Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, backed up on his own 9-yard line, took the snap out of the shotgun and aimed a short pass at wide receiver Chris Bonner. It looked like Bonner was going to catch the ball and then attempt to try to pitch the ball. And in reality he did, right to Cowboy strong safety Andre Sexton. Sexton kept his feet and rolled the 14 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead before many fans had settled into their seat.
"That was the best feeling. That was the best feeling in the world to score on the first play on defense," said defensive tackle Maurice Cummings.
"It was really a big lift for our team and obviously, starting off a game that way was huge," said head coach Mike Gundy. "We all know that if you are going to win big, eventually you are going to have to win with defense."
That's what the Cowboys did in Saturday night's 42-6 win over the Owls, with that very first play as it goes down as the winning score since Florida Atlantic only posted two field goals, Sexton's score and the extra point that followed would have been enough for the win.
Sexton was happy about the lift the play gave the team, but he was really happy to get his first OSU career interception.
"I was just coming down to my zone, and when I read pass I went to where I was supposed to be," said Sexton. "Donovan (Woods) made a great play on the ball and the receiver just gave it to me. I didn't think they were running the hook and ladder. I think he just wanted me to have the ball. It was my first interception and I'm happy."
"I was glad to be a part of it," said Woods, "Andre did a great job. It was a gift, but he did a good job of staying up and getting in the end zone. We had another great opportunity right away if Marque (Fountain) had recovered the fumble but it slipped out. The ball gets kind of slippery. We did pretty good today."
Yes they did! The defense held the Owls to 28 yards rushing and 203 yards of total offense. There was really only one sustained drive, and the average gain per snap for FAU was a paltry 3.1 yards. The defense forced two turnovers, the other being a Donovan Woods interception to kill a drive into the red zone, and they nearly had three more turnovers.
"After last week we practiced really hard on tackling and doing the little things right and we wanted to come out with enthusiasm," said Sexton. "The seniors led us out there and we just followed them and kept it up the whole game. When the backups came in they followed us and they kept it up."
One major change off the field was new defensive coordinator Tim Beckman and his vantage point. Beckman was upstairs in the booth at Georgia, but Saturday night he was with his guys on the field. It appeared to make a difference having the architect of the defense on the field with his demolition crew.
"He had asked to come down. I think it was on Tuesday," said Gundy of Beckman's move to the field. "I think it is the first time he has ever been down on the field as a coordinator. He just wanted to be down on the field with the team because the scheme is new and he wanted to be down to make adjustments.
"He felt more comfortable. He asked me and I was OK with it. I don't care where he is. He can be in the parking lot as long as we stop 'em. It worked out well for us tonight with everybody, but at the beginning of the game it was the defense that kept us in it."
And the defense will be needed again Friday as a more difficult challenge will be up when the Cowboys visit Troy, a 59-31 loser to defending national champion Florida and a team that outgained Arkansas and Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden in a 46-26 loss in week one.
OSU-FAU: The Best Offense Can Be A Defense
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