Owl’s Edge Troy with late TD in 34-27 win
Dorvilus hauls in 2 TDs as FAU snaps 6-game losing streak
Florida Atlantic had lost 14 straight Sun Belt Conference games heading into Saturday afternoon, but all of that changed against Troy.
The Owls put together their most complete performance of the season and senior quarterback Graham Wilbert threw a touchdown pass to William Dukes with 17 seconds left in the game to secure a 34-27 victory over the Trojans.
“This is one of the best games we have played all year. This is the surge of adrenaline that we need. I’m proud of this group,” Head Coach Carl Pelini said.
It was as if someone had hit repeat on last week’s game tape against South Alabama, as the Owls jumped out to an early lead and watched it quickly diminish right before their eyes.
However this time FAU was able to make the necessary plays to end their six game losing streak and beat Troy at home for the first time in school history.
The Owls got off to a hot start behind the arm of Wilbert, who threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns.
Wilbert faked a handoff and rolled out of the pocket to hit tight end Nexon Dorvilus (pictured) for an 11-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Dorvilus – who came into the contest with only 15 catches this season – became Wilbert’s go to target from there on out.
On the next drive the quarterback would find the tight end over the middle for a 38-yard pass and then again for a 9-yard score.
FAU quickly built a 17-point lead thanks to a 35-yard field goal from kicker Mitch Anderson and looked poised to walk away with their second win of the season. The defense was playing honorable and safety Winfred Strickland had picked off a Corey Robinson pass.
However, the Trojans offense would respond.
Kicker Will Scott drilled a 52-yard field goal with the wind at his back and the offensive flurry was on. Robinson would toss a touchdown pass to Jaquon Robinson and Shawn Southward would punch in a score from 1-yard out.
The three possession lead that the Owls had constructed quickly vanished in the span of just over 4 minutes.
Troy was able to storm back into the game and tie the score at halftime, primarily because of mistakes committed by the Owls.
Running back Martesse Jackson fumbled the ball at the Owls’ 30-yard line and Troy was on the spot to take advantage.
As the second half got underway Anderson would add another field goal with a career-long 47-yarder. The kicker would have another opportunity to add more points on the following drive, but pushed a 39-yard attempt wild left.
The Owls defense got their footing back underneath them and freshman Trevon Coley combined with Brandin Bryant for vital sack on the next possession.
Wilbert would keep the offense moving and threw his third touchdown pass of the evening to freshman wide receiver Jenson Stoshak.
The ensuing extra point is where a costly mistake occurred. After two penalties for a false start and a substitution infraction, a low snap caused the Owls’ holder Blake Bierman to scoop up the ball and try to throw for the conversion, but the pass was intercepted.
The failed attempt didn’t look to be too noteworthy with FAU holding a 26-17 lead, but a fourth quarter resurgence from Troy made it.
The Trojans would drive the near length of the field before the unit would be finally stopped. Linebacker Andre Kirk burst into the backfield to make a crucial tackle on third down and the visitors had to settle for a 17-yard field goal.
Pelini and his coaching staff elected to keep throwing the ball instead of running it, but Wilbert and company couldn’t produce a first down.
Troy was able to get the ball back with 4:47 remaining in the game and scored on a 31-yard run from Southland to take their first lead of the contest.
The emotion and momentum on the Owls’ sideline had gone flat and it appeared that the team had let another win slip out of their hands with just 1:49 showing on the score board.
But thankfully for Wilbert and the offense, they had been practicing the two-minute drill all week and where prepared for the challenge.
Wilbert connected with three different receivers on the teams’ final drive and was 6-of-7 passing. William Dukes caught three of those passes, but the most important one was the 22-yard touchdown to regain the lead.
“This is real big. It’s our second win and we played hard the whole game. We lost last week in double-overtime but we came back had faith and overcame adversity,” Dukes said.
The Owls would convert a two-point conversion to make the lead seven, and not allow Troy to score in the games remaining seconds.
Players celebrated by dumping Gatorade on Pelini, who had secured his first conference win.
“We got a lot to learn around here about winning. The killer instinct that you got to learn is that win you jump out early, you got to just keep going,” Pelini said.
Wilbert was arguably the star of the night, throwing the most touchdowns in a game for an FAU quarterback since Rusty Smith tossed four against Louisiana Lafayette three years ago.
Dorvilus was Wilbert’s favorite target and led the team in receiving with six catches for 78 yards. The tight end was also celebrating his 22nd birthday.
As an overall unit, the offense was balanced and efficient. The team ran for 160 yards while Wilbert picked apart the Trojans with his arm. The Owls had 27 first downs which was the highest number in a game since a 2009 bout with Western Kentucky.
The defense deserved just as much credit as they were able to limit a Trojan offense that featured two quarterbacks.
“We just went out there as a family and a brotherhood. We just wanted to win. It’s my first win over Troy,” senior linebacker David Hinds said.
The win comes at an important time for the program, as it marked the first Sun Belt Conference victory in two years.
“We have been working hard and getting better and a lot of people on the outside [of the team] have been saying this and that, thinking they know what’s best, but we have been improving every week and finally got a win,” Wilbert said.
- While Jackson did have a costly fumble, the junior had multiple long gains outside of the tackles. The ball carrier finished the evening with 58 yards on just eight carries. Running back Jonathon Wallace was the primary workhorse in the backfield rushing for a team high 87 yards.
- Coley, who started the game at defensive tackle, was also featured as a blocker in the team’s offensive “Wildcat” package. The formation, which had Wallace taking snaps, was used in short yardage situations and produced two key first downs. The lineman became the first FAU player to play on both sides of the ball since Stetson Wilson in 2004.
- Stoshak, who caught a touchdown in the third quarter, is a true freshman and walk-on from University Christian High School in Jacksonville. The score marked his first career touchdown and the seventh Owl this season to haul in a touchdown pass.
- Punter Sean Kelly was essential to the battle for field position, pinning the Trojans inside their own 20-yard line on two occasions. The specialist also had a 55-yard punt while battling with the windy conditions on the field.
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