FAU's defensive stands thwart Cajuns

Special to The Palm Beach Post

Saturday, November 15, 2008

FORT LAUDERDALE Even though Florida Atlantic's offense produced its best first half of the season, credit two defensive stands in Owls territory for allowing FAU to enter halftime with a comfortable 19-point lead.

The Ragin' Cajuns appeared primed to cut into the Owls' 12-0 second-quarter lead, reaching the FAU 14-yard line before Frantz Joseph stopped Tyrell Fenroy on a third-and-1 run. George Allen stymied quarterback Michael Desormeaux's run on the next play for a loss of a yard, turning the ball over on downs.

"We knew what play they were going to run," Joseph said of the fourth-down call. "We practiced it the whole week. It just came down to who's the bigger man, and we weren't going to let them be."

Trailing 19-7, Lafayette threatened to pull within a touchdown in the closing minutes of the half. Cornerback Corey Small thwarted that possession when he snared a lofted Desormeaux pass with a leaping grab at the Owls' 15.

"I tried to bait the quarterback a little bit," Small said. "I kept jumping the little short route that he kept throwing in the flat. I tried to take a step up and then come back. It was a gamble, but it worked."

Four plays later, the Owls were in the end zone again, taking a 26-7 lead into halftime.

Record night: Several milestone performances aided the Owls' first-half offensive outburst.

Quarterback Rusty Smith broke two of Jared Allen's career marks. Smith and Allen were tied at 50 touchdown passes before Smith's first-quarter, 13-yarder to Chris Bonner. Smith's connection with Cortez Gent near the end of the half surpassed Allen's completion total of 570.

Joseph's tackle of Fenroy that helped preserve FAU's 12-0 lead, his fourth stop of the game, broke Chris Laskowski's career tackle mark of 295. Joseph notched 14 tackles on the night.

Charles Pierre's 6-yard touchdown run on the opening drive was the 21st rushing score of his career, tying Doug Parker.

Key injuries: Senior tackle Vinnie Henderson, starting just his second career game in place of injured John Rizzo, was carted off the field with his lower left leg in an air cast. He never left the sideline, walking with crutches for the final quarter. FAU officials said Henderson suffered a sprained ankle. ... Cornerback Tavious Polo also left the game with a left calf injury. ... Joseph came off the field in the fourth quarter after having the wind knocked out of him, but returned moments later