FAU's Smith, Polo gain national honors

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 20, 2007

BOCA RATON Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith was named the USA Today National Player of the Week and cornerback Tavious Polo was the Walter Camp Foundation's National Defensive Player of the week.

Polo and Smith also won the defensive and offensive player of the week awards from the Sun Belt Conference for leading the Owls to a 42-39 upset against the Big Ten's Minnesota on Saturday.


Coach Howard Schnellenberger was surprised by the national honors.

"It surprised me that either one of them got it," Schnellenberger said.

"It's very unusual for that to happen to a team at our level of maturity."

Not-so-special teams: Despite the win against Minnesota, Schnellenberger had some harsh words for the Owls' special teams.

"They've been awful," Schnellenberger said. "I've done a terrible job of coaching them. We're going to coach them harder and stronger."

FAU has given up a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 67-yard punt return this season.

Punter Keegan Peterson, who has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list, is averaging 41.1 yards per punt, but struggled against Minnesota.

Peterson had punts of 26 and 17 before having the ball snapped over his head on his third attempt.

When Peterson kicked the ball through the back of FAU's end zone, he was flagged for illegal touching and Minnesota was given the ball on the 1-yard line.

Although the Owls recovered a Minnesota fumble on the next play, FAU knows its special teams play needs to improve.

"We continue to search for the key and do that by trying different things," Schnellenberger said. "Changing personnel is always a place to start."

The lone bright spot in the Owls' kicking game is Warley Leroy, who has made 4-of-6 field-goal attemptsd, including a career-long 45-yarder against Oklahoma State.

"We practice kicking before practice, after practice and sometimes they make us do it in the middle of practice to keep us on our toes," Leroy said.