Feisty Owls hang tough, give Jayhawks a scare

By Ted Hutton
Staff Writer
Posted September 4 2005

 

LAWRENCE, Kan. Kansas paid Florida Atlantic $400,000 to head west and play the Jayhawks, expecting the young Owls to play the patsy.

Kansas might ask for a refund after the Owls made the Jayhawks and the Memorial Stadium crowd of 40,930 squirm throughout much of the game, holding a 13-12 lead late in the third quarter before falling 30-19.

 

It was just the 48th game in FAU's history and Kansas' 1,113th, as FAU was opening its fifth season and Kansas its 116th.

"It looked like we belonged here," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "For three quarters we were competitive."

FAU quarterback Danny Embick made his debut as starter memorable, with two 66-yard touchdown passes, the second putting FAU in the lead and stunning the fans.

"I thought they would come back," Embick said. "They didn't want to be embarrassed by a team like us. But I was also thinking three-peat," referring to FAU's two previous season openers, when FAU upset Middle Tennessee and Hawaii.

Embick completed 20 of 28 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. "The offense did OK. We couldn't pound the ball and made the defense stay out on the field all night," Embick said.

For FAU, which still has games with Oklahoma State, Minnesota and Louisville on the schedule, the game provided a huge boost of confidence. "We all went out and gave it our all. I thought we were going to win," said freshman running back DiIvory Edgecomb.

FAU has 50 freshman, 18 sophomores, 13 juniors and 14 seniors on its roster, and started five freshmen and six sophomores, with 11 Owls making their first starts.

The Jayhawks' defense was as strong as advertised, and was able to shut down the Owls' rushing attack, limiting FAU to 70 yards. But Embick's two long touchdown passes were nearly enough to pull off the upset. As young as FAU is, it was a pair of seniors that got FAU on the board.

FAU trailed just 9-0 in the first quarter when Embick found Thomas Parker streaking down the middle and hit him in stride for the first of Embick's 66-yard scoring passes.

Kansas' defense had not given up a touchdown in the first quarter all of last season. Embick said before the game that was one of the Owls' goals, and they did, with 19 seconds to spare.

Interceptions by Troy Pindell and Quincey Skinner ended two Jayhawks drives in the half, as each of the two quarterbacks Kansas tried in the first half tossed one.

FAU had started the game by driving to the Kansas 42 before punting. The Owls got the ball back quickly, after Kansas' starting quarterback Adam Barmann threw three straight incompletions.

But a 58-yard punt and blocking in the back penalty pushed FAU back to the 12. After nearly sacking Embick on the first play, then dropping fullback Dominick Walker for a 1-yard loss, the Jayhawks chased Embick into the end zone.

With Kansas linebacker Brandon Perkins about to wrestle him to the ground, Embick tried a desperation pass that came closest to Owls offensive lineman Nick Paris.

Embick was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety and Kansas had a 2-0 lead.

Embick's second strike went to Edgecomb, who was playing his first college game. Embick rolled to his right, then threw back across the field to Edgecomb, who had a clear lane down the sidelines.

After falling behind 30-12, Embick hit freshman receiver Frantz Simeon for a 15-yard TD with no time left.

FAU's schedule will help the Owls forget about Saturday's game in a hurry. The Owls will be practicing today to prepare for Thursday's home opener against Oklahoma State, another Big 12 opponent.