FAU looking to turn around season in Sun Belt play

Associated Press

With a win and a day off, the season looks a little brighter this week for coach Howard Schnellenberger and his Florida Atlantic Owls.

Schnellenberger gave his team the day off on Monday, following the team's first win against Sun Belt Conference rival Louisiana-Lafayette last week - FAU's second game in six days. With only league opponents left, the Owls (1-5, 1-1) hope to turn their season around in Sun Belt play.

"I met with them on Sunday and I know they are certainly pleased they came back and won the game," Schnellenberger said. "They feel they're in a much better position to play winning football now."

FAU took its lumps in the early season against experienced and more established teams, but the Sun Belt should offer a few more winnable games, Schnellenberger said.

"It's fortunate that we had those game before the regular league games," he said. "Even though we didn't win them, they gave us a chance to go up against some superior competition. We got a great deal of experience, and in conference play, that should help us."

With homecoming opponent Middle Tennessee (1-3, 0-1) up next, the Owls will need a better running attack if there's to be any turnaround.

Before last week's win, the Owls were averaging less than 100 yards rushing per game and just 2.4 yards per carry. The team still hasn't posted a 100-yard rusher, but Charles Pierre had a season-high 94 yards last week and FAU has averaged 167.5 yards on the ground in two Sun Belt games.

For the sake of helping a steady passing game, those numbers will have to improve, Schnellenberger said.

"Football is a building block sport," Schnellenberger said. "When you get a certain thing going, it gives you a better chance to accomplish other things.

"It's just a matter of putting everything together."


CENTRAL FLORIDA: From poster boy for losing to Conference USA favorite, the last few weeks have been quite a ride for Central Florida.

Riding a three-game winning streak into this week's game at Southern Mississippi, UCF (3-2, 2-0) has put its 17-game losing streak far into the rearview mirror.

Even better, two of those wins were against league rivals. That's left the Golden Knights as the league's only unbeaten team and put them on top of Conference USA's east division in just their first year in the conference.

"Players are getting better each week," coach George O'Leary said. "As a coach, that is what you like to see."

However, the Golden Knights will have their stiffest test Saturday with a road game against preseason league favorite Southern Miss (2-2, 1-1). The Golden Eagles were upset last week by league newcomer Tulsa, but O'Leary said that changes little.

"Southern Miss, I think, is the best team in conference that we will have faced thus far," O'Leary said. "I think they are typical of what I have seen in past years with Southern Miss. They run real well. They are very aggressive on defensive."

The fast start has fans dreaming of a bowl game - C-USA has six bowl bids - but O'Leary isn't letting his team look past this weekend.

"I think players need to go down there and understand they are going to be in for a tough game," he said. "Every week is a tough game and I think we need to go down there and execute and do what we need to do."