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FAU Loses Historical Game

Photo courtesy Bob Markey
Photo courtesy Bob Markey

Owls fall to 0-4 after disappointing 30-28 loss to Wyoming

There is one related word that describes FAU's first loss on September 1, 2001 and the Owls most recent defeat on Saturday, October 3, 2009 in their 100th game as a football program - historical.

FAU lost to “Slippery” Rock 40-7 at Pro Player Stadium in its inaugural season when the Owls finished 4-6. Against the Wyoming Cowboys at Lockhart Stadium, FAU led 28-24 late in the fourth quarter but let the contest “Slip” away as the Owls go into their bye week 0-4.

Wyoming's game winning score came when Alvester Alexander scored on a 15-yard run which capped a 12 play, 91 yard drive that took 3:57 to complete. The extra point failed and the final score was 30-28.

The Owls had numerous battles in their loss to the Cowboys.

They had to battle themselves as penalties once again played a huge part of the loss. FAU had 12-93 yards and some occurred at key times on offense when the team was driving.

It's hard to imagine a Florida based team battling the heat, but cramps and dehydration played a part in the outcome.

The play of Wyoming freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels kept the defense running all over the field. Samuels was 29-38 for 223 yards plus was sacked three times. Samuel's also rushed for 69 yards. Even with the sacks, the Owls were extending energy chasing him out of the pocket to make plays.

While nobody will use time of possession as an excuse for the defeat, Wyoming held the ball for 35:46 and FAU had it for 24:14.

Owls quarterback Rusty Smith was 17-28, 235 yards and one touchdown. Running back Alfred Morris was the leading rusher with 81 yards while Darian Williams caught four passes for 64 yards. Punter Mickey Groody had six kicks for an average of 43 yards but had three inside the 20-yard line. Michael Lockley was FAU's leading tackler with 12, seven were unassisted.

With the win, Wyoming football program improved to 2-2 when playing in the State of Florida. On September 1, 1951, the Cowboys defeated Washington & Lee 20-7 in the Gator Bowl. Later that year, Wyoming returned to Florida but lost to the Gators in Gainesville 13-0. The Cowboys most recent trip to the Sunshine State was September 3, 2005 and once again, the Gators emerged with a 32-14 win in Gainesville.

The Cowboys dominance over the Sun Belt Conference continued as they improved to 8-0-0 all-time against four squads. Wyoming is 2-0 against Arkansas State, 1-0 VS FAU, 1-0 against Louisiana-Lafayette and 4-0 against Louisiana-Monroe.

FAU became the third team the Cowboys faced from the State of Florida.

On Dec 24, 1966, Wyoming defeated the Florida State Seminoles 28-20 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. This win was 10-years before Bobby Bowden joined the Seminoles in 1976.

But there was a familiar face on this Wyoming team that sports fans in South Florida should be familiar with and that's former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick.

Whether Kiick was at Lockhart to see his former school play is unknown, however, he played for Wyoming from 1965-67. He was Wyoming's leading rusher each of those three years. He totaled 1,714 yards, 10 touchdowns on 431 carries and 561 yards and five touchdowns on 52 pass receptions.

In the 1966 Sun Bowl, Kiick was named MVP against the Seminoles by rushing 25 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 42-yards and was inducted into the University of Wyoming's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger was on the Dolphins staff when Kiick played a key part in two Super Bowl wins in the 1970's.

On this night, there would be no moral victories from Schnellenberger or the rest of his team for losing to the Cowboys, whose schedule is ranked the eighth toughest in the nation by Phil Steele's College Football Preview. Wyoming's 2009 opponents had 94 wins in 2008 and lost 59 times in 2008 for 61.4% winning percentage.

Instead, the Owls are forced to regroup, look at film and get prepared to face North Texas on the road, October 17th .

Redshirt-junior defensive back Tavious Polo had three punt returns for 13 yards and three kick returns for 39. He said the opening home 27-25 loss to Louisiana-Monroe and now Wyoming are tough to deal with.

“Our mindset now is we have to get a win,” Polo said. “We have to work hard, and we have to come out and take practice more seriously and film studying. Everybody needs to tune in and get our jobs done. In school time, we have no exams coming up and we need to get more focused mentally and ready to go. We have two weeks to prepare for our next opponent so hopefully we can go out there and do everything that we want to do.”

Lockley, a redshirt junior linebacker, added, “We played well at times but as you can see, we let some big plays slide and that's why we lost the game. We were ready for the game, obviously we made a lot of good plays but we didn't make the big plays and stop them when the quarterback scrambled out of the pocket a lot.”

Even though Smith refused to use the time of possession as a reason for the FAU loss, Lockley had to deal with it as a defender in addition to the fact that Wyoming outgained FAU 421-374 in total yards.

“We were on the field longer and we knew that going into the game they were going to get a lot of short throws and keep the ball a lot,” Lockley said. “We just had to keep them out of the end zone which we failed to do enough to win today.”

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Nick Osborne said this was definitely a heartbreaking loss especially with two weeks to think about it.

“This is true but it's football,” Osborne said. “It's two teams, someone is going to lose and that's the lesson. You have to leave everything on the field. I just talked to someone out there and he's like you lost, but did you leave everything out there on the field. I said, yes, and he's like, then what do you have to worry about? Forget this and go to the next game and do the same thing.”

After four games, Schnellenberger summed things up by saying, “The first two we weren't good enough to win, we could have played a lot better and almost did a time or two. But then the game last week and this week, we had every right to believe we could win and it was demonstrated out there that if we had played error free, if we hadn't had the penalties again that killed our drives, we could have had a chance to have had two wins. You don't get paid for could have.

“But I have to look at this team as a developmental team and have since the beginning of the season. I have to work with them as long as they want to work with us. I think they will and for that reason we'll go back to practice tomorrow and find out the schedule for the week. Then get about the business of developing this football team.”

For 100 games, Schnellenberger has developed this program. There is no doubt he would have liked to have delivered a win for all of the Owls supporters who have been there from the start.

But he was pleased that this was an exciting contest for the fans and has no desire to chastise his players for coming up two points short for the second week in a row, losing both games by a total of four points.

“People came here to watch a good football game and they got a good football game,” Schnellenberger said. “We came up short, I'm not going to cuss my team, cut my throat and I'm not going to do anything but go back to the practice field and as usual, we'll get better and we'll be better at the end of the year then we were at the beginning of the year.

"If you go back in our history, we usually play better at the end of the year."

Schnellenberger added that he's proud that the school has reached this plateau in the program's history.

“It's a historical fact that we can't purge from the time we've been here, “ Schnellenberger said. “We have been here for 100 games and that's a very meaningful thing. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd be here for 100 games. I don't think that anybody thought that the football team would be where they are after 100 football games.

“This football program is going to continue to get better, win more games and while we're doing that the board of trustees and the bond houses and all the things that it takes to build a new stadium will be getting their act together. It will be allowing us the opportunity to play in our own on campus stadium with our own students, who can fall out of bed and watch what's going on.”

In the meantime, the students next opportunity to watch their Owls is on Saturday, October 17, at 7 PM as FAU faces the Mean Green of North Texas. The Mean Green enter the game 1-3, 0-1 in the Sun Belt. This past weekend, North Texas had a bye. FAU is also 0-1 in the conference.