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Johnson's Efforts Fall Short in OT Loss to MTSU

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Jaquez Johnson made play after play, but he couldn't make the one he needed the most.

FAU fell to Middle Tennessee State 42-35 in overtime Saturday afternoon, after Johnson threw an interception to end the game.

The sophomore quarterback provided heroics for the Owls accounting for five total touchdowns, but it was two interceptions that made the difference.

With the Owls trailing in the final seconds of regulation, Johnson found Lucky Whitehead in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game and send FAU into overtime.

Middle Tennessee State scored in the opening possession of the extra period when Kyle Griswould beat D’Joun Smith on a deep route – which put the game back in the hands of Johnson.

Johnson took a snap on fourth down and rolled to his right, but a throw back across the middle was intercepted by Kevin Byard to seal the deal and hand FAU their third loss of the season.

“It’s hurts,  Johnson said. “ The biggest mistake of the game came from me. No matter how good the game was… it was hard, because I knew I let my team down.”

Johnson threw for a career-high 321 yards and three touchdowns while adding another two scores on the ground. He played the entire afternoon coming from behind, as the Owls never managed to take a lead.

MTSU opened the game with a 10-yard touchdown run from Jordan Parker, before Johnson answered in the second quarter with his first career touchdown pass to William Dukes. Reggie Whitley found the end zone on 15-yard run, as MTSU predicated their offense around attacking the Owl’s defensive front.  

Johnson handled the Owl’s zone-read offense to perfection in the third quarter scoring on touchdown runs of seven and three yards, but the defense couldn’t stop the Blue Raider’s single-back system that featured a shifty Whatley and efficient quarterback in Logan Kilgore.

MTSU constructed an 11 play drive at the start of the fourth quarter which ended with a Whatley 19-yard score – and put the weight of the team on Johnson’s shoulders.

Johnson (pictured) drove the Owls inside the MTSU 10-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the contest and on fourth down he hit Daniel McKinney for a touchdown to tie things at 28-28.

The defense was able to force a punt, and Johnson had the opportunity to lead a game-winning drive, but a errant throw to the sidelined was intercepted by Anfornee Stewart and MTSU’s Whatley raced 64-yards for a touchdown one play later.

“We have to stop self destructing as a football team. We got to mature and grow up, the mistakes have to go away,” coach Carl Pelini said after the game.

Johnson was able to tie things with his pass to Whitehead in the closing moments, but according to Pelini the game should have never reached overtime.

“You can’t commit turnovers in college football today and expect to win games. It shouldn’t have came down to overtime,” Pelini said.

Johnson was effective throughout the course of the game and his 51 pass attempts and 30 completions were the most by an FAU quarterback since a Rusty Smith outing in 2007. He rushed for 59 yards and was able to connect with eight different receivers.

“He played really for the most part expect for a few mistakes and we felt like we could come out and run the ball today. We need to play more optimistic defense. It seemed like we were always fighting from behind,” Pelini said.

The Owl’s defense gave up 296 rushing yards, and allowed Whatley to total a season-high 154 yards and three touchdowns. The loss comes as FAU's sixth straight to Middle Tennessee and moves them to 3-4 all-time in overtime games.