Early miscues derail FAU
Owls' long-shot hopes of making BCS bowl game go up in smoke
AUSTIN, Texas - During
the week leading up to Saturday night's game against Texas,
Florida Atlantic coach
Howard Schnellenberger was urging his defense to snag
interceptions and force fumbles during every practice.
Schnellenberger knew the Owls would need to create opportunities if they were going to upset the No. 11 Longhorns.
But it was FAU that turned the ball over at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium, losing it twice when they were inside the Texas 20-yard line early in the first quarter.
And instead of creating turnovers, FAU's defense was allowing the Longhorns to breeze through them, and the result was a 52-10 drubbing before a record crowd of 98,053 in the newly expanded stadium, the largest crowd to attend a game in the state of Texas.
It was a disappointing start to the season for FAU, which saw its main goal of reaching a BCS bowl game die in the first game.
FAU is 0-11 against teams from BCS conferences on the road, and 1-12 overall.
The game started well for the Owls, as they took the opening kickoff and drove down to the Texas 16.
But on second-and-10, center David Matlock, filling in for the injured Nick Paris, snapped the ball over quarterback Rusty Smith's head.
The ball rolled all the way to the Texas 39, where it was recovered by the Longhorns.
Eight plays later it was 7-0 Texas.
After an FAU punt, Texas again had no trouble marching down the field.
It took a 14-0 lead after an eight play, 80-yard drive.
The Owls responded with another drive deep into Texas territory, spurred by a 62-yard pass from Smith to Jamari Grant, and had a first-and-goal at the 8.
After an incompletion, Smith's pass on second down was tipped at the line and intercepted in the end zone by Texas' Ryan Palmer.
FAU made it deep into Texas territory at the start of the second quarter, reaching the 9 before settling for a 31-yard Warley Leroy field goal.
FAU made it inside the Texas 10 twice and to the 16 once, and came away with three points in a game where it needed to take advantage of every opportunity to have a chance of pulling off an upset.
Texas scored on its next two possessions to take a 28-3 lead with 3:25 left in the first half, and that was the game.
Smith was pulled midway through the third quarter, as Schnellenberger started to put in his second-teamers with the game out of hand.
The Owls had hoped they had closed the gap after winning the Sun Belt title and New Orleans Bowl last season, but Texas showed they were far superior in the home opener.
This fit the pattern for FAU when facing teams from the major conferences, as it made early mistakes that put them in a hole that only got deeper as the game went on.
FAU hosts Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday at Lockhart Stadium before facing two more road games against Big 10 foes Michigan State and Minnesota