Howard Schnellenberger and FAU (1-5) vow to keep fighting

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

BOCA RATON FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said Wednesday that he is not worried about losing his team after another disappointing result, one that virtually eliminates it from repeating as Sun Belt Conference champions.

The Owls' 30-17 home loss to Troy on Tuesday night keeps them winless in the conference (0-2) and 1-5 at the season's midway point.

"These are guys that came here with a mission," Schnellenberger said. "The higher power, the higher goal, the higher expectation is for us to continue to improve as a football team not only this year but years to come."

The true expectations for the 10 returning starters on offense and eight senior starters on defense were to repeat as conference champions and return to the New Orleans Bowl.

"For the seniors, this our last go-around," center Nick Paris said. "It's going to take a miracle for us to win the conference. This is going to be the last time for most us putting on our pads. We're just playing for pride."

Schnellenberger said the players are "doing everything they should be doing, except we're having a bad run of luck and bad execution."

The poor execution includes the work of quarterback Rusty Smith, who continues to throw interceptions at an alarming rate.

Smith has yielded eight interceptions in the last three games. His two picks Tuesday give him nine for the year in 201 attempts. Last season, he was intercepted nine times in 13 games (479 attempts).

Smith's passer rating declined Tuesday to 104.43, dropping him out of the top 100 in the nation. In 2007, his rating was 141.63.

"I think he's trying very hard, a very conscientious young man who is trying very hard," Schnellenberger said. "His effort to help the team has hurt it from time to time."

The Owls have more than a week to regroup and prepare for their nonconference game at Western Kentucky (7 p.m. Oct. 18).

"A win now would be putting the tourniquet on the bleeding and get the bleeding to stop," Schnellenberger said. "And then we'll work on the remedy when we stabilize the situation."