The first six games between the Owls and Warhawks had all been won by the visitor. However, that changed tonight as Louisiana-Monroe (2-3, 1-1) picked up the win knocking off FAU 20-17 at Malone Stadium.
With the ball, and the lead late in the fourth quarter, a botched snap by FAU set up the game deciding score for ULM.
“Losing the game like we lost it is inexcusable and we have to learn how to maintain possession of the football”, said head Coach Howard Schnellenberger.
They better learn fast because with two losses in the conference standings and the “best of the rest” still ahead, things look less than hopeful at this point. FAU will need to finish 5-2 just to be bowl eligible.
“The season is not over and we still have a chance to win six games”, said Owl quarterback Jeff Van Camp. “We’re going to do everything we can to get to that mark and we’re not going to give up.”
For the first time this season, Florida Atlantic (1-4, 0-2) was held scoreless in the first half mustering only three first downs and allowing ULM conversions on fourth down that lead to scores.
Neither team was able to find the scoreboard in the first quarter. ULM had two chances but missed a 28 yard FG attempt off the upright, and later fumbled the ball away on the Owls’ five yard line.
FAU had their chance as well, driving down to the Warhawk 10 before a Van Camp interception snuffed the threat.
Louisiana-Monroe would strike soundly in the second with an early safety and later catch the Owls snoozing with a 57 yard fake punt that set up a TD.
Just before the break, a 30 yard FG gave the Warhawks a 12-0 advantage.
But FAU found new life in the second half, controlling time of possession and rattling off 17 unanswered points in the process.
After a failed pass attempt to TE Darian Williams on 3rd and goal from the ULM, the Owls finally got on the board with a 30-yard field goal by Ross Gornall.
ULM would be forced to punt on the ensuing possession and the Owls would answer again with a successful drive capped with a one yard TD run by Alfred Morris.
Later, Florida Atlantic took their first lead of the night when ULM head Coach Todd Berry surprisingly elected to attempt another fake punt with the Warhawks deep in their own territory. But it backfired when the resulting measurement was short, and put the Owls in business on the ULM 23 yard line.
FAU would capitalize behind six straight runs by Morris, who scored his second TD in the process and gave FAU their first lead of the contest 17-12.
Morris had a season high 153 yards, although it wasn’t necessarily by design.
“When you can’t protect the quarterback well enough to throw the ball as well as we can throw the ball, it throws your whole game into a tailspin”, Schnellenberger said.
With the ball and less than six minutes to play, the Owls looked to run the clock and be on the way to victory, but that's when the tide quickly turned, as ULM recovered an Owl fumble on the snap.
“I mishandled the snap. It’s my fault. It was a good snap, I just didn’t get it”, Van Camp said.
The Owls’ defense, which had done a good job most of the night at stopping the Warhawks passing game, fell short when it counted most allowing the winning score.
“They came out wanting to win the game on the last drive”, said senior defensive back Tavious Polo. “We tried, we tried to play.”
“At the end of the day it’s frustrating on our part the defense because I feel like we gave up the game-winning touchdown so no matter what the offense does it was in our hands and we let it go”, said linebacker Malik Eugene, who had a game high 14 tackles for FAU.
The Owls would get the ball once more; however four straight pass attempts fell incomplete to end the comeback attempt.
Florida Atlantic will have a bye week before resuming conference play against Arkansas State on October 23rd at Lockhart Stadium, and the next chance to right a ship’s path which appears to be heading for an early port.
“We’ve been through some more trying times than this” Schnellenberger said. “It is about believing in each other and holding the core values in place.”