FAU blows eight-point fourth-quarter lead in 18-14 loss to Rice

Wesley Wright

FAU freshman quarterback Greg Hankerson threw two touchdowns in his first career start. But he also committed two key turnovers as FAU lost to Rice 18-14 on Saturday. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
FAU freshman quarterback Greg Hankerson threw two touchdowns in his first career start, but also committed two key turnovers as FAU lost to Rice 18-14 on Saturday. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

A collarbone injury held FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson out of Saturday’s game against Rice University, forcing freshman Greg Hankerson to make his first career start.

The end result wasn’t a positive one for FAU.

Hankerson committed two key turnovers in the fourth quarter, as FAU (1-4) blew an eight-point lead and lost 18-14 to Conference USA foe Rice (2-2).

Holding a 14-6 advantage with six minutes remaining in the game, Hankerson coughed up the ball after a sack by Rice defensive end Cody Bauer, who scooped it up and scored from seven-yards out. Rice’s two point conversion would fail, however, as the score was cut to 14-12.

In the ensuing series, Hankerson trotted back onto the field and inexplicably tossed an interception, which set Rice up in FAU territory.

Following a personal foul penalty by FAU safety Damian Parms, Rice took the lead –– and ultimately won the game –– on a 20-yard touchdown run by Darik Dilliard with 3:35 to go.

Hankerson would have two more drives to redeem himself, but threw an interception on one drive and turned the ball over on downs on the other.

FAU Head Coach Carl Pelini said to put the loss on his –– not Hankerson’s –– shoulders.

“I should have been smarter than to put that much on a freshman QB… I’ve got to be smarter,” Pelini told the Sun Sentinel.

Hankerson finished the game 22-of-46 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Although he melted down late in the contest, he looked solid for the better part of three quarters.

FAU wide receiver William Dukes sprints to the endzone after hauling in a 58-yard catch. It was his third TD reception of the season. Photo courtesy of Josh Fryd.
FAU wide receiver William Dukes sprints to the endzone after hauling in a 58-yard catch. It was his third TD reception of the season. Photo courtesy of Josh Fryd.

FAU’s offense came out of the gates firing, scoring on a 58-yard touchdown from Hankerson to Dukes midway through the first quarter. On the play, which gave FAU a 7-3 lead, Dukes caught the ball, fumbled, picked it up and ran into the endzone.

It was Hankerson’s first NCAA TD pass, and Dukes’ third scoring reception of the season. He recorded three catches for 72 yards and the touchdown.

The only scoring in the second quarter came on a 47-yard field goal by Rice kicker Chris Boswell, which reduced the deficit to 7-6. There was no scoring in the entire third quarter, as the game between a battle of the punters.

 With 8:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, FAU running back Jonathan Wallace broke loose for a 54-yard run, setting up the offense at Rice’s 26 yard-line. After a 12-yard completion to receiver Daniel McKinney, Hankerson found tight end Nexon Dorvilus for a 14-yard TD, giving FAU an eight-point (and short-lived) advantage with 6:07 left in the game. It was Dorvilus’ first TD of the season.

FAU totaled more yards (366) than Rice (270), who were playing without their leading rusher. However, eight penalties, four total turnovers and Hankerson’s mistakes ultimately doomed FAU, who remain winless in conference play (0-3).

FAU’s offensive miscues overshadowed a defense that gave ultimately their best performance of the young season.

Cornerback D’Joun Smith hauled in his third interception in three games, five FAU defenders notched a sack and the unit held Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue to just 66 yards through the air.

FAU plays at the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday, Oct. 5. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.