Boca Raton (CBs12) — Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin left what he called a “sloppy” scrimmage on Saturday, the first of fall camp for the Owls, feeling that redshirt sophomore quarterbacks Chris Robison and Nick Tronti took a step ahead of junior Justin Agner but hedged that assessment noting Agner had been sick leading up to Saturday.
“They both probably got ahead of Justin,” Kiffin said. “Justin had the bad interception to start the game, but he’s been really sick, struggled to eat for a few days now, throwing up, so kind of hard to evaluate him on that.”
Robison, the incumbent starter who was suspended for spring football, was pleased with his performance as he worked with the first-, second- and third-team offenses. Unofficially, Robison went 6 for 10 for 154 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I thought Chris did what he’s kind of done in camp. We all know he’s arm talented, made some really good throws,” Kiffin said. “But at the same time, he’s got to make the right decisions. We’ve got a third-and-1 in two-minute there where you hand the ball off and he pulls the ball. You lose a yard and waste a timeout. He’s a sophomore now. He can’t make those mistakes in critical situations.”
Following the scrimmage, he said he’ll maintain his same approach, which going back to the same time last year, won him a competition over De’Andre Johnson and Rafe Peavey.
“I’m going to go out there, try to get better every single day and try to operate the offense as well as I can,” Robison said.
Tronti, unofficially, was 4 of 11 for 57 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The former Florida Mr. Football award winner at Ponte Vedra High in the Jacksonville area, who transferred from Indiana ahead of last season, was not pleased with what he showed.
“I looked like a high school quarterback out there, to be honest,” Tronti said. “Missing throws, turning the ball over. Unacceptable. It’s not going to help the team win.”
Agner was the first quarterback on the field but was very limited due to his illness and not even on the sideline late in the scrimmage. He was 1 of 5 for 7 yards and an interception, unofficially.
The offense, stymied early in the scrimmage, finally got going in the middle of it. Robison connected with redshirt sophomore receiver Chris Herring for a touchdown, and Tronti hit senior tight end John Raine for a score on the following drive. Both were on intermediate routes.
Former Alabama running back BJ Emmons was a standout, displaying his power-running abilities consistently and then his speed on a 51-yard touchdown scamper.
“I feel I did all right for how long I’ve been here, only eight months,” said Emmons, who took last season off and was at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas in 2017 after he was with Kiffin when he was the offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide in Emmons’ 2016 freshman season. “I know I still got a lot to learn. It’s just a learning experience, every day just coming out here and getting better with my teammates.”
The Owls’ first three drives, which gave each quarterback competing for the starting job an initial chance on Saturday, all ended in turnovers. The first two were interceptions thrown by Agner and Tronti, picked off by safety Da’Von Brown and cornerback Diashun Moss, respectively. The third, while Robison was in at quarterback, was a fumble from running back Kelvin Dean, recovered by linebacker Hosea Barnwell.
“I thought it was more a reflection of the offense,” Kiffin said of the turnovers. “The first interception, you should’ve never thrown. You just chucked it up. Anybody could’ve made that play on defense. The defense did force a fumble on the third one, but still, that’s bad ball security. A couple of other balls came out later from the running backs.”
Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson dropped back into coverage late in the scrimmage to pick off a Tronti pass. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker, known as the Leo in defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s scheme, Leighton McCarthy recovered a fumble. Fellow Leo David Belvin had a sack, as did linebacker Akileis Leroy.
Reserve freshman quarterback Javion Posey scored a rushing touchdown, keeping the ball on a read-option from near the goal line.
The first points the offense scored came on the seventh drive of the scrimmage on a 41-yard field goal from Vladimir Rivas. It was a strong scrimmage for FAU kickers as Aaron Shahriari later got a 48-yard kick just over the crossbar. Rivas later hit his next attempt, from 39 yards out.
FAU has a day off on Sunday before returning to practice on Monday.