Pierre leads Owls in shutout

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, October 29, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE Last week, Florida Atlantic had one of its best defensive efforts and one of its worst on offense.

This week, the Owls put both phases of the game together and rolled to a 29-0 victory Saturday against Sun Belt Conference leader Arkansas State in front of 8,129 at Lockhart Stadium

"They've let the cat out of the bag and let everyone know they can play winning football against the best in the conference," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "We will expect them to play like this from now on."

After a 6-0 shutout loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct.'18, FAU spent more than a week trying to convince itself that its offense could be better.

"We wanted to come out and prove something, so we had motivation to come out and put up as many points as we could," said FAU running back Charles Pierre, who rushed for 122 yards on 24 carries - the third-highest rushing total in the Owls' history.

It didn't take long for the Owls to take the pressure off the defense. They controlled the ball for more than 10 minutes on a 21-play, 79-yard drive capped by a 21-yard field goal by Warley Leroy.

The drive, which featured Pierre running for 47 yards on nine carries, was just what the Owls were looking for, and the points were all FAU would have needed as the defense shut down the Indians' offense.

Arkansas State (5-3, 3-1 Sun Belt) was held to 6 rushing yards and 104 yards of total offense as the Owls' defense - for the second straight game - didn't allow a touchdown. The Owls have allowed just 13 points in three games.

"I think we have that belief in each other like 11 hungry dogs after a meal," FAU defensive end Josh Pinnick said. "It's like sharks and blood after a while."

The Owls (3-5, 2-1) had five interceptions, including a school-record three interceptions by sophomore defensive back Corey Small, one of which turned into a 22-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

The Owls also forced a fumble, giving them six turnovers. FAU gave up one turnover to Arkansas State on an interception by Sean Clayton, who was 9-of-19 for 91 yards with a touchdown.

"Some of them were gifts, but many of them were a result of a great play by somebody," Schnellenberger said of the ASU turnovers.

After the Indians were held to their second three-and-out series, FAU took a bigger lead as junior running back B.J. Manley scored his first career touchdown on a 35-yard run. With that, the Owls took a 10-0 lead.

FAU led 13-0 at halftime and took control of the game with 3:37 remaining when senior fullback Aaron Sanchez caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Clayton.

Last year, the Owls and Indians were tied at 0 at the end of regulation in a game the Indians won 3-0 in overtime. This time, the Indians were shut out for the first time since 2003.

"I think our kids played hard, they just didn't play well," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said.

With the victory, FAU keeps pace in the conference race heading into Saturday's game at Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders (4-0) are the only unbeaten team in the conference.

"It's a big game next week and I feel like it's another chance to drop that defensive card and show them," Pinnick said.