The Florida Atlantic University football team dropped its season opener 47-44 in overtime at Tulsa in a game that saw 182 plays and 1,181 yards over the course of more than four hours.
The Owls (0-1) accounted for 300 rushing yards and racked up more than 37 minutes of possession, but 13 penalties for 130 yards proved to be the decisive line on Saturday.
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson commanded the game for 263 yards and two scores through the air while picking up 97 yards on the ground. Greg “Buddy” Howell (photo) tallied 138 rushing yards and two scores as Jenson Stoshak snagged seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
FAU punter Dalton Schomp awed fans as he tied a program record with a 73-yard punt in the second half.
“There were times when we were moving the ball well,” FAU Head Coach Charlie Partridge said. “If we can build off of those things and eliminate some of the penalties, then we’re going to be in good shape.”
Florida Atlantic struck first and it all began with an interception by senior captain Cre’von LeBlanc, giving the Owls the ball at the Tulsa 49. Johnson hit graduate transfer Cameron Tyler with a 27-yard pass on second and nine to move the ball to the Golden Hurricane
16. Johnson then called Greg Howell’s number twice, first for a five yard carry and then the 11-yard touchdown score.
Tulsa responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to even the contest with 2:45 remaining in the first and would go up 14-7 with 00:30 remaining in the 1st quarter.
FAU started to build momentum until a holding penalty interrupted the drive, but not before the Owls attempted a fake punt that Jenson Stoshak nearly pulled off. Tulsa took over on the FAU 43 and scored on the next pass to take a 21-7 lead with just under 13 to play in the half.
The Owls marched from their 20 yard line on the following kick and put together an 80 yard drive that began with Johnson bruising defenders on a scramble to get away from pressure in the backfield. Johnson and Howell put together several runs to move the chains, but a 45-yard strike from Johnson to Stoshak got the Owls within striking distance. Two plays later, the duo connected in the back corner of the end zone for a 17-yard TD to pull within seven at 21-14 Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane responded by driving the length of the field, but FAU’s defense forced a field goal attempt which was wide right with 4:49 remaining in the half. The Owls drove the field, but once again penalties stymied the Owls. Greg Joseph hit a career-long 45-yard field goal to pull FAU within four at 21-17 just prior to the half.
The second half opened with Owl adjustments and catching the Golden Hurricanes on their heels. LeBlanc returned the kick that opened the second half 24 yards, giving the Owls’ offense the ball on the FAU 30. Johnson opened the drive with a 20-yard pass to Henry Bussey. Johnson then gained 12 on the ground and finished it off with a Jay Warren 38-yard tackle-breaking run to the end zone to put the Owls up 24-21.
The Golden Hurricane fumbled in their opening drive with junior defensive lineman Denzel Whitfield making the recovery, the second fumble recovered by an FAU defensive lineman. The Owls put together a six-play drive that ended with a five-yard run by Greg Howell and a good PAT by Greg Joseph to expand the FAU lead to 31-21, its largest of the day.
As expected, Tulsa responded on the next possession with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a five-yard run. With 8:27 remaining in the third, the Owls were up 31-28.
Three big plays began the next drive for the Owls and it all began with sophomore Henry Bussey returning the kick 39 yards to the FAU 41. Johnson followed with a 19-yard run and then hit Stoshak with a 25-yard pass. After three tries inside the four, the Owls elected to go for it on fourth down. Johnson dropped back to pass, let the play develop and hit Kalib Woods in the middle of the end zone. FAU’s seven-play scoring drive put the Owls up 38-28 with 5:51 to play in the third.
The fourth quarter began with the Owls driving after Herb Miller recorded his first collegiate interception. Tulsa forced FAU to punt and then the Golden Hurricane scored on a one-yard run to pull within three at 38-25.
After a missed field goal by the Owls, Tulsa drove 62 yards on ten plays, culminating in a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 38 apiece.
Howell took a brunt of the workload on the next drive to get FAU into the red zone once more. A penalty backed the Owls up, forcing Joseph to set a new career-long with a 47-yard field goal to put FAU on top.
Tulsa once more marched downfield, despite Trevon Coley’s third sack of the game, to kick the game-tying field goal from 39-yards out with three seconds left, sending the contest into overtime at 41-41.
Howell carried four times for 14 yards, getting the Owls to the one yard line as FAU opened the overtime period on offense. FAU’s 13th penalty of the game, however, backed the Owls up, forcing a 27-yard field goal to take a 44-41 lead.
The Golden Hurricane outlasted the FAU defense on its OT possession, rushing five times, including for the game-winning score by Zack Langer from the three-yard line.
FAU will next return home for their 2015 home opener Friday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m against Miami. The game will be carried on FoxSports1.
- Katrina McCormack