Warhawks Will Try to Spoil Owls’ Homecoming

As much a tradition as homecoming itself, scheduling a weak opponent for the homecoming game is tradition in college football. The Owls will face off against Louisiana-Monroe (2-5, 2-2 Sun Belt), a middle-of-the-pack team in one of the countries lowest-rated conferences, upon the annual return of the alumni to their alma mater. But the game will be no cakewalk. Louisiana-Monroe has skilled players and picked up conference wins over Arkansas State and Florida International University this season. UL-M has been a thorn in FAU’s side since the Owls (4-3, 3-0) started playing the Warhawks back in 2004. In that year and again in 2005, the Owls fell to UL-M at Lockhart Stadium. Last season the Owls finally picked up their first-ever win against the Warhawks, a 21-19 squeaker in Monroe. All three games between the teams have been decided by seven points or less. Last season UL-M won its final three Sun Belt games after dropping their first four. The Warhawks’ coach, Charlie Weatherbie, is 11-23 in three years at the school. This season the Warhawks feature one of the country’s leading runners in Calvin Dawson who is listed at 5-10 and 207 lbs. but appears to be smaller. The diminutive senior rushed for over 1,200 yards and 11 TD’s last season and he is on pace to have another stellar season this year. At press time, Dawson was the Sun Belt’s leading rusher, averaging 134 yards a game and had scored three TD’s. Monroe quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster leads yet another form of the spread- option offense that is the newest craze in college football. In an offensive format similar to what the Owls saw from North Texas, the Warhawks will try to out-run FAU. The speedy Lancaster runs, throws and plays the option. He saw action in last year’s Owls victory, completing 12 of 18 passes for 125 yards. Lancaster has run for 166 yards this season. This will be Owls’ quarterback Rusty Smith’s first ever start against the Warhawks. Last season Sean Clayton started and completed 12 of 18 passes for 164 yards. Charles Pierre ran for 85 yards that day and Clayton ran for 54 more. This season Smith is the Owls’ starter and team leader and paces the Sun Belt in passing touchdowns with 16, throwing four last week against Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns. The Warhawks’ Greg James was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week for his two-interception performance against Arkansas State, UL-M’s first win of the 2007 season. James collected nine interceptions just five games into sophomore season and four this year. He finished second on the team with seven tackles against ASU; six of which were solo. James will be trying to solve Smith, who has thrown just three interceptions for the Owls this season while completing over 50 percent of his passes. Smith has been named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week twice already this year, for his performances against Minnesota and University of South Florida. On Homecoming, the Owls are 4-2 all-time with wins over Jacksonville, Morris Brown, and Gardner-Webb in 2001-03 and Arkansas State last year. FAU lost to New Mexico State in 2004 and Middle Tennessee in 2005.