In combined totals for 2009-11, the Huskers defense under Pelini ranked second nationally in pass efficiency defense, fifth in passing yards allowed per game, seventh in scoring defense and tenth in total defense, producing six All-Americans and two first-round NFL draft picks.
In his first season, Pelini focused on changing the culture of the Owls football program throughout the campus of Florida Atlantic. Pelini began with individual accountability, along with making changes on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
The outcome was palpable in Boca Rotan at the end of 2012 with a national rank increase of more than 20 spots in scoring defense, punt returns, turnover margin (+35) and sacks allowed. The Owls also improved from 2011 with a ranking of 117 (68.17) in fewest penalty yards per game to No. 64 (51.15).
Struggling thus far in 2013 on offense, the Owls have only produced one offensive touchdown this season. FAU has split time behind center at the quarterback situation, which is somewhat similar to South Florida so far in 2013.
True freshman, Greg Hankerson, has given them stability as a young dual-threat quarterback with some promise. Through the first two weeks, Hankerson has gone 19-37 for 150 yards, along with a single touchdown and interception, while rushing for 52 yards on 11 attempts.
Along with Hankerson, Pelini has sophomore Jacquez Johnson at his disposal. The sophomore has went 20-34 for 150 yards as well, along with an interception. Each of the quarterbacks in Boca Rotan can tuck the ball and get down field in a hurry if needed, leading their squad in rushing combined.
In the Owls first contest of the season against the nearby, Miami Hurricanes, Pelini's defense gave up 503 yards of total offense, 303 of those yards came on the ground with only 1 sack. Leading Florida Atlantic on defense was senior linebacker, Adarius Glanton. The 6'1, 215 pound stud returned in 2013 as the leading tackle on their defense from 2012.
In Week 2, the Owls improved their showing on defense, but were against a much weaker of an opponent, East Carolina. Florida Atlantic forced 3 fumbles and gave up 317 total yards. Combined through the first two weeks, Carl Pelini and company have gave up 402 yards passing and Pelini shed some light on the play so far this season from his defense.
"I'm not surprised," Pelini said. "I expected a lot from our defense this year. I still think we could be more consistent, defensively. At times, I think we could be pretty darn good. At times we let our own mistakes hurt us. I think we can keep getting better, but not pleasantly surprised. I expected that kind of improvement from what I saw in the spring."
South Florida has never lost to Florida Atlantic (3-0) and has posted an average margin of victory of 27 points with the closest being a 35-23 win at FAU in 2007.
Coach Taggart and the Bulls will look to improve to 4-0 all time against the Owls this Saturday at 7:00 PM in Raymond James Stadium.