Owls get some good news as center returns to practice

Boca Raton - There was some good news for the beleaguered Owls Friday, as senior center Nick Paris was back at practice for the first time since injuring his foot a week before the first game of the season.

Paris has missed all five of FAU's games, and said after practice that his foot was sore but that he would be ready to play Tuesday when the Owls host Troy at Lockhart Stadium in an ESPN2 game with an 8 p.m. kickoff.

"It feels good to be back. We didn't hit much today, but I think I'll be OK," Paris said.

Coach Howard Schnellenberger said having Paris practice with the first team was an "experiment" and that how much Paris played depended on how well he held up in practices.

If Paris can play, it should help the line, since it will move players back to their normal positions.

Kevin Miller had moved from guard to center to replace Paris, and Brandon Jackson from tackle to guard, with backup Lavoris Williams moving into Jackson's spot.

Williams is doubtful for Troy with an ankle sprain, but the line was back to its normal setup Friday, with Jackson at left tackle, David Matlock at left guard, Paris at center, Miller at right guard and John Rizzo at right tackle.

Defensive ends Michael Hancock and Robert St. Clair were both sidelined Friday, St. Clair with a knee and Hancock an ankle sprain. Hancock is doubtful for the Troy game, and St. Clair is probable.

HARD LESSON: The players went back to practice Friday with their ears still ringing from a tongue-lashing coach Howard Schnellenberger delivered Thursday.

"Losing this past game was very disappointing because we were as good as they were. They outplayed us on four plays. But you have to make the plays when you have to make the plays," Schnellenberger said, referring to the 14-13 loss to Middle Tennessee on Tuesday that came when the Blue Raiders scored touchdowns in their final two drives, the last one on a Hail Mary pass with no time left.

"I wasn't surprised at all. I expected it. When you lose a game like that in that fashion you expect that from coach. You expect for him to be stern and disappointed in you," quarterback Rusty Smith said.

The Owls (1-4, 0-1) have lost three straight and hope to get their season back on track Tuesday when they host Troy (2-2, 1-0).

"We have to do the best we can and forget about the first half of the season and get with the program right now," Smith said.