FAU trailed for only 19 seconds tonight. But they were the final 19 seconds. FAU (3-8, 2-5) led 34-21 with 5:50 left in the game but lost 35-34 as Middle Tennessee State (6-5, 4-2) scored the game’s final 14 points. With 19 seconds left, Austin Grammer found Marcus Henry on 4th and goal for the game winning 12 yard-touchdown pass.
“That’s on me,” said head coach Charlie Partridge to ESPN West Palm on the FAU Postgame Radio Show. “The game’s on me.”
After Jaquez Johnson (photo) found Alex DeLeon for a five-yard touchdown, FAU needed one stop to seal the game. On the ensuing drive MTSU scored via a Reggie Whatley nine yard touchdown run. "That’s a good running back," said Partridge of Whatley who finished the game with a career high 190 rushing yards on 19 carries for three touchdowns. "Their running back played really well and that was the difference."
FAU then failed to run out the clock and the rest is history.
Another close game. Another close loss.
Unlike their recent contests, FAU started the game fast. Lucky Whitehead scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage, taking a jet sweep 80 yds down the sideline for a 7-0 lead. After D’Joun Smith snuffed out a fake field goal attempt by MTSU, Greg Joseph nailed a 25 yarder to push the lead to ten. The scoring drive was spurred by Jaquez Johnson finding Henry Bussey on a beautiful wheel route for a 69 yard gain.
MTSU stopped FAU’s 10-0 spurt on the ensuing drive. Austin Grammer found Christian Collis wide open for a 4 yd touchdown pass. The score capped an eight play, 75 yard drive for the Blue Raiders.
The Owls were not done scoring however. After three tries inside the five yard line, Johnson bruised his way from one yard out to give FAU a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
MTSU then trimmed the lead 17-14 before the half after a 30-yard run by Whatley. The Blue Raiders' scoring drive was setup with good field position after Partridge tried a failed punt pass from deep inside FAU's territory.
At the half FAU had out gained MTSU 289-197 and felt in control of the game yet only led by three. FAU took advantage of back-to-back turnovers to begin the second half. Sharrod Neasman would record his first interception of his career. Johnson would find Kalib Woods a few plays later on a nice fade route in the corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. Joseph would connect on a 19-yard field goal to give the Owls a 27-14 lead.
Johnson finished the game going 22-35 with 304 yards, two touchdowns, and two desperation interceptions to end the first half and the game.
“I thought he did a nice job,” said Partridge. “He knew had to have a good game to give us a chance and he did. His two picks were Hail Mary's, so I’m proud of the fact that he threw for over 300 yards."
After tonight’s loss, FAU will finish the season 0-7 on the road and will close out the year against Old Dominion on Senior Day next Saturday.
“Just got to continue to develop the program,” said Partridge on another close loss. “I’m proud of the way the kids came and fought tonight. I’m proud of their effort. It’s a good football team in Middle Tennessee. We proved that we’re getting better every week.”