By: David DiPino Contributing Writer
Florida Atlantic University Owls Football defensive analyst, Monte Kiffin, known as being the famed defensive coordinator who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl ring in 2003 and inventor of the “Tampa 2 Defense” was selected by FAU players to coach the Red Team and led them to a narrow 17-16 win in the team’s Spring Game at FAU Stadium’s Howard Schnellenberger Field.
Monte Kiffin, 79, is the father of FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin, and Coach Monte Kiffin who be a better dancer. He led his players, some of which are 60-years younger than he is a victory dance linked to James Brown’s “I Feel Good” hit song blaring from the FAU Football locker room’s speakers.
“I Feel Good! You know I’m not so fast but I can still do a little jig!” Coach Monte Kiffin told his FAU Football Red Team players as he danced.
“I thought in general the defense played really well especially early on when the offenses struggled. Whenever you’re playing yourself there is a good and bad to everything. It was good in the second half to see the offense make some plays especially John Mitchell from the receivers who stepped up,” said FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin.
The Grey Team chose defensive coordinator, Glen Spencer as their head coach. Spencer, the mastermind of Oklahoma State University Cowboys defenses for almost a decade, recently joined FAU’s coaching staff after a one-year stint for the Charlotte 49ers. He was impressed by how his defense played, especially in forcing turnovers, for both the Reds and Greys.
“Takeaways (turnovers) can change ball games,” Coach Spencer said.
Coach Monte Kiffin, whose superlative defense is well known to Madden NFL players and football aficionados, didn’t disappoint as his squad was led with interceptions by cornerbacks Diashun Moss and Teja Young, fum- ble recoveries by Moss and defensive lineman Damian Horton, and quarterback sacks by defensive lineman Charles Cameron and safe- ty Quran Hafiz.
Senior Harrison Bryant provided the sparks for Coach Monte Kiffin’s Reds on a first quarter 36-yard touchdown (TD) catch from sophomore quarterback Nick Tronti and a fourth quarter 19-yard TD catch from senior quarterback Trent Wessel giving them a lead they’d never relinquish. Because FAU’s players drafted their teams many starters were split onto the Reds and the Greys.
“I know John Mitchell was going with a different quarterback than he’s used to sometimes. I caught a touchdown from Trent, my roommate which is pretty cool,” said Bryant.
Leading the Grey Team was wide receiver John Mitchell who caught two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Justin Agner, the big one a 71-yard touchdown reception he out-leaped the defense in the third quarter and made a five-yard touchdown with just under two minutes left in the game to narrow the score to 17-16. Mitchell ended the game with three catches for 148 yards and the two touchdown receptions.
“It felt great. It felt amazing. Football and anything in life is about confidence and knowing you’re able to do it. I’ll remember this moment, this day and I’ll build on that,” said Mitchell.
On the next play after Mitchell’s fourth quarter TD, Agner was tackled on a two-point conversion from the two-yard line with just 1:42 left in the game and as time expired kicker Christian Hoyos missed a 44-yard field goal wide left which would have won the game for the Greys. Coach Monte Kiffin iced the kicker Hoyos before the attempted kick with back-to-back timeouts. Hoyos did boot a beautiful 40-yard field goal in the second quarter for the Grey Team.
FAU kicker Vladimir Divas also hit a 40-yard field goal for the Red Team in the third quarter and had another attempt in the game, a miss from 50-yards that just scooted wide right but had the distance.
Agner banged his injured right pinky finger into a Red Team defender at 2:47 of the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Cordel Littlejohn quickly filled in under center for the Owls. Littlejohn ended the game 1-3, 3 passing yards and an interception. But, Agner who said the injury was one he was nursing prior to the game, came back in to lead the Grey Team’s charge. He was playing with pain, grimacing after each play but showed toughness in the comeback. Earlier in the game, the quarterback showed grit, throwing a block on a running play freeing running back James Charles for a nice gain.
The first half of the FAU Football Spring Game was somewhat of an offensive dud except for some fireworks late in the first half when a fight between senior defensive end Tim Bonner and sophomore offensive lineman BJ Etienne broke out near the red team’s east sideline. Bonner was given an unsportsmanlike 15-yard penalty and then the officials ejected Bonner from the game. Etienne was not ejected. The fight started late during a play where Etienne’s quarterback was upended near the 50-yardline. Then, the two players went at each other for about 30 seconds before their teammates separated them from the pile on the field’s grass. Etienne lost his helmet during the skirmish but was able to quickly resume playing after a quick breather on the bench.
The next time the FAU Owls Football Team will take the field at home will be on Sept. 7, when they take on the UCF Knights at FAU Stadium. FAU Owls Football opens up at the Ohio State University Buckeyes on Aug. 31. For more information and tickets visit FAUSports.com.