FAU wins shootout over North Texas

FAU did not look sharp at the start of their game against North Texas, but they proceeded to get their offense rolling, and they ultimately edged out their Sun Belt opponent 44-40 for their first victory of the season.

The Owls defense had a tough game from the get-go on Saturday, Oct. 17, in Denton, Texas, as running back Lance Dunbar ran for 128 yards for the Mean Green in the first quarter. Mean Green wide receiver Darius Carey also posed a threat, scoring his first-ever collegiate touchdown from the wildcat formation for the game’s first points.

“We really wanted to keep them under 20 points. That did not happen, and we have a lot of things to work on,” said defensive back Marcus Bartels of the defense’s struggles.

Led by quarterback Riley Dodge, North Texas’ offense kept giving FAU fits. The Mean Green were ahead 19-7 before the Owls offense went on a tear.

The next Owls possession resulted in tailback Alfred Morris’ third touchdown this season. Then, after a North Texas punt, the Owls drove 80 yards and capped off their drive with a 21-yard touchdown from quarterback Rusty Smith, who powered into the end zone. The score gave the Owls a 21-19 lead.

The Owls special teams then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and the turnover gave the Owls good field position. Smith turned the turnover into points, as he hooked up with wide receiver Chris Bonner for a touchdown, but the point after would be blocked.

FAU also added a field goal before halftime, putting the Owls up 30-19.

“I don’t know what turned the light on, but after the light came on, [the offense] executed,” said Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger.

Receiving the ball to start the second half, the Owls once again drove down the field, and Smith threw a touchdown pass to receiver Lester Jean.

North Texas had a response of their own, adding two more rushing touchdowns, and a touchdown pass by backup quarterback Nathan Tune to Darius Carey put Mean Green back on top, 40-37.

“Their offense is extremely potent. They score a lot of points,” said Smith, who threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

After stopping North Texas on fourth down with 8:06 to play, the Owls drove 71 yards for the game-winner on Morris’ 1-yard touchdown run.

“I was pumped up,” said Morris, who ended the day with a career-high 147 yards. “I told the offensive linemen, ‘Give me a yard surge and I won’t disappoint you.’ They did their job, and I did my job. We made each other look good.”

The score gave the Owls their first win of the season, improving their season record to 1-4 (1-1 in conference play).

The next game for the Owls will be another Sun Belt Conference tilt on Oct. 24 at Louisiana-Lafayette.