Owls Roll in New Orleans Bowl

NEW ORLEANS, LA – In an appropriate ending to a storybook season where everything has fallen perfectly into place, the FAU Owls made the final chapter a happy one with a 44-27 New Orleans Bowl victory over the Memphis Tigers.

Rusty Smith threw five touchdown passes, DiIvory Edgecomb accumulated 203 total yards, and the Owls became the fastest start-up team ever to win a bowl game, doing so in just their seventh season.

“Going out as a champ is priceless. We had a dream and we are living the dream right now,” said senior linebacker Cergile Sincere.

After falling behind 30-13, the Tigers came roaring back to make the score 30-27 with 9:30 remaining in the third quarter.

After Memphis narrowed the deficit, courtesy of touchdown receptions by Earnest Williams and Carlos Singleton, the Owls stormed back. Smith did his best impersonation of Tom Brady, staying calm in the pocket and executing with deadly efficiency while completing 25 of 32 pass attempts. His lone mistake was an interception on an under thrown ball at the end of the third quarter.

“The individual awards don’t matter,” said Smith after learning he had been voted the game’s MVP after throwing for 336 yards and setting New Orleans Bowl records for passing yards and touchdowns. “If I throw five interceptions and we win, its okay.”

When the Owls regained a commanding lead and then forced a Memphis punt with more than eight minutes left in the game, the 25,146 crowd began to dwindle as the faithful Tigers fans started heading for the exits.

Pinned at their own four-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Smith led the Owls all the way down the field, mixing short and long passes in with powerful runs by Charles Pierre and Willie Rose that kept the winded Tigers defense gasping. Facing fourth-and-three at the Tigers 31-yard line and 10 minutes left in the game, the Owls went for it and Smith found Lester Jean for the first down. Edgecomb ran it in for the score, effectively ending any hope of a Memphis comeback.

“They kept the faith and came together and now they can compete with anyone in the nation,” said coach Howard Schnellenberger.

After Edgecomb positioned them near midfield, the Owls marched to a game-opening score just 2:57 into the game.

“He did a great job returning those kickoffs,” said Smith. “He did a great job all year and he did a great job tonight.”

Memphis came back and immediately answered the score with one of their own. It took just seven plays and 2:43 for senior quarterback Martin Hanklin to lead the Tigers down the field and tie the game.

Edgecomb bettered his first return with his second and raced 63 yards to the Memphis 25-yard line. The Owls couldn’t find the end zone, and Warley Leroy made a 22-yard field goal to regain the lead, 10-7.

The next drive was the Owls most impressive. They went 74 yards on just four plays: two passes to freshman Lester Jean, a short run by Pierre and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Edgecombe.

The Tigers offense surged in the second quarter thanks to a 41-yard catch by Carlos Singleton, but as Memphis neared the end zone, the FAU defense stiffened. Consecutive tackles for loss and a dropped pass held the Tigers to a field goal and made the score 24-13 at 5:55 of the second quarter.

In the end, the Owls fans that made the trip saw history made and perhaps the birth of a dynasty.

“I was surprised to see such a large gathering for such a young team,” Schnellenberger said. “We are on a collision course with a national championship.”

Read more New Orleans Bowl Game coverage.