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FAU practices in Wisconsin, waits to come home

Lane Kiffin speaks in Madison Tuesday. (Sun-Sentinel)

Camp Randall Stadium on a Monday afternoon is typically a quiet place. Instead of the nearly 80,000 fans that populate the facility on Saturdays, empty red chairbacks dot the Wisconsin stadium. The whir of passing cars replaces the raucous crowd on gamedays.

But this Monday, Camp Randall welcomed a new tenant — Florida Atlantic’s football team.

The Owls, who lost to No. 9 Wisconsin 31-14 on Saturday, are still in Madison as they wait to return to Boca Raton after Hurricane Irma went through South Florida. They practiced Monday afternoon at Camp Randall and will until they can leave and play their scheduled game Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.

Wisconsin has opened its facilities and training tables for the Owls in addition to helping offset hotel costs. FAU coach Lane Kiffin said his team would “try to make the most of it.”

“Obviously, it’s very different,” Kiffin said. “Wisconsin has been awesome to us, letting us practice over there and they fed us over there. That’s obviously helped. But it’s obviously strange. It’s been a strange, whatever it’s been, four days.”

FAU had Sunday off, as usual, and have been holding film sessions and meetings at the team hotel that its stayed at since Friday night. Kiffin said he wasn’t sure when the Owls would leave Madison, and would simply adhere to what the FAU administration tells him.

The school announced Monday that classes would not resume until Sept. 18. Resident students can return to campus Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Faculty and staff can return Thursday. The Bethune-Cookman game is scheduled for Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Florida Atlantic escaped Hurricane Irma by traveling to Madison and losing to No. 9 Wisconsin 31-14 on Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium. From the quarterback position to the Owls defense, here's what we learned in the first game of the year. (Matthew DeFranks)

“I was hoping to leave on Saturday after the game as normal,” Kiffin said. “We would leave as soon as we could so we could get back to our normal place and the kids could get back to their places.”

Kiffin said at one point, he wasn’t sure if the game would actually take place. Around Wednesday or Thursday last week, when schools across the state were altering their plans for weekend games, some concerned Owls players approached Kiffin.

“A lot of our kids were very concerned and obviously didn’t want to leave their families with, at the time, what was supposed to be the worst hurricane to ever hit the United States,” Kiffin said. “But we were told that we’re going. So we came and we’re still here.”

It has been an unorthodox start to Kiffin’s tenure at FAU. The opener came against Navy’s triple-option offense and included three lightning delays. The game lasted nearly six hours and didn’t end until 1:47 a.m.

Now, his team is stranded in Madison because of a hurricane. He said he’s never experienced anything like these situations.

“I don’t think anybody has,” Kiffin said. “This has obviously been very abnormal: a six-hour game and then at one point, we think we’re not playing this game.”

Kiffin said quarterback De’Andre Johnson was still in the hospital after a medical condition forced him to stay behind as the Owls traveled to Madison. Kiffin said he was not sure if Johnson would play again this season.

“It was pretty scary,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin said FAU was planning on playing Johnson against Wisconsin, but instead, the Owls relied solely on Daniel Parr. Kiffin said Monday that Parr is slated as FAU’s starting quarterback after he started the first two games of the season.

On the year, Parr has completed 57 percent of his passes for 423 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The three touchdowns have all been long scores (95, 62 and 63 yards) for a combined 220 yards. ...

FAU’s game at Buffalo on Sept. 23 will kick off at 7 p.m. and be televised on ESPN3. All 12 of FAU’s games this season will be available either on television or streaming online.

Saturday’s game against Bethune-Cookman will be on beIN.

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