Win is confidence builder for FAU

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, October 08, 2005

In spite of having to fly to Lafayette, La., just hours before Thursday night's game, Florida Atlantic wouldn't mind another trip to Cajun country.

Because of the lack of vacancies at area hotels after the evacuations caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Owls arrived on the day of their game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Sun Belt Conference is leaning toward playing the New Orleans Bowl in Lafayette this season, and after FAU defeated the Ragin' Cajuns 28-10 Thursday, the Owls are in the hunt to win the conference title and its automatic bowl bid.

FAU still has a long way to go to earn the crown, but winning their first conference road game gives the Owls confidence that they can compete in the Sun Belt.

"We hadn't won, we needed to win, and it validates that we can come into the Sun Belt Conference and play well enough to win," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "It's very important to the kids and to all of us close to the program that we can see the results."

FAU (1-5, 1-1 Sun Belt) will host Middle Tennessee (1-3, 0-1) next Saturday.

And with all five of their remaining games against Sun Belt opponents, the Owls have regained confidence after starting the season 0-5, including a Sun Belt loss last month to Louisiana-Monroe.

"We got over a big hump," junior safety David McDowell said. "Now we know what it takes to win. That's why this was a big win."

On both sides of the ball, the Owls played their best game of the season vs. the Ragin' Cajuns.

FAU's offensive line was able to open up lanes for the running backs and protect quarterback Danny Embick, who threw for three touchdowns to tie a school record.

"We knew that as soon as we could get the run game going this season we would be able to move the sticks and get a win," said Embick, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 276 yards and also ran for a touchdown.

On defense, the Owls made adjustments after giving up big chunks of yardage early in the game.

The Ragin' Cajuns ran for 105 yards in the first quarter but only 65 for the rest of the game.

"That was a virtual gift we gave them," Schnellenberger said. "One of our key players didn't handle the responsibility the way he should have. It wasn't a team problem, but an individual problem. We corrected it, and there was nothing faulty with the game plan."