Special to The Palm Beach Post
Sunday, September 16, 2007
MIAMI GARDENS — Florida Atlantic defensive back Tavious Polo tied the Owls' single-game record for interceptions with three in a 42-39 win over Minnesota.
His final one sealed the biggest victory in FAU history.
With Minnesota driving toward a potential tying field goal, Polo stepped in front of Ernie Wheelwright at the Owls' 12 and picked off Adam Weber's pass with three seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"I knew he was trying to hit me with the out route, get some quick outs to get in field-goal range," Polo said of the play. "I told my safety (Taheem Acevedo) the play before that if they try to hit the out route again, I'm going to jump on it, so have my back."
Polo's pick was the seventh turnover forced by FAU, tying a team record.
The Gophers turned the ball over a total of five times in their first two games.
Minnesota turned the ball over five times by halftime, the final one coming with a little more than two minutes remaining.
A botched punt snap and subsequent illegal kicking penalty gave the Gophers the ball at the Owls' 2.
On the ensuing play, Cergile Sincere forced a fumble from running back Amir Pinnix that Frantz Joseph recovered in the end zone.
"We didn't put our heads down," said Joseph, who also recorded an interception. "We said, 'We've got to come out, I don't care how many plays it takes, we are going to stop them on the 1.' Everything happened right."
The seven turnovers offset a second-half offensive surge by the Gophers, who roll to 355 yards and 25 points in the final 30 minutes.
"Defense wins championships, but today we have to thank our 'O,' Polo said.
"The offense had our back."
Line dancing: FAU dipped into the offensive line's second team early to help execute the no-huddle offense.
Vinnie Henderson, Kevin Miller and Lavoris Williams all saw significant time in the first half.
"Our plan all game was to go in and tire them out, so we wanted to come out strong and fast and hit them with everything we've got right off the bat," center Nick Paris said.
The Owls also had guards David Matlock and John Rizzo swap sides.
To show his appreciation for the line play, quarterback Rusty Smith brought those who played to the post-game news conference and introduced them to the media.
Special problems: Aside from the muffed punt snap, the Owls also gave up a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and missed a field goal.
After punter Keegan Peterson's first two punts barely averaged more than 20 yards, the Owls opted to try to convert a fourth-and-14 from the Minnesota 44 with 13 seconds remaining in the first half rather than punt.
Smith rolled out, trying to use up time, before eventually sending a long pass out of bounds.
Noteworthy: The start of the game was delayed more than 10 minutes because the yardage chains weren't on the field. Florida Atlantic's no-huddle offense was slowed during its first possession when a member of the chain gang became tangled in the chain. ... Carldayle Brantley made his first start at safety, replacing injured Kris Bartels. ... Jeff Blanchard broke his ankle on the opening kickoff. ... Former Atlantic High standout Jamal Harris made four tackles and broke up a pass for the Gophers.