Football: FAU loses 37-34 to South Alabama in double-overtime, drops sixth-consecutive game

Zack Kelberman

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Fifty days. That’s the amount of time since FAU last won a football game.

The losing streak continues for the Owls (1-6 overall, 1-4 in Sun Belt Conference play), as they dropped an inexplicably wild game in double overtime — their sixth consecutive defeat — to The University of South Alabama Jaguars, 37-34.

Jaguars kicker Michel Chapuseaux nailed a 35-yard field goal in the game’s second overtime, giving the South Alabama program, a newcomer to the Sun Belt, its first win versus an FBS opponent.

After jumping out with a pair of first quarter touchdowns, FAU blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead to send the game into overtime. The Owls, in clock-killing mode, only needed a handful of first downs to put the game away. However,  they ended up going three-and-out and punted the ball back to South Alabama, who, took over on their own 15 after a booming 51-yard punt from Sean Kelly.

The Jaguars ended up tying the game on a 16-yard touchdown from Ross Metheny to receiver Gabe Loper with 69 seconds left. On the ensuing kickoff, South Alabama squib kicked to FAU, putting the ball on their own 37. On third and 10, quaterback Graham Wilbert lobbed up a pass to William Dukes, his favorite target, who came down with it for 19 yards, down to the South Alabama 42. On the next play, Wilbert found Dukes again for 16 more yards.

Facing second and 10 at the 26, Wilbert did the one thing he couldn’t do — take a sack. It knocked FAU back to the 31 with 21 seconds remaining. On third and 15, the Owls were attempting to give Mitch Anderson a better field goal attempt, but Wilbert connected with Dukes for 16 yards down to the Jaguars’ 15.

FAU chose not to waste any more time and got their field goal team on the field. What should have been a chip shot turned into another deflection and subsequent miss, as Anderson’s 32-yard kick was blocked (one of three times in the game) with 12 seconds remaining.

In the extra period, FAU won the toss and elected to play defense. It turned out to be a smart move as South Alabama settled for a 37-yard field goal by Chapuseaux. The Owls got the ball, needing a touchdown to win, but likewise settled for a field goal. This time, the 37-yard kick from Anderson actually went through.

Prior to that, Anderson, the now permanent fill-in for kicker Vinny Zaccario, who left the team, had a chance to put the Owls up, but his 45-yard attempt was blocked, surrendering possession to South Alabama.

The Jaguars rally began in the fourth quarter after Wilbert concluded an 11-play, 76-yard  touchdown drive by connecting on a 6-yard pass to Norvilus, who got a foot down in the back of the endzone to give the Owls a two-touchdown cushion, 31-17.

Metheny completed consecutive passes for 14 and 15 yards as FAU’s secondary became susceptible, committing a pass-interference penalty and allowing a big 23-yard completion. After another penalty — a personal foul on Jeremy McKnight. Yet another flag gave South Alabama a fresh set of downs and they were finally able to punch it in on a 1-yard run by Demetre Baker, making it a one-possession game at 31-24 with 5:43 to play.

On their opening drive of the game, Wilbert (27 completions for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns) took to the air right away, completing three straight passes before letting running back Jonathan Wallace handle the rest.

On third and goal from the 1-yard line in the Wildcat formation, Wallace punched it in to the end zone, giving the Owls an early 7-0 lead on an eight-play, 64-yard drive. It was FAU’s first touchdown in the first quarter of any game this season, and one of Wallace’s 21 carries for 101 yards.

On their next possession, Wilbert rushed for 15 yards to jumpstart the drive. After a South Alabama facemask penalty, which pushed the ball to midfield, Wilbert completed back-to-back passes to Byron Hankerson (16 yards) and receiver Nexon Dorvilus (21 yards), moving deep into South Alabama territory.

The ground game took it from there, as running back Martese Jackson scored his first college touchdown on a nifty 14-yard run, capping off an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

In the third quarter, the Owls were setting up for a field goal, and things got wacky.

Mitch Anderson’s kick was blocked by the Jaguars, who scooped up the ball, ran with it and fumbled, giving a gift right back to FAU. The referees took a few minutes to deliberate on the series of events they just witnessed, confirming the fumble while also tacking on a 5-yard penalty against South Alabama for sideline interference.

With the ball at midfield, Graham dropped back and went deep to receiver William Dukes for a 50-yard touchdown as the Owls’ lead grew to 24-14.

FAU eschewed the career high showings of Wilbert (303 passing yards), Wallace (101 rushing yards) and Dukes (119 yards receiving yards).

Despite the impressive offensive outputs by FAU’s top skill-position players — along with a commanding start to the game — the end result is what matters most and it just wasn’t good enough.

“It was a great day offensively,” running backs coach Kerry Dixon said to ESPN 760. “You just have to finish better.”