For the first time in five years, FAU could be bowl bound.
The Owls beat FIU 21-6 Friday afternoon in the 12th chapter of the Shula Bowl to earn the school’s sixth win of the season and give the program it’s first four-game win streak since 2008.
With postseason implications on the line, FAU managed to do just enough to ease past FIU.
It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t dictating, but it was a fitting end to the program’s most memorable late season run in school history. Interim head coach Brian Wright – who took over in October – snapped the Owl’s two-game losing streak in the rivalry series, and picked up his fourth consecutive victory with the win.
“I’m not sure anyone or any other coaching staff could have done what we did in this situation. We took care of what we had to do these last four weeks and I couldn’t be more proud of that,” Brian Wright said.
Five weeks ago FAU’s chances of becoming bowl eligible weren’t favorable after the fallout of then head coach Carl Pelini, but Saturday those prospects were met.
Sophomore quarterback Jaquez Johnson accounted for 316 yards of offense and three touchdowns while the Owls limited FIU to just a pair of field goals. FAU opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 11-yard touchdown pass form Jaquez Johnson to Nexon Dorvilus, before a field goal from Austin Taylor cut into the Owls’ advantage.
FIU entered Saturday’s contest with one of the worst offenses in the country – and that was clear from the opening whistle. FAU managed a season-high eight sacks and didn’t allow the Panthers to convert a third down until their first series of the fourth quarter.
Senior Martin Wright finished with a single-game record 4.5 sacks, and attested that his production came from his desire to play another game.
“We’re bowl eligible now, I never thought to this day we would ever be bowl eligible, we stuck our heads out and really stayed together.” Martin Wright - who was named Shula Bowl MVP for FAU said. “I tip my hat to the coaches, everybody came together and made it so we could win.”
In the last four games FAU has outscored opponents 151-40 under Brian Wright and limited those opponents to an average of just 209 yards of offense. On Friday, FIU had a mere 123 yards and was 1-of-15 on third down conversions.
The Owls third touchdown of the contest came in the third quarter on a 23-yard pass from Jaquez Johnson to Alex Deleon – marking the quarterback’s sixth touchdown pass in the last two games. FIU converted another field goal attempt, but the Owls ground game brought the Shula Bowl Trophy back to Boca Raton for the first time in two years.
“We set out or goals and completed our goals and there is not better feeling than that… we made it happen,” Dorvilus said.
Dorvilus (pictured left) totaled just one catch in the contest for the score, but gave the offense a needed spark. Senior running back Damian Fortner finished with a 100-yards rushing, and Jaquez Johnson added another 75.
FAU became the 74th bowl eligible team in the country on Friday with the win, joining a handful of other teams vying for one of the 70 bowl game slots. Brian Wright mentioned in press conference that his team will continue to practice and workout with the belief that they will play in a bowl game in the coming months.
“We’re one of the top 70 teams in the country right now, with how the team is playing right now and where they have gotten to… hopefully a committee will agree with that,” Brian Wright said.
The de-facto “Selection Sunday” for bowl games is December 8th.