Florida Atlantic (3-5, 2-3) managed just 215 total yards of offense, but came away 17-16 winners today against Western Kentucky at L.T. Stadium.
As was the case last week against FIU, much in part thanks to a stingy defense.
The Owls held the Hilltoppers to just 268 yards total offense, and a season low 70 yards through the air.
“I thought our defense played an outstanding football game against a very determined offensive unit”, said Coach Howard Schnellenberger. “It’s good to see the defense play winning football, even when our offense was not playing winning football.”
The Hilltoppers (1-8, 1-4) dialed up the contest’s first score when Bobby Rainey took a hand off 11 yards into the end zone in the first.
Alfred Morris soon answered with a 19 yard TD of his own, passing former Owl Doug Parker (1,981) for 2nd all time in yardage at 2,034.
"To get that first score on the board helped the defense out, and we got the momentum a little bit”, said quarterback Jeff Van Camp.
But, it didn’t last long.
FAU was pushed back deep into their own territory on more than one occasion in the 2nd quarter, most notably when a snap over punter Mickey Groody’s head from the three yard line resulted in a safety and a 9-7 lead for the Hilltoppers.
Van Camp (9-of-22, 140, 1 TD, 1 INT), who tossed his seventh pick of the year on the Owls’ next possession, would make amends thereafter lofting a ball to his favorite target Lester Jean who hauled it in for 62 yard touchdown to put the Owls on top 14-9 shortly before halftime.
“I thought he threw a meteorite, and he couldn’t get it out of the stratosphere”, Schnellenberger said.
Jean finished the day with a game high 79 yards to lead all receivers.
After stopping the Hilltoppers’ initial drive of the second period, FAU was moving the ball effectively until Morris coughed up his second fumble in as many weeks, setting WKU in motion for Rainey’s second touchdown and a two point lead.
Florida Atlantic would answer on their next possession with a 26 yard field goal from Ross Gornall to move ahead 17-16 in what would be the game winning score.
With 8:22 to play the Owls looked to run the clock until a hand off to Morris was met by an unchecked goal line formation from WKU that resulted in a loss and Groody standing in for his 6th punt of the contest.
Enter the defense.
After three failed plays set up a 4th and long, the Hilltoppers had no choice but to to go for it. That's when senior linebacker Michael Lockley (11 tackles) made a clutch play knocking quarterback Kawaun Jakes out of bounds to end the drive and the secure the win.
With the ball and 1:48 remaining, Florida Atlantic attempted one last shot down field to Jean before running the clock out on the ground.
“They kept us in the game all day. I can't say enough about them”, Van Camp said. “They're making the plays when they have to, and they really won this game today."
Rainey led Western Kentucky’s one sided attack with 152 yards on the ground.
"We just didn't do anything in the passing game, and that's disappointing”, said Hilltopper Coach Willie Taggart.
The Owls return home to Lockhart Stadium next Saturday for a 7:00 p.m. match up against Louisiana.