Florida Atlantic falls to Middle Tennessee 14-13 on last-second pass

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. There was another dramatic finish in a game between Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee on Tuesday, but this time it was the Blue raiders who used a long touchdown pass with no time on the clock to stun the Owls 14-13.

Middle Tennessee State freshman receiver Malcolm Beyah came down with a 32-yard pass from quarterback Joe Craddock in the end zone on fourth down to tie the score at 13, and the extra point by freshman kicker Alan Gendreau won the game for the Blue Raiders as FAU players watched in stunned silence.

"It's a loss that will hurt our football team very dramatically for a short period of time and then it will be a loss that will cause us to grow as a football team," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said.

The play was reminiscent of FAU's 20-19 victory over the Blue Raiders in 2003 when Owls receiver Roosevelt Bynes caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Jared Allen with no time on the clock to give FAU its first victory against a Division I-A team.

"It's a typical example of when you have opportunities within the game to score and you can't do it," Schnellenberger said.

That 2003 upset stung the Blue Raiders then and this loss is just as devastating for the Owls, who lost their third consecutive game. The game was FAU's Sun Belt Conference opener.

"We have to regroup and move on," said sophomore free safety Ed Alexander, one of the many defenders who failed to knock the desperation pass down. "It hurts."

Instead the ball landed in a pile of players and Beyah came down with it.

"A lot of people don't realize it, but Malcom and those guys are running hard down the field the whole time out of breath," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. "Malcom went up and made a great, great play - a game-winning play."

The Owls (1-4, 0-1 SBC) were in control of the game until the last-second pass.

On FAU's first possession of the game, they drove to near midfield and on a third-and-3 play from the 47, running back DiIvory Edgecomb took a toss from quarterback Rusty Smith and ran to the right on a sweep play. Edgecomb quickly changed direction and sprinted down the middle of the field and ran into the end zone untouched.

The Owls nearly took a two-touchdown lead early in the second quarter when they drove the ball 72 yards to the Middle Tennessee 2-yard line.

However on a second-and-goal play, Edgecomb fumbled as he tried to power his way into the end zone.

The loose football was recovered by Middle Tennessee free safety Jeremy Kellum, who also had an interception.

Altogether, the Owls lost two fumbles and had two interceptions in the game.

FAU converted its next possession when the offense again drove the ball deep into Blue Raiders' territory, eventually reaching the 8-yard line before Warley Leroy kicked a 25-yard field goal to give FAU a 10-0 lead with 3:19 remaining in the first half.

The Blue Raiders (2-3, 1-2) cut the lead to 10-7 with 5:22 remaining in the game on a 25-yard pass from Craddock to Patrick Honeycutt, who was able to catch the ball in the end zone despite tight coverage by FAU cornerback Tavious Polo.

On the ensuing drive, the Owls used a 21-yard pass from Smith to tight end Rob Housler and a 16-yard pass from Smith to Lester Jean on third-and-9 to drive to the Middle Tennessee 6-yard line.

Smith, however, was sacked and on third-and-goal from the 15, FAU stayed conservative, running and setting up Leroy's 25-yard field goal that gave FAU a 13-7 lead with 1:15 remaining.

The Blue Raiders drove to the FAU 32-yard line and faced a fourth-and-9 with :09 seconds remaining when Craddock threw a jump ball that Beyah was able to snatch away from a crowd of players.

Edgecomb led the Owls with 101 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Smith was 16-of-27 passing for 210 yards and threw two interceptions.

Last season, the Owls defeated the Blue Raiders 27-14 at Lockhart Stadium in the season opener en route to winning their first Sun Belt Conference championship.