Owls Set To Run with Bulls

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger has more experience in football than just about anybody on the planet, but when he came to FAU the challenge of starting a team from scratch was something he had never done before. For guidance, Schnellenberger looked north, to Tampa, the University of South Florida and their head coach Jim Leavitt.

“We face a major challenge obviously as we are playing against the sixth ranked team in the United States,” Schnellenberger said. I’m proud of what they are doing up there. I feel like they are an older brother.”

Four years the Owls senior, the Bulls (4-0) have set a path that the Owls are attempting to follow. Schnellenberger has made several trips to Tampa to visit Leavitt and discuss the business of starting up a successful football team.

“They taught me all the things they thought were important and all the things that they would do differently if they had the chance,” Schnellenberger said.

Members of the Big East conference, USF makes the trip to Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale as Florida’s best team, ranked even higher than last season’s champion, the Florida Gators.

“We are not catching South Florida at a very good time from a won-loss standpoint and from a quality standpoint. We are catching them at a great time to energize our support, our followers and our stadium builders and our financiers to inspire them,” Schnellenberger said. “USF is a great example of what Florida Atlantic could be should we do the right things.”

South Florida will bring a talented and extremely fast defense to southeastern Florida. Cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams epitomize the Bulls speed. Both will be key cogs in slowing down Owls quarterback Rusty Smith, who is averaging 258 yards passing per game and has thrown for nine TD’s and just two interceptions, both on bobbled balls. Jenkins and Williams both are known for their man coverage which theoretically forces opponents to throw the ball into the middle of the field. There, safety Nate Allen and linebacker Ben Moffitt have combined for six interceptions. Moffitt had two in last week’s upset of fifth ranked West Virginia.

The Bulls are led offensively by quarterback Matt Grothe, the 2006 Big East Rookie of the Year. Grothe’s average numbers this season have not held his team back. He has completed a respectable 59 percent of his passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns with just two interceptions. Grothe can also run the ball, averaging 31 rushing yards per game.

The Owls and Bulls have met once before, in 2002, before USF had joined the Big East. USF won that game 51-10 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Owls play the USF Bulls this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Lockheart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.