The Owls won their fourth straight game Friday afternoon, taking down rival FIU 21-6. FAU will now wait to see what happens with it's bowl game aspirations, but for now it’s clear that the program is playing it’s best football since 2008. Interim head coach Brian Wright said in his press conference that he can’t recall winning games like this in his time at FAU - and he’s right. The Owls got sound performances on both sides of the ball and played a unique team-style of football.
Here’s our notes from the press box:
Martin Wright & Co. save their best for last…
Martin Wright entered Friday’s contest with just 5.5 career sacks, but 16 minutes into the contest he had nearly doubled that number. The senior defensive end set a school single-game record with 4.5 sacks against FIU and was a staple in the Panthers’ backfield from the opening whistle.
He was voted FAU’s Shula Bowl MVP and hampered opposing quarterback Jake Medlock on almost every snap.
“I thought he had a tremendous performance,” Brian Wright said. “To be a senior and to play like he did in the final game was great to be a part of.”
Martin Wright (pictured) wasn’t the only linemen to find his way into the record books, as senior Cory Henry became the school’s all-time sack leader after his 2.5 sack outing. Henry passed Ramon Rickards on the school’s list and now sits in first with 16 career sack.
FAU’s eight sacks as a team gave the defense 32 on the year which stands as the most in a season for the 13-year program.
- Andrew Ivins
Dorvilus endorses Brian Wright
It can be argued that what Brian Wright has done at FAU as the interim head coach, is invaluable. He’s bonded the team together, created a positive environment, and more importantly won games with his back against the wall. Senior tight end Nexon Dorvilus summed it up best after the team became bowl eligible for the first time in five years.
“One problem I feel like we have had is this school has had a lot of turnover, whether that be the head coach or the position coaches switching spots… there has never really be any consistency,” Dorvilus explained. “I feel like coach Wright would be the perfect guy for the job. He’s building something successful and he’s 4-0, what else do you want?”
FAU hasn’t won four straight games since 2008, let along played a brand of football like they did this past month in years. The players certainty are making a case for Wright.
- Andrew Ivins
Sophomore Brandin Bryant has been key in the defense throughout the season, but Friday the defensive tackle was clutching his knee after rolling into an offensive lineman in the first quarter.
Bryant was aided off the field by team trainers and checked out on the sidelines.
The redshirt sophomore walked to the locker room with no assistance later in the half, and returned to the sidelines in the third quarter on crutches. Brian Wright mentioned in the post-game that he hadn’t talked with the doctors regarding the injury.
Bryant entered the game leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss this season. His status remains unknown.
- Jake Sansom
Fortner’s Big Finish
Running back Damien Fortner did not waste an opportunity, in what might be his last game in an Owl uniform.
The redshirt senior ran for 100 yards on 19 carries in what could be the final game of his senior season.
Fortner has steadily found more production since Brian Wright has taken over as interim head coach, recording 291 yards and four touchdowns through four games.
“Damien has made the most of his opportunities,” FAU center Mustafa Johnson said. “John [Wallace] goes down and he steps up, and he made plays, I am very proud of him for stepping up and making the most of his opportunities.”
Fortner finished his last Shula Bowl with a career high 100 yards rushing.
- Jake Sansom
- Sean Kelly’s 64-yard punt in the first quarter was a career-long. The sophomore had a swift wind behind him, but nearly out-drove his coverage with the boot. Kelly finished the day with a 43.3 yard average and downed a punt inside the 20-yard line.
- Freshman Greg Hankerson got his number called on offense. Early in the first quarter the back-up quarterback lined up at wide receiver and keyed a double-pass screen that resulted in a 34-yard gain. Hankerson hit Jaquez Johnson on the run and a few plays later FAU was in the end zone.
-FAU ran the ball for just 57 yards in the first half, but was able to grind the ball in the second half. Damian Fortner eclipsed the century mark for the first time in his career, and the Owls ran for 122 yards in the second half. FIU had the 101st ranked rush defense heading into the contest, but did their best to stymie FAU’s backfield.
- Defensively FAU is limiting opponents to a 28 percent conversion rate on third downs the last four games. FIU was just 1-of-15 on Friday.