Four turnovers do in Owls
FAU's Sun Belt title hopes take severe blow with loss to Trojans
FORT LAUDERDALE - In a
must-win game, Florida Atlantic's numerous mistakes never gave
the Owls a chance.
After handing Tuesday night's game to Troy 30-17, the Owls fell to 1-5 overall, 0-2 in the Sun Belt and with it likely their hopes of repeating as conference champions.
The reeling Owls have lost four consecutive games, and their last two losses have come in front of a national television audience on ESPN2 on back-to-back Tuesdays.
"We are really hurting right now," linebacker Frantz Joseph said. "We have to find a way to dig deeper."
The preseason picks to win the Sun Belt are left to ponder what went wrong, as they never resembled the team that finished 6-1 in the Sun Belt last year and went 8-5 overall, including a win in the New Orleans Bowl, with most of their players back.
What was expected to be a better, more mature team has turned into a mistake-prone squad that has seemed to regress with each loss.
FAU had four turnovers Tuesday, making it 17 on the season, offset by just five takeaways.
"We are doing just the opposite of what we did last year, making mistakes turning the ball over," defensive back Corey Small said.
A week after watching a 10-0 lead turn into a 14-13 defeat in the final six minutes of the game at Middle Tennessee, this loss was clinched in the third quarter when a botched punt gave Troy a first down at the FAU 4-yard line. The Trojans punched it in for a 27-10 lead.
That was just one of a number of mistakes, as FAU made it easy for the Trojans (3-2, 2-0) at Lockhart Stadium.
After taking a 3-0 lead, the Owls helped Troy into the end zone on a drive aided by two personal fouls.
The first came on a punt return, giving the ball to Troy at the FAU 38.
The second came after it appeared FAU had stopped Troy quarterback Jamie Hampton at the Owls' 3 on a third-and-goal, but a face mask call gave Troy a first-and-goal, and Hampton took it in for a 7-3 lead.
After Troy kicked a field goal to take a 10-3 lead, the subsequent kickoff bounced off the helmet of an Owl to give the Trojans a first down at the FAU 16. Two plays later it was 17-3.
FAU got the ball back and drove to the Troy 4, when quarterback Rusty Smith forced a pass into double coverage that was intercepted in the end zone.
Troy clinched the game on another special teams miscue, when a snap sailed over the head of FAU punter Keegan Peterson setting up another short score.
The offense continued to turn the ball over and receivers continued to drop passes.
Smith threw two interceptions Tuesday and has nine in six games, the same number he threw last season in 13 games.
Smith had one TD pass. He has has five on the season after throwing 32 last year.
"I have to stop throwing interceptions, plain and simple," Smith said.
For Troy, the game was payback for the last year when FAU beat the Trojans in the final game of the regular season.
After sitting out six weeks with a foot injury, senior center Nick Paris was back under center. Paris was injured in the final scrimmage of the preseason and did not practice until Thursday.