Fifteen seniors took to the field at FAU Stadium for the final time as members of the Florida Atlantic University football team. Middle Tennessee, however, spoiled the event with a 24-17 victory on a rainy Saturday in Boca Raton.
Senior Jaquez Johnson threw for 214 yards and two scores on the day while rushing for 20 yards. Jenson Stoshak made three catches for 94 yards and Marcus Clark and Nate Terry each recorded touchdown receptions for the Owls. FAU set a new school record for interception return yards in a single season with 347 yards through 10 games, eclipsing the 2004 mark of 298.
“Obviously disappointed our seniors didn’t get a chance to win their last home game here on Schnellenberger Field,” FAU Head Football Coach Charlie Partridge said. “I want to thank again the fans that stuck through the weather, we appreciate everybody who was here for that.”
On the first drive by the Blue Raiders (5-5, 4-2 C-USA), FAU freshman Ocie Rose forced and recovered a fumble to give the Owls the ball on the MT 36. Just three plays later, Johnson found Nate Terry in the corner of the end zone to give FAU a 7-0 lead just five minutes in.
MT responded with a seven-play, 90-yard drive, featuring a 69-yard touchdown pass from Brent Stockstill to Richie James to tie the game at seven apiece at the 7:43 mark of the first quarter.
Midway through the second, the Blue Raiders marched 52 yards on nine plays before the FAU defense held on a first-and-goal opportunity to force MT to kick a field goal.
A 59-yard punt by Dalton Schomp pinned the Blue Raiders at their own three, where the defense again came up with a stand and forced a punt to give the Owls excellent field position. Johnson then completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Clark for his first career touchdown reception to put FAU on top once more at 14-10.
Schomp was forced to punt out of his own end zone late in the first half as the Blue Raiders took possession at their own 47. Eight plays later, Stockstill scrambled 13 yard into the end zone to give MT a 17-14 lead going into halftime.
Senior Sharrod Neasman came up with a big interception on MT’s first possession of the second half at the FAU sevn-yard line and returned it 45 yards to put FAU into Blue Raider territory.
Johnson hit Stoshak for a gain of 20, setting up a 45-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to knot the game at 17 all with 8:02 left in the third.
On the next drive, Stockstill found James again for a 62-yard touchdown connection to end the scoring at 24-17.
Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson connected with Stoshak for a 70-yard touchdown strike, but the score was called back to the MT 10-yard line due to a taunting penalty. The Owls would get a first-and-goal from the five after a Blue Raider penalty, but lost yardage on three of the next four plays to turn it over on downs.
The Owl defense again came up with a stop to give FAU a chance late. Stoshak returned a punt 38 yards to get the Owls near midfield with 4:12 to play. Johnson found Kamrin Solomon and Terry on back-to-back plays for 25 yards before rushing into the red zone. The Owls had two shots to the end zone late, but narrowly missed each time before MT ran out the clock.
“These seniors they mean a lot to me and a lot to us.” Partridge said. “They have done everything they can through a lot of challenges during their career and I’m proud to have a chance to coach these guys here on this field. There have not been any goodbyes made with these guys, we got two very important games for us as we finish this season. I am anxious to get back to work with these guys tomorrow and finish off with the best possible send-off we can for these guys as we continue to build the program.”
The Owls travel to Gainesville, Fla. to take on No. 11 Florida on Saturday, Nov. 21 at noon.
- Brandon Goodwin