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FAU Rallies Past Tulane 34-17

The Brian Wright era is off to an admirable start.

FAU kept their hopes of playing in a bowl game alive Saturday night as they rallied to beat Tulane 34-17 at FAU Stadium.

Following the resignation of Carl Pelini earlier in the week, FAU didn’t look like a team that was distracted. In fact, it looked like a team that was inspired and on a mission.

Wright, who was named the interim coach on Wednesday, finished his first career game as a head coach with a gatorade bath, but more importantly with a win.

“I love it,” Wright said when asked about his 1-0 record. “It’s a tough circumstance, it still is, but when you win, it’s a bit easier.”

FAU scored 27 unanswered points in the second half behind four takeaways from the defense.

Junior cornerback D’Joun Smith (pictured #21) tallied three interceptions while senior Christian Milstead added another, and the Owls turned a 17-7 halftime deficit into a program-defining win over bowl-eligible Tulane.

“This win keeps all the same hopes and the same dreams. I think this proves that a bunch of men can get together and go to work, and be resilient, and battle and focus on the moment and prepare to win. And when you do all those things, you have a chance,” Wright said.

Smith’s three interceptions were good enough to tie a single-game school record and give him the national lead with seven on the year, but they also gave FAU the jolt it needed on the sidelines.

With the scout team and walk-on’s lining the bench for the first time all season, FAU was able to generate some momentum and get behind their defense.

Mitch Anderson opened the second half with a 26-yard field goal, before a Smith interception set up a short field for the Owls. Wright called for a gimmick play on first down, and a double-pass resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Daniel McKinney to William Dukes.

Tulane rotated both Nick Montana and Devin Powell at quarterback throughout the game, but it didn’t matter who was under center. The Green Wave managed just 167 yards of offense, which was a season-low for an FAU opponent.

Anderson connected on another field goal to open the fourth quarter, and after that it was quarterback Jaquez Johnson who helped preserve the win.

Jaquez Johnson executed a read-option to near-perfection, and running back Damian Fortner found the end zone on a 24-yard run. Minutes later Johnson burst through the line for a 49-yard touchdown, and gave FAU the assurance that they still could make a bowl game this winter.

“We needed this,” senior center Mustafa Johnson said. “Our goals are still out there, and now we can go out there and get them… For us to win it was huge.”

Mustafa Johnson blocked for a running game that finished with 194 yards on the ground. Jaquez Johnson ran for 142  yards and provided three total touchdowns. Linebacker Andrae Kirk registered 11 tackles, while Jeremy McKnight tallied a season-high 10 tackles. The defense held Tulane to just three first downs, and a mere 56 yards of offense in the second half.

FAU is now 3-6, with a favorable schedule on the horizon. The Owls will travel to winless Southern Miss after a bye week and then host New Mexico State and Florida International.