FAU Football: Owls collapse 14-point lead in season-ending 27-17 loss to Middle Tennessee

With the loss, FAU will not be eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2018.


Eston Parker III

TJ Chase (#18) looks down in disappointment as FAU will not be bowl eligible after a season-ending loss to Middle Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2021.

Richard Pereira, Sports Editor

The FAU Owls (5-7, 3-5 C-USA) played their final game of the regular season at home in FAU Stadium at Howard Schnellenberger Field, losing 27-17 to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) (6-6, 4-4 C-USA).

With the loss, FAU will not be eligible to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2018, where the Owls also finished 5-7 that year.

“We didn’t play well enough to win the game. It’s disappointing being up and letting them come back and beat us,” head coach Willie Taggart said. “We saw some of the things we saw all year and those things can’t happen. We got to get it fixed. I got to get it fixed, and I will get it fixed.”

FAU opened up the scoring more than three minutes into the game. Graduate quarterback N’Kosi Perry threw a deep pass down the middle for 48 yards as freshman wide receiver Je’Quan Burton caught the ball to give the Owls the first lead of the game.

Compared to the past three games which the Owls lost, it was a great defensive performance in the first quarter as they made multiple stops to prevent Middle Tennessee from scoring any touchdowns.

The FAU defense kept up the momentum entering the second quarter, highlighted with a sack from freshman outside linebacker Marlon Krakue for a loss of four yards at MTSU’s expense. The sack was Krakue’s second of the season.

The Owls added on to their lead with over five minutes in the period thanks to Perry making a 32-yard pass to the right side of the field to graduate tight end John Mitchell. Mitchell gets to finish his FAU career recording two touchdowns in his final two games. 

“It was a blessing to be able to get a touchdown in my last game,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to play this season, so to be able to just step on the field again, it was just enough. To do the things that I’ve done, that I’ve been able to do through my coaches and my teammates, it’s a blessing.”

While FAU kept MTSU from scoring a touchdown in the first half, the Blue Raiders got a 23-yard field goal from freshman kicker Zeke Rankin to enter halftime down 14-3.

The second half was the opposite to what occurred in the first half, as MTSU scored 24 unanswered points to complete the comeback against FAU.

Six minutes into the second half, the Owls got their field goal as freshman kicker Morgan Suarez converted the 23-yard attempt.

With 7:04 remaining in the third quarter, the Blue Raiders got their first touchdown of the game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike DiLiello rushed for one yard to the middle of the endzone, cutting FAU’s lead to seven.

MTSU once again reduced FAU’s lead to four with a 26-yard field goal within two minutes of the fourth quarter.

After two failed drives from the Owls, the Blue Raiders went up for the first time in the game as DeLiello got a six-yard pass to redshirt freshman defensive tackle Zaylin Wood for the touchdown.

Despite getting the ball within Blue Raider territory, Perry fumbled the ball as MTSU’s redshirt junior defensive end Jordan Ferguson returned the ball to FAU’s endzone, securing bowl eligibility for MTSU with two minutes to go.

“We didn’t do enough tonight to get [bowl eligibility], so we won’t actually get those extra practices but we can get back to work,” Taggart said. “We’ll give [the players] a few days off and get back to work and then they can finish the semester right and academically. Get ready for the offseason.”

Richard Pereira is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.