FAU's coach 'not happy,' but losses are lessons

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, September 19, 2005

BOCA RATON Whether Florida Atlantic's tough schedule of non-conference games is helping the team improve will be put to the test this week.

After games against Kansas, Oklahoma State and Minnesota, the Owls will face an opponent that is figuratively and literally in their league.

Exactly what the Owls have gained in their three consecutive losses to established programs will be on display Thursday when FAU (0-3) faces Louisiana-Monroe in the Owls' first Sun Belt Conference game in program history.

"These pre-conference games have been helpful in our development," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "I know doggone well that they've experienced things that are helpful to them. I've been told by more than one player that they never thought they would be playing teams like this while they were here."

When Schnellenberger explains the Owls' scheduling philosophy of playing tough teams in an attempt to make FAU better, he speaks in terms of the long haul.

But after a 46-7 mauling by Minnesota on Saturday, a victory against the Indians (0-3) would give Schnellenberger a measuring stick for the progress of the team.

"Winning is very important, and that is always the case" Schnellenberger said. "But beating somebody inferior to you is nice it's not going through the school of hard knocks. The team goes out each week to win, but when they don't, they don't look at it as a total loss. They look at it as if we are not ready to beat these teams now, but we are getting closer by going through these tough times."

FAU players were disappointed with the loss to Minnesota, and they are eager to see how the first three games have prepared them for conference games.

"Going against physical, higher-level teams, we feel we are where we are supposed to be," sophomore running back DiIvory Edgecomb said. "We are a young team and it's a big step going from I-AA to I-A."

The Owls may have improved each week this season, but it didn't matter against the Gophers.

Minnesota scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, put points on the board the first eight times it had the ball and didn't have to punt until less than five minutes remained in the game.

The Gophers had 579 yards of total offense, the most given up by an FAU team.

"I'm not happy with the way we played and I think we should have measured up better," Schnellenberger said. "We've crammed a lot in a three-week period and we'll cram even more in a five-week period. Our kids learned a lot (Saturday) and they learned a lot against Oklahoma State and a lot against Kansas."