After having a 28-10 lead, the Owls would give up 15 unanswered points in the last 2:50 of the game.
With two UTEP touchdowns in a 48-second span, FAU was tasked with holding a three-point lead - and they did, winning 28-25.
After UTEP kicker Gavin Baechle kicked a 24-yard field goal with 6:41 to go in the first, FAU took its first lead of the night with a 27-yard touchdown rush by Johnny Ford to make it a 7-3 ballgame just under four and a half minutes later.
With 1:42 left in the second quarter, UTEP would take its first lead of the night with a 23-yard connection from Gavin Hardison to Trent Tompson to make it a 10-7 game.
That lead only lasted 1:40, as with two seconds to go in the half, N'Kosi Perry had his first big strike of the night to give the Owls the 14-10 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Jordan Helm notched an interception with 6:01 to go, setting up the Owls at UTEP's 13 yard line. FAU tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden [photo] would pick up a fumble in the endzone to put the team up 21-10.
UTEP wouldn't get close to scoring again until they attempted a 42-yard field goal with 1:19 to go in the fourth quarter, which Baechle missed.
FAU would extend its lead to 28-10 with a one-yard touchdown rush from James Charles with 10:57 to go in the game.
The Miners wouldn't go down quietly, with a five-yard touchdown run by Ronald Awatt to make it 28-16. UTEP would go for two, which Awatt would pick up on a two-yard rush to make it 28-18 with 2:50 to go.
UTEP would attempt an onside kick, which they would recover on FAU's 46 yard line. They'd respond with a 49-yard touchdown throw to Tyrin Smith on 4th and 13 to make it a 28-23 ballgame. FAU would recover the ensuing onside kick attempt this time with 2:01 on the clock.
The victory keeps the Owls (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) in first place in the conference’s East Division. They'll fight for sole possession of first place next week, as they take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) on Nov. 6, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. The game will be streamed on Facebook - and is likely one of the last FAU games to be placed there with the school's move to The American coming soon.
Here are our takeaways from the win:
- Sloppy Start Again For The Offense: Despite coming out of the first quarter with a 7-3 lead, how they got there doesn't bode well for next week's clash with 5-3 Marshall. In the first quarter, Perry only threw 2-3 for -4 yards. Up until his touchdown pass to Wester to put the Owls up at the half, he only threw 6-13 for 24 yards. Going up against the 11th best pass defense in the league, which has only allowed 170 yards of passing per game, Perry and the Owls have to step up and get the passing game going earlier on in a pivotal C-USA East matchup next week.
- Cowing Gone Dark: UTEP wideout Jacob Cowing came into this game ranked sixth in the nation in receiving yards with 775 yards. He was targeted 14 times in today's game, only making six catches for 37 yards. FAU was just the third team to hold him to under 100 yards, with Southern Miss. holding him to 24 yards on two receptions and Bethune Cookman holding him to 23 yards on two receptions.
- Black Hole On Third Down: The Owls went 2-for-15 on third down, leaving so much on the table. They only had a total of 279 yards of offense throughout the game, and a lot of it had to do with poor execution on third down. UTEP ended up having the ball for nearly 14 more minutes, which is a byproduct of a slow offense.
- Discipline Is Key: FAU took eight penalties for 79 yards, a lot of which put UTEP in very good positions offensively. They'll need to do better against a 5-3 Marshall team to take sole possession of first in the C-USA East division.
- Smoke Rising: Romain “Smoke” Mungin finally hauled in his first career interception in FAU’s victory. The pick puts to bed all the horrors of the multiple dropped interceptions over the last season and a half. The Tampa native played lights out against UTEP’s Cowing, who was held to just 40 yards on the night.
- Third Time is Not the Charm: The FAU offense was woeful on third down. Going 2-15 is not acceptable with an offense this talented. While the Owls went 3-4 on fourth down, we will need to see less reliance on Matt Hayball’s ability to flip the field because field position won’t matter against Marshall’s Grant Wells and WKU’s Bailey Zappe.
- Our Ball: Despite the offensive struggles, the Owls did not turn the ball over. This is the first time since the Shula Bowl where FAU had zero giveaways, and is a definite positive from the game.