Special Teams Dreadful in Defeat

Trailing 10-3 in the second quarter and receiving a Troy kickoff, confusion and mayhem occurred on what should have been a routine special teams play.

Rob Housler, ready to block, didn’t realize the ball was rapidly dropping on a short kick. It bonked off the back of his helmet, up into the air and plopped softly on the grass. Stunned, the Owls couldn’t recover. The Trojans jumped on the ball and took over possession.

The play epitomized the Owls’ season to that point: bad luck, sloppy plays, costly errors and general carelessness.

“We’re not making the plays we were making last year,” linebacker Frantz Joseph says.

It all adds up to a hole so big that even a burrowing owl couldn’t climb out.

“We’re definitely hurting right now. It’s a tough loss, the second one in the conference. Our backs are definitely against the wall,” says Joseph. “We just have to find a way to dig deeper.”

This season is about pride now, restoring this program to respectability after being embarrassed in back-to-back Tuesday night games on ESPN2.

If a last second Hail Mary loss to Middle Tennessee wasn’t bad enough, the Owls took things one step further against Troy by playing some of the most incompetent special teams imaginable.

“Pretty much everything we did last year, we did the opposite of today,” says defensive back Corey Small.

Four major mistakes in the kicking and return games made certain that this one would never be close.

First, a late hit by senior captain and linebacker Ted Czepiga was good for a 15-yard penalty. Then came the ball off Housler’s helmet.

The Owls couldn’t even give the ball away the way they wanted to. Long snapper Morgan Barnett launched one over punter Keegan Peterson’s head. The Trojans recovered the ball at the Owls 4-yard line and scored two plays later to make it 27-10.

The penalty, the fumble and the bad snap all led directly to Trojan points.

Then with a comeback still a far-fetched hope as time dripped away in the third quarter, Warley Leroy missed a 27-yard field goal. To add insult to injury, a half-naked Owls fan, his torso painted blue and red, went out to nearly the same spot during a promotion between the third and fourth quarters to attempt a field goal for a year’s supply of Pepsi. Of course, he made the kick.

The stakes really couldn’t have been much higher. And the Owls couldn’t have been less ready. They seemed to regress even further from last season’s success, and in doing so wasted the vocal and physical efforts of a robust student section that made up a sizable portion of the 17,191 at Lockhart Stadium.

What’s left to play for with little hope of a Sun Belt championship defense?

“For the seniors, this is our last go around so we play for pride. We play with as much heart as we [have]. It would take a miracle for us to win the conference,” senior center Nick Paris says. “But the thing is, this is going to be some of our last times putting on pads. I know the seniors are going to go out and give everything we’ve got. This is it for some of us.”

On Oct. 18 FAU will attempt to win a game against Western Kentucky that would have been a cakewalk for the 2007 Owls. For this year’s team, the only sure thing is that there aren’t any guarantees.