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.


Owls Come Back Again

Fort Lauderdale – On a picture-perfect day at Lockhart Stadium, the Owls overcame their own flaws to beat Arkansas State 34-31 in another thrilling Sun Belt contest.

The offense was often shaky and inconsistent but did enough to win the game. The defense gave up big plays but made stops when it needed to. The Owls again played down to inferior competition, fell behind, and voraciously fought back to win the game and preserve the lead at the end.

“We pulled one out,” said Owls quarterback Rusty Smith. “I don’t know where it came from but we pulled it out from somewhere.”

Smith orchestrated a 16-play, 74-yard drive that put the Owls (5-4, 4-1 Sun Belt) in front for good after falling behind by 11 early in the fourth quarter. At the 6-yard line, after a short loss and an incompletion, Smith hit jack-of-all-trades DiIvory Edgecombe for a TD pass and an FAU lead. Smith then found fullback Willie Rose for a two-point conversion that gave the Owls a 3-point lead with 2:49 left. Then, the FAU defense held the Indians out of field goal range and ASU turned the ball over on downs in the waning seconds.

Before leading the comeback, Smith’s turnovers nearly cost FAU the game. Twice Smith gift-wrapped turnovers that placed ASU (4-6, 2-4 Sun Belt) on the 5-yard line. In the second quarter he fumbled as he was about to be sacked, giving ASU the ball. The Owls’ defense held and forced the Indians to kick a short field goal, making the score 14-10. At the start of the fourth quarter, an interception by, preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, Tyrell Johnson led to a Reggie Arnold TD run, giving ASU a 31-20 lead with 13:06 left in the game.

The Owls came right back as the burly Rose picked the offense up and willed it down the field when he caught a swing pass and disposed of several would-be tacklers on a 56-yard romp to the end zone. The Owls then went for two and failed, leaving the score 31-26 with 9:57 remaining.

“It didn’t feel like 56 yards,” Rose said, “It felt a lot longer than that.”

“That run showed his power, his dexterity and his speed, all in one play,” said FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger.

Smith was also intercepted on his second pass attempt of the game, giving Arkansas State the ball at the FAU 20-yard line. It took the Indians just three plays to score and take a 7-0 lead on an option toss from QB Corey Leonard to Arnold. In total, the Indians scored 17 points as a direct result of Smith’s miscues.

“The first thing they teach you is you have to have amnesia when you are a quarterback. You have to be able to make mistakes and come back and forget about them. It can’t get you down in the dumps,” Smith said.

“I was particularly proud of Rusty,” said Schnellenberger. “He didn’t have a great game by his standards, but he continues to believe in himself.”

Smith finished the game 22 of 42 for 268 yards and three TDs to go along with the two INTs and the lost fumble.

The Indians rejuvenated during halftime and came out strong to start the second half, scoring on consecutive drives as the FAU defense sagged. Arnold carried ASU down the field on several powerful runs. Leonard escaped from potential tacklers and the Indians moved the ball convincingly. Arnold fittingly capped the first drive and evened the score at 17-17 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. Leonard leapt over tacklers and the goal line to finish the second drive and give ASU the 24-17 advantage with 3:37 to go in the third.

On the ensuing drive Warley Leroy was dead-on from 46 yards, his second field goal of the game, to bring the Owls within four.

The Owls were often blessed with great field position courtesy of Edgecombe. The sophomore, back from missing a game due to a severe ankle sprain, returned six kicks for 139 yards, caught five passes for 49 yards and a TD, and ran eight times for 17 yards.

Meanwhile, the mistake-prone Owls were forced to come back to win another Sun Belt game. Comebacks at North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette resulted in wins. A comeback two weeks ago against Louisiana-Monroe fell just short. This week the magic was back in FAU’s favor.

“For some reason it brings out a better player in a lot of guys when we are in a hard situation like that,” Rose said after his two-TD performance, complete with a two-point conversion catch and 86 yards of total offense. “We don’t want to give everybody heart attacks all the time but we came through in the end and that’s all that matters.”

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