay Per View
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Series Record: First Meeting.
Base Offensive Formation: Split Backs
Field General: Senior quarterback Rusty Smith (6-5, 212) is the catalyst of a Florida Atlantic offense that averaged over 25 points per game in 2008 and ranked 25th nationally in passing offense at 254.77 yards per game. Smith is a four-year starter that holds FAU records for passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and total yards. He was the Sun Belt player of the year in 2007. Last season, Smith completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 3,224 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Running The Ball: The running game is one of the major question marks for the Owls entering the 2009 season. Last season's leading rusher, Charles Pierre has graduated and senior Jeff Blanchard suffered a knee injury during spring practice. Fullback WillieRose (6-1, 227) is back after rushing for 319 yards in 2008. Sophomore Alfred Morris (5-11, 222) and junior Willie Floyd (5-9, 185) are competing for playing time at running back.
Catching The Ball: The Owls feature a verteran receiving corps, led by senior Cortez Gent (6-2, 185) who tallied 60 receptions for 935 yards and nine TDs in 2008. Tight end Jamari Grant was the Owls' second leading receiver, totaling 642 yards and four touchdowns on 45 receptions. Fellow tight end Rob Housler (6-5, 215) made 32 catches for 519 yards and four TDs last season.
On The Line: The Owls are rebuilding their offensive line following the departure of three starters from last season. Senior guard David Matlock (6-3, 290) is the leader and most experienced player on the Owls' O-line. Lavoris Williams (6-4, 285) and Carl Spitale (6-8, 330) bring size to the tackle positions.
Kicking The Ball: Two sophomores, Ross Gornall (6-1, 180) and Michael Cal (5-6, 163) and freshman Matthew McLaughlin (5-10, 190) are top contenders for place-kicking and punting duties.
Return Game: The Owls hope to have a stronger return game in 2009 than they did in 2008 when they ranked 74th nationally for punt returns and 91st on kickoffs. Tavious Polo (5-11, 175), a sophomore, is back as FAU's top returner after averaging 9.5 yards per attempt last season.
***Florida Atlantic is the first of three Sun Belt Conference opponents the Huskers will face on their non-conference schedule, along with Arkansas State (Sept. 12) and Louisiana Lafayette (Sept. 26)
***The Owls finished 4-3 in the Sun Belt last season after winning the league title in 2007.
***The Owls defeated Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl last December, 24-21.
***Longtime Husker fans are familiar FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger. He was the head coach at Miami (Fla.) when the Hurricanes spoiled NU's national championship hopes with a 31-30 upset victory in the Orange Bowl following the 1983 regular season. In 1995, Schnellenberger's Oklahoma team lost to the No. 1-ranked Huskers, 37-0, in Lincoln.
***Jeff Brohm, a former standout quarterback and assistant coach at Louisville, joined the FAU staff this season as the Owls' quarterback coach.
***Nebraska hasn't played a team from the state of Florida since losing to Miami in the Rose Bowl National Championship game at the conclusion of the 2001 season. The last Florida team to come to Lincoln was the 1997 Central Florida squad quarterbacked by Duante Culpepper.
Notable Florida Atlantic Alumni: Comedian Carrot Top, astronaut Steven Swanson, and Don Brewer, drummer and founding member of the musical group Grand Funk Railroad.
Florida Atlantic Schedule
Sept. 5 - @ Nebraska
Sept. 19- @ South Carolina
Sept. 26 - Louisiana Monroe
Oct. 3 - Wyoming
Oct. 17 - @ North Texas
Oct. 24 - @ Louisiana Lafayette
Oct. 31 - Middle Tennessee
Nov. 7 - @ UAB
Nov. 14 - Arkansas State
Nov. 21 - @ Troy
Nov. 28 - Western Kentucky
Dec. 5 - @ Florida International