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Dukes has a record breaking day
Florida Atlantic's final game of the season paralleled the team's entire year.
William Dukes (photo) had a record day, but his effort wasn't good enough as turnovers and errors doomed the Owls down the stretch in a 35-21 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
“We hurt ourselves over and over again with turnovers and penalties,” Head Coach Carl Pelini said.
On a day in which the senior class was to be honored, it was Dukes who stole the show.
The wide receiver hauled in passes nine for 209 yards and two touchdowns and broke the program's eight year old record for receiving yards in a single game.
Dukes caught his first pass on the team's first offensive play of the game and raced 75-yards to tie the contest.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had built an early lead thanks to a 77-yard scamper from quarterback Terrance Broadway, but FAU would fight back with Dukes catch and run. The Owls would take a lead of their own when Jonathon Wallace bounced into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown run.
The home team look poised to extend their lead against the Ragin’ Cajuns – who have already accepted a bid to play in the R&L Carriers Bowl – but the same miscues that have lingered all season long resurfaced.
Mitch Anderson’s field goal attempt was blocked, and that led to two unanswered touchdowns by the Ragin’ Cajuns.
The visitors held a single score advantage at the halftime and had all of the game’s momentum with 309 yards of total offense.
Running back Alonzo Harris would score one of his three touchdowns in the third quarter, and extended the lead to 28-14.
Dukes would reappear after injuring his ankle in the second quarter, and quarterback Graham Wilbert would connect with the sophomore for a 42-yard touchdown.
“I just wanted to step up for our last game and get better,” Dukes said.
The score was Dukes second of the game and fourth of the season. His 209 yards brought his season total to 984 yards – which is the fourth best mark in school history.
On the Owls next drive running back Damian Fortner would fumble for the third time this season and the Ragin’ Cajuns would add another touchdown for security.
The offense would try to respond, but failed to convert on two fourth down attempts at the end of the game.
Wilbert finished with 379 yards passing, but threw two costly interceptions. In total, the team turned the ball over three times and couldn’t keep drives alive failing to convert on three fourth down attempts which cost them the game.
“It killed us,” Pelini said. "That's a bowl team out there. They're not a bowl team not because their better athletically, or they have better schemes, but because they don't hurt themselves."
Harris and Broadway combined for 261 yards on the ground and where a lethal combo for the Ragin’ Cajuns offense. The Owls hadn’t allowed two opposing players to both eclipse the century mark since the Georgia game earlier this year.
A lot can be taken away from this game and season as improvements have been made across the board.
Turnovers and mistakes continue to be a problem, but a playmaker has been found in Dukes and the defense at times has shown some form of identity.
“I think you're not going to look at that film and think they knocked just knocked us off the ball and more physical than us. We hurt ourselves over and over again. As a football in order to take the next step and progression that's on me,” Pelini said
The Owls will return eight starters on defense and seven on offense. The coaching staff currently has 13 verbal commitments and the recruiting class is ranked seventh in the Sun Belt according to Rivals.com
- With the game marking the final contest of the season, a few new faces played significant minutes. Freshman walk-on cornerback Sharrod Neasman started the game, and fared well recording a tackle. Linebacker Freedom Whitfield –who has an interception already this season- was featured in multiple packages.
-Freshman nickleback Cre’von LeBlanc had his best outing of the season, tallying eight tackles with one of them coming for a loss. The Ragin’ Cajuns threw for only 168 yards and LeBlanc was one of the main reasons the number was so low. He had a crucial pass break-up on a third down.
- Punter Sean Kelly only punted one time, but when he did it went far. The freshman specialist boomed a 68-yard punt into the wind that was downed in the end zone for a touchback. The one punt was the lowest total for FAU in a game since a 2008 game against ULM.
- Former linebacker Yourhighness Morgan was honored with the senior class before the game. Morgan couldn’t continue his playing career due to injuries, but has been remained involved with the program. He spent a majority of the afternoon on the sidelines helping with the defense.