If one were to take a look inside the Florida Atlantic locker room, one might guess that they had just upset the defending National Champion Auburn Tigers.
While the Tigers (3-1) ultimately prevailed 30-14, the Owls (0-3) did get their upset.
They upset the downright ugly expectations set for this game.
“There’s a great deal of happiness in the locker room,” said FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger. “They feel that this game, following the first two blowout games, gives us a reason to have self-confidence.”
It most certainly does.
FAU’s defense struck on the first play from scrimmage when linebacker Cory Henry intercepted Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter.
The turnover led a Vinny Zaccario 39-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead for the Owls, their first lead of the season.
The lead lasted 11 plays before Trotter found wide receiver Emory Blake for a 10-yard touchdown. Field goals by Cody Parkey (41-yards) and Zaccario (43-yards) made it 10-6 Auburn at the half.
“It felt good to stick around with an SEC team in the first half,” quarterback Graham Wilbert said.
After holding the Tigers scoreless in the second quarter, the FAU defense couldn’t stop Auburn’s offense as they scored 20 unanswered en route to a 30-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
FAU went 12 quarters before it scored its first touchdown of the season. Wilbert found running back Alfred Morris for a 12-yard score to bring the Owls to within 16 points, after a successful two-point conversion.
Unfortunately the upset fell short, but you couldn’t tell from the attitude of the players
“I refused to go down on the play,” Morris said. “I knew we needed a spark.”and coaches.
One thing is clear, FAU took a giant step toward bettering their football team.
The offense was able to move the chains, gaining 153 yards of offense after mustering a mere 48 yards against Michigan State two weeks ago. Wilbert, despite tossing three interceptions, looked comfortable when rolling out of the pocket. He completed 20-of-31 passes for 191 yards a touchdown, along with those three picks.
But perhaps the most encouraging thing to take out of the offense was the return of running back Alfred Morris. Morris, who was limited to 40 yards in the first two games, rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries and had four catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
“It was bittersweet, but it was a party when we scored,” Morris said.
The defense showed that it will be a force to be reckoned with once conference play begins. The Owls have four interceptions in three games, including one against the Tigers, and showed that their switch to a 3-4 defense is paying off. They were able to pressure Trotter and force the Tigers to boot three field goals.
Sun Belt play begins next week, when the Owls take on Louisiana-Lafayette, and it looks as if this FAU team finally has some life.
Offense: ALFRED MORRIS
Morris had his best game of the season, rushing for 85 yards on 15 carries and had four catches for 43 yards. He caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Graham Wilbert, the offense’s first touchdown of the season.
Defense: CORY HENRY
The linebacker made a statement on the opening play from scrimmage when he intercepted Tigers quarterback Barrett Trotter and set up a 39-yard field goal by Vinny Zaccario.
Special Teams: VINNY ZACCARIO
Zaccario had the Owls only points of the first half. His 39-yard field goal gave FAU a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. He added a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter.