A Cold Reality

Jonesboro, Ark. – Facing a two touchdown deficit as darkness fell over ASU Stadium and the temperature hovered above freezing, the Owls badly needed a spark.

They never were able to manufacture one, and their four-game winning streak came to a startling halt.

Down 28-14, the Owls got the ball with 10:10 left, and again with 6:50 left in the game. Both times they failed to pick up first downs, and had to punt back to the Red Wolves.

“Oh, boy. What a terrible second half,” says FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger.

The Owls had just three first downs after halftime, while punting five times and fumbling once.

FAU put itself into a two touchdown hole by missing opportunities on offense and leaving receivers open on defense. A Rusty Smith interception and a Jamari Grant fumble both led to ASU touchdowns. Three ASU touchdowns were floated to wide-open receivers waiting in the end zone.

FAU and ASU entered halftime tied as Smith led the Owls on a touchdown drive just before the end of the half. Smith hit Rob Housler for a three-yard touchdown that evened the game at 14. But Smith couldn’t lead the Owls to another second half comeback.

“They controlled the game because they knew we had to throw the ball,” says FAU wide receiver Cortez Gent of the Owls’ second half offensive struggles.

First Quarter: Owls 7, Red Wolves 7On their first drive, the Owls converted two thirds-and-long and swept down the field on a drive that covered 80 yards in 4:03. On the 10th play of the drive, Charles Pierre ran it in from two yards out for his 22nd career rushing touchdown, a new FAU record. Arkansas State came back, going three-of-three on third downs and moving into the Owls’ territory. But kicker Josh Arauco missed a 33-yard field goal wide left. The Owls got the ball back and Rusty Smith threw his 13th interception of the season, as he was flushed out of the pocket to the right and lofted a ball up for grabs. The Red Wolves came back and scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Leonard to Brandon Thompkins.

Second Quarter: Owls 14, Red Wolves 14ASU scored on their first play of the quarter: a 28-yard pass from Leonard to Trevor Gillott. Meanwhile, the Owls struggled on their first drive and were forced to punt. The Red Wolves came back and moved the ball with help from an FAU 15-yard facemask penalty and a third-and-15 conversion. But their drive ended on another missed field goal by Arauco – this one fell short into the wind from 40 yards away. Aided by a pass interference penalty and strong guidance by Smith, the Owls maneuvered 73 yards down the field on seven plays in 1:25. Smith found Rob Housler for a 3-yard touchdown catch with 10 seconds left in the half to tie the score 7-7.

Third Quarter: Red Wolves 21, Owls 14The second half began with a flurry of turnovers. For ASU, a fake punt pass was completed, but not enough for a first down, and later Corey Leonard was intercepted by FAU safety Cardayle Brantley. After the pick Jamari Grant promptly fumbled on a catch up the middle and ASU had the ball back again. The Red Wolves took advantage of the fortuitous turn, converting the opportunity into a go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard run by Reggie Arnold with 6:32 left in the quarter. The Owls moved into ASU territory on their next drive, but couldn’t convert a third-and-three and punted away. The Red Wolves came back and faced a third-and-goal from the two moving into the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter: Red Wolves 28, Owls 14A fake end-around and pass from Leonard to J.T. Jordan gave ASU a two touchdown lead. With 14:54 to go, the Owls season hanged in the balance. FAU couldn’t move the ball on their next two opportunities. The Red Wolves had the ball and a two touchdown lead with 9:06 to go, and punted back to FAU with 6:50 left in the game. Smith couldn’t even lead the Owls to a first down and FAU’s four game winning streak came to an end.

Stats:FAU QB Rusty Smith: 16-of-38, 196 yards, one TD, one INTASU WR Brandon Thompkins: six catches, 98 yards, one TDASU QB Corey Leonard: 19-of-27, three TD, one INTASU RB Reggie Arnold: 22 carries, 150 yards, one TD

Quotable: “For the first time in our tenure at Florida Atlantic, we allowed a great opportunity to get away from us and we weren’t able to accomplish what we worked hard to accomplish. So it’s very disappointing from a personal standpoint, very disappointing from a coach’s standpoint. But it was a great second half played by the Red Wolves.”

“If the game would have gone on longer, they probably would have beaten us worse.”

-FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger on FAU’s loss to Arkansas State

Game BoxScore: ASU 28, FAU 14ASU Stadium, JonesboroAttendance: 10,845Weather: Overcast, 39 degreesRecords: FAU 5-6 (3-3, SBC) ASU 5-5 (3-2)