Despite a 10-3 edge against Florida International all-time heading into Saturday's Shula Bowl showdown, the Owls (1-4, 0-1) came up on the losing end this time, falling to their southern rival 33-31 in Miami.
Accordingly, the coveted trophy which accompanies the yearly charged event will remain there at least through the next year when the teams meet again in Boca Raton.
Running back Greg Howell took the second play of the contest to the house for 68 yards and a very early 7-0 Owl lead before the Panthers answered with a 12 play drive which was capped by a four yard scamper from quarterback Alex McGough.
McGough then ran it in again later in the second to give the home team a 14-7 edge.
"He pulled it when they had us in a situation where the guys were stuck in a position too far inside", said FAU Head Coach Charlie Partridge of McGough's ability to scramble.
Facing a critical third and short late in the half, the Owls would look to the wildcat, sending quarterback Jason Driskel in motion for a direct snap to Howell, who converted for the first and then some. That set up a score from quarterback Jason Driskel to wide receiver Marcus Clark from nine yards out.
Later, a fifty yard field goal from kick Greg Joseph gave Florida Atlantic 17-14 advantage at half-time. The boot was a career high for the redshirt junior.
The Owls notched another quick score to begin the second half, when McGough was picked off by linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair on the session's first play for a thirty yard trip into the endzone.
However FIU (1-4, 1-0) returned fire again, clawing their way into the driver's seat this time, as a third rushing touchdown was immediately followed by an Owl fumble by Howell. The Panthers would then take advantage for their first passing score but defensive end Trey Hendrickson blocked the extra point attempt keeping it a three-point contest at 27-24.
FAU shifted gears in the running game on their next drive, going to freshman Devon Singletary to put themselves back on top 31-27 with a one yard lunge. Singletary had 50 of the Owls' 68 yards on the drive.
But back-to-back field goals of 37 and 32 yards respectively allowed the Panthers to regain control for good at 33-31 with 12:14 to play in the fourth quarter.
"I'm proud of our guys for continuing to battle, we knew this would be a four quarter battle", Partridge said.
FAU could not get a stop on the Panther's final drive, prompting them to drain what time remained on the clock after the Owls' final drive ended unsuccessfully.
Florida International outgained the visiting Owls 469-328 in yardage overall. They also enjoyed a 36:02 to 23:58 edge in time of possession.
Jason Driskel was 9-for-20 for 92 yards, while the running game produced 236 yards. Howell netted 101 yards on the ground for an 8.4 yards per carry average, with Singletary (photo) adding 86 and Driskel 49.
At 1-4 for the season, and having dropped two contests that were pegged as wins, FAU's hopes of a post season have taken a serious hit. Remaining contests, which include tilts against conference contenders Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, will need to end with bounces the Owls' way.
Up next, the team will host Charlotte for a 3:30 PM start time on Saturday, October 8th. The 49ers (1-4, 0-1) lost to Old Dominion (3-2, 2-0) 52-17 earlier on Saturday.
"We're coming back to work tomorrow and we're getting ready to win our next game against Charlotte", said Partridge. "We've got to do a better job of playing, and a better job of coaching next week."