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 Romp in Shula Bowl VI

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Miami – “Do you guys want the ball?” the referee asked the FAU captains after the pre-game coin toss at midfield over an open microphone. “Of course we want the ball,” Owls quarterback Rusty Smith responded for everyone inside the Orange Bowl to hear. Smith’s actions spoke just as loudly as his words.

After his initial statement, Smith led the Owls on an offensive onslaught that resulted in a 55-23 win over Florida International in coach Howard Schnellenberger’s last game at the Orange Bowl.

It was the highest single-game point total in FAU history.

“We came into the game with confidence and played together as a team,” Smith said. “It was a good feeling tonight.”

It was the FAU’s fifth win over the Golden Panthers in six games. Most importantly for the Owls (6-5, 5-1 Sun Belt), it set up a winner-take-all Sun Belt title game against Troy on Dec. 1, with a trip to the New Orleans Bowl and a Sun Belt title on the line.

“This game was a stepping stone to get ready for the Troy game next week,” said FAU linebacker Cergile Sincere.

Smith won his second consecutive Shula Bowl MVP award and threw four touchdowns to go along with 330 passing yards. It was his fourth career 300-yard game.

“This is a very satisfying day,” Schnellenberger said.

On their first opportunity to score, the Golden Panthers (0-11, 0-6 Sun Belt) showed why they are the worst team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. After racking up first downs on their first four plays of the drive to get all the way to the FAU 5-yard line, the FIU offense sputtered. Linebackers Frantz Joseph and Cergile Sincere combined to stop the Panthers on third-and-goal and instead of kicking the short field goal, rookie coach Mario Cristobal elected to try a fake field goal pass that fell incomplete and kept FIU off the board.

“We have guys working their butts off to try and get better,” Cristobal said. “Good job by them. Not so great by us.”

The loss extended FIU’s losing streak to 23 games, the worst in the country. They allowed 571 yards of total offense. Adding to the FIU ineptitude, starting QB Wayne Younger left the game with a collarbone injury and didn’t return in the second half.

Smith threw touchdown passes to Conshario Johnson (16 yards), Chris Bonner (14 yards) and Cortez Gent (69 and 44 yards). Gent’s first came on the first play of an FAU drive that began with 1:31 left on the clock in the second quarter. After catching the ball just a few yards from the line of scrimmage, he sprinted untouched to the goal line. Gent’s second TD catch was a deep bomb which Smith put right in his stride and made the score 42-9 with 8:55 left in the game. Gent finished with 145 receiving yards.

Smith became the Owls single season touchdown leader with 25 and passing yards leader with 3,061. He passed original Owl, Jared Allen, for both records.

Jason Harmon added the latest spectacular installment of the “Harmon Hurdle” near midfield in the first half. Overall, the tight end caught five balls for 70 yards.

In addition to an aerial assault, the victors were able to run the ball effectively. Charles Pierre ran for 86 yards on 11 carries.

In the second quarter, tight end Rob Housler ran a reverse for the second consecutive week. Last time he ran for a first down at Florida Field against the Gators. This week’s run resulted in a 68-yard touchdown romp through the FIU defense. It gave the Owls a 21-3 lead and was the first TD of Housler’s career and the longest TD run in FAU history.

“I was really excited to get the opportunity to go out and have my number called,” Housler said.

Schnellenberger’s last game in the Orange Bowl fittingly turned out to be a win, even though it was played in front of just 6,122 fans.

“There are a lot of good memories in this place,” said former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, the man for which the game is named because of his longtime affiliation with Schnellenberger and FIU’s founding coach, Don Strock. “I want to take a souvenir out of here, a chair or some sod or something.”

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