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Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

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Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

<img src="http://www.fauowlsnest.com/itb/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/graham-wilbert-vs-wagner1.jpg" alt="graham-wilbert-vs-wagner1" title="graham-wilbert-vs-wagner1" width="600" height="400" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-11458" />

Senior QB Rallies Offense With Late TD in Carl Pelini’s Debut

A win’s a win, and for the Florida Atlantic football team, they can make that statement with confidence after a 7-3 victory over Wagner Friday night.

On a night when the program was beginning  a new era of football with head coach Carl Pelini at helm and starting a new quarterback in redshirt sophomore Stephen Curtis, things didn’t go as planned for the Owls.

FAU found themselves trailing Wagner at halftime by a field goal after a slew of mistakes highlighted a first half to forget. The Owls managed a total of just 86 yards of offense in the half hour of play and the new spread offense looked somewhat cluttered.

Curtis, who was making his first career start, looked rattled and indecisive in the pocket causing him to often scramble down the field on broken plays.

Wagner, a member of the Football Championship Series, was able to capitalize on the Owls’ mistakes and looked poised to play spoiler.

Thankfully for Pelini and his coaching staff, there was still another half to be played.

“We hurt ourselves over and over again. There was no panic, and I told our guys going into the game that we should be better in the fourth quarter than the first quarter,” Pelini said.

Pelini made the halftime adjustment to place senior quarterback Graham Wilbert under center and things turned around immediately for the offense.

Wilbert completed his first two pass attempts of the night and got the Owls in the red zone for the first time all game. Kicker Vinny Zaccario failed to connect on a 39 yard field goal, but it appeared the momentum on the field was swinging in a different direction.

FAU’s defense was able to force Wagner to punt on the next possession and Wilbert was given the ball back in the opponent’s territory.

The newly inserted signal caller led the Owls back into the red zone, but once again a costly mistake negated any chance for points. Running back Martese Jackson coughed the ball up at the Seahawk’s nine-yard line and the opposing team recovered.

Things where looking bleak for the home squad with the clock stretching into the fourth quarter, but the defense produced another stand and gave the possession back over to the offense.

That is when the Owls where finally able to make an offensive play. Wilbert stood in the pocket after a play-action fake and launched a ball down the field to a wide-open Byron Hankerson for a 39 yard touchdown pass giving the team a 7-3 lead.

“I just wanted to win,” Wilbert said of the play.

The pass marked the longest of the game for the Owls and the key moment of the night. With less than 12 minutes remaining in the contest, FAU had it’s first lead of the game.

“He showed a lot of maturity and a lot of selflessness and did a great job of rallying the guys in the first half from the sideline.
He was ready to go in the second half and was engaged in the game and certainly did a good job,” Pelini said.

Wilbert, who was playing in his 12th career game, finished the night 10 of 13 for 126 yards and the score. He also added another 23 yards on the ground and converted many short third down plays on designed runs.

“When Graham (Wilbert) came in, he made great plays, great throws, great decisions and played very well,” Hankerson said of the quarterback.

While Wilbert looked poised commanding the offense in the second half, he got a lot of help from the man in the backfield standing next to him. Despite his early fumble, Jackson was able to constantly break into the second level of the defense and produce first downs that often kept drives alive.

“The offensive line did a great job, and he made some big plays for us,” Wilbert said.

Jackson finished the night with 99 yards on the ground, but gave away another costly fumble late in the game. Taking a hand off from Wilbert inside the Seahawk’s 5-yard line, the ball once again came out of Jackson’s hands and bounced to a Wagner defender.

Lucky for the Owls, there was less than a minute left of regulation and the defense once again was able to prevent the Seahawks from scoring. The fumble marked FAU’s fourth turnover of the night and marked the third time the team failed to score in the  red zone.

Wagner was held to 215 yards of total offense and were just 1 of 12 on third-down conversions.

“They were tired,” Pelini said of the defense. “We had some guys who were cramping and we were playing some back-ups but we played simple.”

Even with the team’s lack of production in the first half, the Owls’ offense finished the night with 327 yards of total offense.

Curtis, who didn’t play in the second half, was 4 of 10 for 37 yards and rushed for another 26 yards.

“You have to start somewhere as a program. In my 22-years of coaching, I have never apologized for a win. They aren’t easy to come by in football. We have a lot of work to do as a football team obviously, but I do think we showed some character and some integrity,” Pelini said.

Game Notes:

– Linebackers David Hinds and Randell Johnson showed why they where one of the main strengths of the defense. Hinds tallied 10 tackles on the night while Johnson managed five of his own including a sack. Andrae Kirk added 4 tackles as well.

– Cornerback D’joun Smith recorded FAU’s only take away of the game, intercepting a ball thrown into the end-zone late in the 2nd quarter.  The play came at a key moment as Wagner could have went up by two scores heading into the locker room.

– Hankerson scored his first collegiate touchdown with his long reception and led the team in receiving with 93-yards on five catches. Last season he was deemed academically ineligible and has battled his way back onto the playing field starting with the classroom.

– The Owl’s were flagged only two times for 25 yards. FAU ranked 112th in the nation last season, averaging 7.7 penalties a game.

– Former FAU running back and current Washington Redskin Alfred Morris was on hand for the game. He caught an early flight down Friday morning and was set to return to his NFL team on Saturday for practice.

Twitter: @andrewrivins
Email: [email protected]
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

Great to hear Alfred was in attendance. Once an owl always an owl. Thanks for showing support and pride for your school!
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

Thats cool that Alfred came for the game.  Way to support the team
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

Who would have thunk it?

Nice work GW!

;)
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

According to the official stats of the game, we only played 52 players! The list of who did not play is rediculous! Besides German and Carter who are not cleared, and Wallace and Fortner whom it has been noted were in street clothes for the game, the other prominent names were Ragoo, Vile, Cappell, Colley, Dukes, Glinton, Gilchrist, Richerdson, Mitchell, Moise on O and Ogbonda, Robinson, LeBlanc, Williams, Niblack on D.
Quite a list (19 players) which limits our depth, hopefully that will be different next week.
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

GeorgiaOwl said

According to the official stats of the game, we only played 52 players! The list of who did not play is rediculous! Besides German and Carter who are not cleared, and Wallace and Fortner whom it has been noted were in street clothes for the game, the other prominent names were Ragoo, Vile, Cappell, Colley, Dukes, Glinton, Gilchrist, Richerdson, Mitchell, Moise on O and Ogbonda, Robinson, LeBlanc, Williams, Niblack on D.
Quite a list (19 players) which limits our depth, hopefully that will be different next week.

That's interesting, wonder why so many were out other than injuries or ineligibility?

FAU Class of '87
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

GeorgiaOwl said

According to the official stats of the game, we only played 52 players! The list of who did not play is rediculous! Besides German and Carter who are not cleared, and Wallace and Fortner whom it has been noted were in street clothes for the game, the other prominent names were Ragoo, Vile, Cappell, Colley, Dukes, Glinton, Gilchrist, Richerdson, Mitchell, Moise on O and Ogbonda, Robinson, LeBlanc, Williams, Niblack on D.
Quite a list (19 players) which limits our depth, hopefully that will be different next week.

I also found it odd/interesting that Zaccario did not kick the field goal and the new freshman punter was the me attempting it, and of course missed it by a bit ;) yet Zaccario did the extra point. It really seemed almost like pelini was using this almost like a pre season game to see who the starters should really be and see players in real game action before we get to the games that matter
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

GeorgiaOwl said

According to the official stats of the game, we only played 52 players! The list of who did not play is rediculous! Besides German and Carter who are not cleared, and Wallace and Fortner whom it has been noted were in street clothes for the game, the other prominent names were Ragoo, Vile, Cappell, Colley, Dukes, Glinton, Gilchrist, Richerdson, Mitchell, Moise on O and Ogbonda, Robinson, LeBlanc, Williams, Niblack on D.
Quite a list (19 players) which limits our depth, hopefully that will be different next week.
I talked to Shalom last night, he is redshirting
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

OwlBroker said

It really seemed almost like pelini was using this almost like a pre season game to see who the starters should really be and see players in real game action before we get to the games that matter

^this

P.S. I don't respond to guest posts. All guests are encouraged to register with the site.
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Re: Wilbert Leads Owls Past Wagner

Rick said

Who would have thunk it?

Nice work GW!

;)

Not me.  Way to go kid.  Now get this win next week and then go to church or wherever it is you pray and wear your gods ear out for Alabama/Georgia back to back.

Teambeer is the most knowledgeable FAU sports fan I know, way smarter than me.
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