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Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

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Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

By Bob Markey II


A school-record eight fumbles (five lost), a record six turnovers, a defense that couldn’t adjust to a short passing game and an offense that still cannot find a quarterback or any consistency doomed FAU on Saturday night in the Owls’ second game in Boca Raton.

Middle Tennessee quickly scored the game’s first 21 points and bounced back after FAU appeared to seize momentum with its first FAU Stadium touchdown drive in the early second quarter, before cruising to a 38-14 Sun Belt Conference win.

The Owls remain winless at 0-7 (0-4 Sun Belt) and the Blue Raiders improved to 2-4 (1-2).

“I can’t figure out why we have the problems that we have,” a clearly dejected coach Howard Schnellenberger said. “It’s basic to playing … wining football.”

Schnellenberger said the Owls had a good week of preparation and seemed to be ready to ink their first win. “I thought they had re-dedicated themselves,” he said. “Then the mistakes began to happen.

“Evidently, they are going to be harder to teach.”

Darian Williams said he “felt good” to go into the history book as the first Owl to score points at FAU Stadium. “At the same time, we got the loss.”

Williams ran a play-action out route called “236” and despite being tightly covered, made the 5-yard catch from Graham Wilbert, capping a 5-play, 79-yard drive fueled by a 48-yard bulldozing Alfred Morris run. The run electrified the announced crowd of around 16,000 begging for something positive about which to cheer.

“I trusted my hands. It was a turning point in the game,” Williams said. “It brought out the people in the stands.”

The FAU defense suddenly was able to stop the Blue Raiders’ spread offense and the Owls had two more chances to score, but were stymied by fumbles and penalties.

MTSU scored three times on passes of 20, 5 and 23 yards before the Owls could adjust, to lead 21-0 in the first quarter.

“We weren’t prepared on defense,” said senior defensive back Marcus Bartels. “We didn’t have the right adjustments. We weren’t ready for the short passes and screens. We thought they were going to go down field more.

“It’s hard to win when they score 21 points in the first quarter.”

Following the first Owls score at 9:57 in the second, they got the ball back quickly after a fumble recovered by Christen Milstead at the FAU 16. Five plays later, Morris fumbled to MTSU. The Owls held MTSU on a fourth-and-1 at the FAU 32 and moved the ball to the MTSU 40 before Wilbert lost the ball on a fumble during a sack.

Schnellenberger attributed the turnovers to “forcing it.”

“The turnovers just killed our drives,” Morris said. "I really wasn’t forcing it. My arms were sweaty and it just shot out of my arms."

The Owls defense tightened again just before the half, with Brent Harstad picking off Raiders QB Logan Kilgore on a third-and-goal from the 8.

The Owls got the ball to start the second half and had moved to the MT 44 on a Morris 20-yard run, but he lost the ball on the next play.

The teams traded punts before FAU’s Keith Reaser returned a Kilgore interception to the MT 26. But Wilbert was intercepted in the end zone on a ball than floated slow and high. MTSU’s Eric Russel returned the ball to the FAU 21. Alan Gendreau hit a 32-yard field goal to put the Raiders up 24-7.

The teams again traded punts and at its own 8, RB Xavier Stinson fumbled to MTSU and the Raiders scored on their second play, a 12-yard run, to lead 31-7.

FAU punted as time in the third quarter drained out, but the Owls got another chance thanks to a Bartels fumble recovery at the MT 27. Wilbert hit Derek Moise for 24 yards to the MT 21 and Stephen Curtis, who came in at QB, snuck in the Owls' second and last touchdown with 12:59 to play. It was Curtis' first touchdown as an Owl.

The Raiders moved down field quickly to the Owls 3, but the defense stood up and took over the ball on downs with a 17-yard loss on fourth down. Incomplete passes and another sack ended any chance of a comeback for FAU. MTSU got the ball back on a punt and moved 51 yards in 11 plays to seal the game with a Kyle Griswould 1-yard run.

With Curtis under center, the Owls drove three pays to the MT 35, but the redshirt freshman was sacked and coughed up the ball, leaving MTSU with enough time to take a knee.

The Owls were out-passed 292 to 135 yards, and out-rushed 187-141. FAU put up 276 yards versus MTSU’s 479. FAU was 5-of-12 in third-down conversions and was sacked four times for 20 yards.

Schnellenberger said the Owls were victimized by the speed of MTSU’s offense, and especially the fade option pass, six times. “That’s terrible.” Kilgore completed 19-straight passes to start the game.

Morris led all rushers with 153 yards on 18 carries. William Pratcher led MTSU with 125 yards on 23 carries.

Wilbert was 10-for-24 and one interception for 104 yards. Curtis was 4-for-5 for 31 yards. Stinson led Owls receivers with 20 yards on four receptions. MTSU spread the ball to 11 receivers, four of whom had more than 50 yards apiece.

Schnellenberger said Wilbert’s poor showing will guarantee that Curtis, who's a better runner than Wilbert, will get significant playing time. Wilbert must become smarter in short-yardage situations, he said.

“Part of his problem is he doesn’t realize that when we need 5 yards, we don’t need to throw the ball 18 yards,” Schnellenberger said. “His reference was not good.”

He said Curtis “gives you the glimpse of a good freshman quarterback” who has not received much work in practice. “He has very desirable characteristics.”

Morris said the Owls – despite the collapse of their season – will continue to try to improve and win.

“It’s very difficult, but we are fighters,” he said. “This is football. Anything can happen.”

“I and my staff are prepared to continue the development of this football team,” Schnellenberger said, “and it’s our goal to have an improved football team next week (FAU is next in action Nov. 5 for Homecoming versus Arkansas State), in a better position to win.”
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Re: Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

Well next week will be the first time we dont lose in a while so maybe he's right about that last line…Curtis should start next game no doubt about it
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Re: Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

“I trusted my hands. It was a turning point in the game,”
  Turning point? was I at the right game.
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Re: Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

The turning point of the game was when the frisbee dogs came out at halftime!
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Re: Owls Fumble Away Too Many Chances, Lose 38-14 To Middle Tennessee

Did'nt see the game but what is Bartels talking about, the D not being ready for short passes and screens from a spread O?

THAT IS ALMOST ALL THEY DO - BY DESIGN!

WOW - WHAT COACHING!

Not the worst team - just the worst coached team I have maybe EVER seen - High School included! Love my Owls but man!
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