FAU defeats UAB, 37-23, to earn first Conference USA win

Wesley Wright

Senior running back Jonathan Wallace led the Owls in rushing, totaling 117 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 37-23 win over UAB. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Senior running back Jonathan Wallace led the Owls in rushing, totaling 117 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 37-23 win over UAB. Photo by Michelle Friswell.

After missing last week’s game with a collarbone injury, Jaquez Johnson returned to action for the Owls.

The sophomore quarterback didn’t disappoint.

In their highest scoring game of the season, FAU (2-4) defeated the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (1-4), 37-23.

The Owls’ first-ever Conference USA victory was due to a high-powered offense that totaled 583 offense yards (the most since 2009), with 410 yards coming solely via Johnson (299 passing, 111 rushing).

And from just about the opening whistle, the game was a back-and-forth affair.

Following a 42-yard field goal by kicker Mitch Anderson on the game’s first drive, FAU fell behind as UAB went up 10-3 entering the second quarter.

Soon after, though, Johnson drove the FAU offense down the field, scoring on a three-yard run. The extra point would be blocked, leaving UAB with a slim 10-9 advantage.

UAB would respond but only with a field goal, unable to score touchdowns on an FAU defense that has played well for long stretches of this season.

With 6:35 to go in the first half and FAU trailing 13-9 after another UAB field goal, Owls senior running back Jonathan Wallace scored on a one-yard run, putting FAU up 16-13.

On their next drive, the Owls padded their lead. Johnson found tight end Nexon Dorvilus for a four-yard touchdown reception, giving the Owls a 10-point halftime advantage –– 23-13 –– their largest of the season thus far.

UAB received the ball at the start of the second half and scored after just three minutes on a 23-yard throw from quarterback Austin Brown to receiver Jamari Staples. UAB cut the deficit to 23-20 with 11:50 remaining in the third quarter

The rest of the third featured little scoring for FAU, but several instances of special teams mistakes.

After UAB’s touchdown, FAU moved down the field quickly, helped by a 29-yard run by Wallace, who led the team with 119 yards on 17 carries. The Owls were stopped in the red zone, prompting a field goal attempt from Anderson.

Anderson’s attempt was blocked and UAB returned the ball all the way to the Owls 34. FAU’s defense held UAB to just a field goal and the game became tied 23-23 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.

On the next offensive series, Wallace — who ran hard all game — gouged the UAB defense for a 53-yard run. His scamper set up freshman back Jay Warren’s score from three yards out, the first score of his collegiate career.

FAU backup kicker Dalton Schomp came in to kick the extra point, but that too was blocked by UAB. The lead stood at 29-23 with under two minutes remaining in third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Anderson’s brutal day was capped off by 35-yard attempt that sailed wide of the uprights.

The game became an exchange of punts until a little under six minutes remaining, when long runs by Wallace and Johnson put the Owls in UAB’s red zone.

From there, FAU placed the dagger into UAB’s hopes as Johnson hooked up with receiver William Dukes from five yards out, giving the Owls an insurmountable 37-23 lead with 1:22 remaining.

Dukes finished with four receptions for 56 yards and the touchdown, his fourth of the season. Johnson finished 23-of-36 for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while adding the aforementioned 111 yards on the ground.

This was the first time the Owls have had two 100-yard rushers in the same game.

FAU committed just one penalty for five yards and no turnovers. They also picked up more first downs than UAB (25 to 16) and held the ball much longer (35:40 to 24:20).

FAU returns home for a game against Marshall on Saturday, Oct. 12. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.