Smith rallies Owls past Cajuns
17-yard TD pass ties it, Pierre's run in overtime wins it
LAFAYETTE, La. - When Louisiana-Lafayette scored
to take a 32-25 lead with 1:03 left in Saturday's game, it looked
like Florida Atlantic was about to be upset by the Ragin' Cajuns in
a Sun Belt game.
"When they scored that last touchdown, I'm pretty sure everyone in the stadium thought the game was over," said FAU linebacker Frantz Joseph.
But FAU players weren't about to let their dream of winning the conference title die on Cajun Field, and the Owls scored with 6.6 seconds left to send the game into overtime, where they went on to win the game 39-32 in the first overtime period.
"I felt very confident that last drive. Everyone left it on the field," said quarterback Rusty Smith, who completed 4 of 5 passes to take FAU 65 yards in 50 seconds, with the final pass a 17-yard strike on an audible to Cortez Gent.
"We have a lot of believers on this team. We never doubted we could win," said FAU defensive back Taheem Acevedo.
FAU went on offense first in overtime, and Smith found Gent again for a an 11-yard pass to give the Owls a first-and-goal at the ULL 9.
Charles Pierre scored two plays later, and it was FAU's defense's turn to step up.
"We certainly had the mojo at that time," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said.
"We had to huddle up and tell ourselves we dreamt of being champions and worked hard at being champions and we had to take it. It was on us," Joseph said about the mindset of the defense.
FAU improves to 4-3 and 3-0 in the Sun Belt, while the Cajuns are now 1-7, 1-3.
"This game had more emotion in it than any game I have been in in a long time. If there was ever a very even game it was this one," Schnellenberger said.
Smith finished 26 of 45 for 308 yards and four touchdown passes but was wild early and had only 76 yards passing in the first half.
"They were too hyped up," Schnellenberger said. "The coaches were wondering what was going on out there."
The Cajuns were able to stay in the game, and nearly win it, thanks to FAU's special teams problems. The Cajuns blocked a 49-yard field-goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown in the third period to take a 18-17 lead. Later, with FAU leading 32-25, punter Keegan Peterson bobbled the snap and had to run and was tackled at the FAU 35.
Three plays later ULL quarterback Michael Desormeaux ran 31 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that set up the wild final minute and overtime period.
The Owls ended with 434 yards to 438 for the Cajuns.
DEPLETED LINEFAU's defensive line lost another starter when Robert St. Claire limped off midway through the fourth quarter.
That meant little-usedDino Cox, Ryan Sollazzo and Michael Hancock all were pressed into action.
Hancock got most of the work.
WILKES RETURNSJunior wide receiver Chad Wilkes saw his first action after missing the first six games with a hamstring injury and finished with two catches for 8 yards in the first half. ...
Defensive back Greg Joseph, who had knee surgery in the offseason, also saw his first action.
EDGECOMB HURTDiIvory Edgecomb suffered what trainers thought was a broken ankle on the kickoff return that preceded the final drive in regulation that sent the game into overtime when he managed to take the ball to the 35 with 56.1 seconds left.
"I told the team he gave us field position. More importantly, he gave us hope," Schnellenberger said.
Edgecomb had four catches for 36 yards and 145 yards (24.1 average) on six kickoff returns.