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Florida Atlantic struggles in its Sun Belt Conference opener and falls to Middle Tennessee 31-17 on Saturday.
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With a new coaching staff in place, Florida Atlantic has made plenty of changes this season.
Despite the changes, Saturday's game against Middle Tennessee was the same old result as the Blue Raiders defeated the Owls 31-17 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams.
It was the fifth consecutive year that MTSU defeated FAU and the Blue Raiders snapped a seven-game losing streak. The last time MTSU won a game was on Oct. 22 when it defeated the Owls 38-14 in Boca Raton.
"We’re a disjointed football team right now," said FAU coach Carl Pelini. "We lacked execution on offense in the first half. The defense battled back a little bit, got some turnovers, but it’s easy to do that when the pressure’s off offensively. Once we get down by 20 and everyone’s loose, that’s easy. The hard thing for a young program is to execute when it’s still a close ballgame."
MTSU (1-1, 1-0) led 7-0 at halftime, but the score could have been much worse if not for two fumbles by the Blue Raiders inside the red zone.
FAU (1-1, 0-1) fell behind 17-3 as its offense struggled for most of the game, before finally getting in gear in the fourth quarter.
Owls quarterback Graham Wilbert was 25-of-32 for 260 yards and had two touchdown passes. Wilbert's first touchdown pass, a 4-yarder to running back Damian Fortner brough the Owls to within 24-10 with 11:10 remaining, but the Blue Raiders put the game away on the next drive.
Wilbert added a late TD pass when he connected with Byron Hankerson for an 8-yard score with 5:12 remaining.
"I guess we were just executing our assignments better," Wilbert said of the offense's performance late in the game. "I don’t know why we had to wait until for the fourth quarter to do that, but it’s something we need to work on."
The loss was the first under Pelini in the first road game of the season and comes before the Owls play games at Georgia and Alabama in the next two weeks.
"Where we are right now as a football program, we’ve just got to keep studying the films, trying to get better, finding the guys that we can put out there that are going to compete and be more physical," Pelini said. "We’re just not a very good football team right now. We’re not doing what we’re coached to do, coaches are coaching them well enough and as far as I’m concerned, we just need to go back to the drawing board, keep working hard and getting our players to keep believing and keep fighting.
GameBrowser: MTSU 31, FAU 17
The Owls were hanging on late in the third quarter when tight end Nexon Dorvilus appeared to be down on a play that was ruled a fumble. Instead the officials did not overturn what looked to be an obvious call, awarded the ball to the Blue Raiders. Four plays later MTSU wide receiver Anthony Amos scored on a 26 yard TD pass to give the Blue Raiders a 24-3 lead.
- This game was huge for the Owls because with the loss, FAU must face the liklihood of a 1-3 start with games against Georgia and Alabama next
- Who would have thought that QB Graham Wilbert would find the spread offense to his liking
- A week ago Martese Jackson had a breakthrough game with 99 yards on the ground. Against the Blue Raiders, Jackson didn't get a carry as the Owls rushed for just 96 yards.
- 11: Consecutive passes completed by FAU Graham Wilbert in the first half, breaking Rusty Smith’s school record of 10 consecutive complete passes in a game in 2007 vs. Oklahoma State.
- 302: Yards rushing for Middle Tennessee, which was playing without starting running back Benny Cunningham.
- 6: Turnovers this season. After losing the ball four times last week vs. Wagner, the Owls lost two more fumbles vs. the Blue Raiders
FAU starts the toughest two game stretch in the history of the program when it faces No. 7 Georgia before No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs are 2-0 after defeating Missouri on Saturday.