Spartans Run Past Owls in Detroit
Despite a gusty second half performance, Florida Atlantic couldnít put all of its pieces together Saturday afternoon in Detroit, and fell to Michigan State 30-17.
"I think my football team has improved since we came up here before", said head coach Howard Schnellenberger.
The Spartans offense marched down the field on the opening drive of the game, but settled for a 44-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. After a three and out for the FAU offense, Michigan State running back LeíVeon Bell continued the early scoring, by punching in a nine yard run.
Down 10-0, Jeff Van Camp and the Owls offense found some life when running back Alfred Morris capped off a 15 play 77-yard drive with a two yard touchdown run to bring the team back into the game.
Momentum began to swing FAUís way, after a sack from defensive end Cory Henry forced a Michigan State punt. However, the Owls next drive faltered when one of the teamís 11 penalties of the day ended the drive. The Owls were hit with 85 yards in total via the yellow flag.
"Obviously the (MSU) defense was just as strong and forced us to make a lot of errors", Schnellenberger said.
Spartan Quarterback Kirk Cousins found wide receiver B.J. Cunningham wide open in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown, and then led another drive into FAU territory resulting in a 41-yard field goal to end the half.
Michigan Stateís run game continued to work against the Owls' defense in the third quarter, as running back Edwin Baker bounced of a tackle and raced 80 yards for a touchdown, giving the Spartanís a 27-7 lead. Baker and Bell combined for 232 yards on the ground
FAU quarterback Jeff Van Camp found tight end Rob Housler three times on the next drive as the offense moved the ball down the field and into the red zone. Heading into the contest, FAU was looking for someone to step up at tight end, and Housler did just that catching seven passes for 75 yards.
However he wasn't the only Owl to have a big game in the air. Lester Jean, who almost set a record with yards last week against UAB was once again solid with a game leading 99 yard performance despite being covered by what some would consider to be one of the best defensive backs in the NCAA's in that of Chris Rucker.
"Heís one of the top corners and I definitely want to go against the best every week", said Jean. "I had him a couple times."
The Owls would cut the lead to 13 points when full back Xavier Stinson caught a Van Camp throw in the end zone for the teamís second score of the day. Stinson who was started his first career game, finished with 22 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving.
A big kick return and a 42-yard pass from Cousins put the Spartanís inside the Owls red zone again, and they threatened to add to the lead again, until cornerback Travoris Hill stepped up in a big way, intercepting a Cousins throw in the end zone and creating the first turnover of the game.
FAU took over at the 20-yard line, and Van Camp hit wide receiver Lester Jean on a 3rd and 14 to move the ball into Spartans territory. Another costly holding penalty hampered the offenseís movement, and Van Camp fumbled three plays later, giving possession back to Michigan State.
Baker and Bell continued to work their way against the Owls run defense, and the Spartans kicked another field goal, this time from 50-yards to bring the lead to 30-14. A series later, Bell fumbled while trying to gain additional yards and FAU recovered the ball taking over at Michigan Stateís 43-yard line with 5:41 left in the game.
Schnellenberger inserted back-up quarterback Graham Wilbert into the offensive set, and he connected with Jean on a 41-yard pass bringing the ball down to the 2-yard line. Three plays later, FAU was faced with a 4th and goal on the one yard line, however a false start penalty caused a time out and another decision for the Owls' coaching staff.
In a surprising move, Schnellenberger elected to send out the field goal unit. Ross Gornall then kicked a 23-yard field goal with 2:51 remaining making it 30-17.
"I didnít know if my defense would slow anybody down. I wanted to make sure that we got our second quarterback working in a good situation. I didnít think that was the thing to do", Schnellenberger said of opting not to go for the touchdown.
The Spartans handed the ball to Baker four more times, and the game was final.
The Owls will be off next weekend, and will host North Texas at Lockhart Stadium on September 25 at 7:00 p.m.
"If we just cut out big plays weíll be a good team, and thatís the one thing we have to look forward to going into this bye week to try to work on", said senior linebacker Michael Lockley.
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