Hail Mary shocks Owls
Blue Raiders overtake FAU on 32-yard TD pass with no time left
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - It
was payback, five years later.
The first time Florida Atlantic played Middle Tennessee in 2003, the Owls upset the Blue Raiders on a 62-yard pass with no time left for a 20-19 win.
Tuesday night, MTSU beat FAU 14-13 on a 32-yard touchdown pass caught by Malcolm Beyah with no time left.
Fans swarmed onto the Floyd Stadium field after the extra point, while the stunned FAU players trudged to the locker room.
"I don't know what happened. I thought the ball touched the ground," Owls defensive back Ed Alexander said. "It hurts."
It was the conference opener for FAU (1-4, 0-1 Sun Belt), but it will now be tough to defend its conference title after the loss to MTSU (2-3, 1-2).
"It may not seem like it now, but there were many positives in this game," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said.
The game, broadcast on ESPN2, attracted an announced crowd of 25,766, third largest in Floyd Stadium history.
With Florida Atlantic's offense struggling for the third consecutive game, the Owls defense took control and led the way. FAU took a 10-0 lead into the fourth quarter.
But the Blue Raiders scored on a 25-yard pass from Joe Craddock to Patrick Honeycutt with 5:22 left in the game.
The Owls' offense woke up after that, and after a kick out of bounds by MTSU gave FAU the ball at its own 40, the Owls marched down the field and used up 4:07 on a eight-play drive before Warley Leroy kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead.
The Blue Raiders got the ball back with 1:08 left on their own 35 with no timeouts left.
The game still seemed to be in hand when Craddock took the snap from the FAU 32 with 9 seconds left.
Craddock had time to throw the ball to a scrum of players in the right corner of the end zone, and Beyah came down with the ball.
It's a game that could haunt the Owls, who will probably need to win their remaining six Sun Belt games to take the title for the second straight year and return to the New Orleans Bowl.
FAU faces Troy (2-2, 1-0) in a key conference game Tuesday at Lockhart Stadium.
The Owls jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 53-yard run by DiIvory Edgecomb on their first possession and it looked like the offense's doldrums were over after scoring 3 points in the two previous games.
But from then on the offense again floundered, but MTSU was finding the going even tougher against FAU's defense.
The Blue Raiders were held to 81 yards in the first half, with FAU leading 10-0.
But the late-game heroics allowed the Blue Raiders to end the game with 323 yards, and Craddock was 24 of 35 for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
FAU QB Rusty Smith's woes continued. He threw two interceptions Tuesday, and now has seven in five games after throwing nine in 13 games last season.
Smith averaged 283.7 yards per game passing last year, and had 210 Tuesday, the fourth time he was held under 253 yards this season.
The offensive line again had problems containing the rush, and Smith was flushed from the pockets numerous times.