Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU and FIU set to kick off tradition

At many of the well-known colleges throughout the nation, tradition is held in high regard, especially when it comes to football. Old rivalries, like the game between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, and new rivalries, like that between Florida State and University of Miami, which has come down to a missed field goal in four meetings, spark tradition and encourage school spirit. FAU, a relatively new university, being under 50 years old, lacks both.

On Nov. 23, days before they sit down and give thanks, many alumni, students, and fans should add the new rivalry – and the tradition it will spawn – to their Thanksgiving list.

Florida International has young and solid football program. Florida Atlantic’s is a little older. Both schools have the legendary coaches in Howard Schnellenberger and Don Struck jumping at the opportunity.

All the hype and all the interests in the two teams must end since both schools have officially started play.

“I can’t wait. It’ll be our time to shine and stomp a nearby Florida team,” said senior Chris Catton, who claims to have gone to every game and every scrimmage the Owls have had. “I’m sure after that game, each school will hate one another for good.”

Rivalries not only inspire the student body, players also look forward to that game on the schedule each year.

For example, following the Gators’ defeat of the Georgia Bulldogs, University of Florida quarterback Rex Grossman was quick to point out that “It was a lot of fun. A lot of our guys stepped up and wanted to win this.”

They wanted to win, which is something FAU has wanted to do since day one of summer practice. But it took nine games before they beat Morris Brown, and Coach Schnellenberger is relieved that the winless streak is all over.

“We were very happy with the win. We finally played a team we could beat and did it extremely well. Now, we can relax and play our game. I’m confident we’ll be able to do that in the remaining weeks.”

After losing three quality running backs, two tight ends, and five offensive linemen, it’s hard not to see the cause of the team’s difficult year.

Fortunately, FAU has played very well in recent weeks despite the 61-14 effort against Connecticut a few weeks back.

There’s no better time for the Owls to be playing at their best, heading into the inaugural game of a rivalry that many believe will be the start of something great for Florida Atlantic.

FIU got off to a fast start, going 3-1 in their first 4 games, but since then, the Golden Panthers have hit a few snags. Starting quarterback Jamie Burke, who has already thrown for 1,637 yards and 14 touchdowns, injured his non-throwing shoulder three weeks ago and hasn’t played consistently since. Starting tailback Rashod Smith pulled his hamstring and did not play in the Panthers come from behind win over Albany last week.

Every player battling an injury is a reason why Head Coach Don Struck is worried heading into the final weeks of the year.

“Today at practice it was a little slow. We wore full gear and still have some guys who are nicked up. So overall, it wasn’t that bad. It’s just we have to continue getting better, and I don’t think we got better today.”

Meanwhile, FAU continues to make progress, regardless of their poor record.

“Our goals are the same as they were since first day of practice,” Schnellenberger said. “We want to keep improving, but it’s difficult to have that when we play a very difficult schedule. But we’ll play as good a schedule as we can, that’s the only way.”

In the past three games, the Owls have improved dramatically, averaging nearly 55 (236.3) more yards per game than the prior meeting with Troy State (178.1). Conversely, the Panthers have fallen from an average 241.6 yards per game to 212.4 in the last three weeks.

Coach Schnellenberger and his staff have been intently watching FIU.

“We check their scores every Sunday morning. They’re struggling a bit, as we did last year. We feel confident we’ll be prepared for them.”

Coaches and staff are quick to comment on quarterback Jared Allen’s improvement in recent weeks, as well as his leadership capabilities.

Tailback Daveon Barron rushed for a school record 233 yards versus Morris Brown and has been more than filling the shoes of Anthony Jackson, who will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. “Our offensive line has improved a lot, and Barron has been patient to find the holes they open up for him. We’ve been extremely happy with his success,” Coach Schnellenberger said of the sophomore tailback.

With the first win out of the way, the Owls seem to have more spirit and excitement on the practice field, which is a good sign that this season’s frustrations have been put aside and the concentration is back.

“They [FAU players] know what we’re trying to do. We are maturing week to week and we continue to get better,” Coach Schnellenberger said.

On Nov. 23, Florida International will play a team that has been through the tough times and is playing at its best. It is quite possibly the worst time for the Panthers, but this year the battle lines will be drawn.

UP Sports Prediction:

Florida Atlantic 27, Florida International 21

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