FAU recovered from a four-game losing streak early in the season to position itself for bowl eligibility. All the Owls needed to do was defeat rival FIU at Dolphin Stadium. Anything can happen in a rivalry game – and on this evening nearly everything did.
Having entered the Top 10 in our countdown of the Top 25 FAU Games Ever Played, we’ve changed the format a bit. We’ll delve a little deeper into each game and implications on FAU’s athletic department. We’ve also asked some guest contributors to provide their thoughts on the games and the rankings.
No. 2 FAU Game Ever Played
FAU Football 57, FIU 50, OT (Nov.29, 2008)
With bowl eligibility clearly within their grasp, the Owls started quickly. Charles Pierre capped FAU’s first drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Jamari Grant’s two-yard TD catch had the Owls up 14-7 after one quarter.
The Panthers, then, took control, racing to a 36-22 fourth-quarter lead. FAU didn’t panic. The Owls tied the game by scoring 14 points in a 56-second span. Rusty Smith connected with Cortez Gent on a tipped fourth-and-10 pass for a 20-yard score. Less than a minute later, Corey Small picked off a Paul McCall pass, returning it 25 yards to tie the score.
The Panthers responded with two touchdowns a 40-second span, the second coming with 3:09 remaining, sending many FAU fans to the Dolphin Stadium exits.
The Owls, however, did their best impression of a phoenix. Smith found Gent for the duo’s second score of the night, pulling FAU within a touchdown with 2:08 remaining. After a successful onside kick, Grant made a diving catch of a Smith pass in the end zone, tying the score at 50 with 18 seconds remaining. After cradling the pass, Grant ran to the official signaling touchdown and hugged him – the official’s arms still raised to the sky.
On the first overtime possession Smith once again located Gent, this time for a 9-yard score. Smith threw for five touchdowns and 389 yards on the day. Gent caught seven passes for 108 yards and three scores.
FIU’s chances to send the game to a second overtime ended smashingly when Daniel Joseph sacked McCall on fourth-and-10, sealing the most improbable victory in program history.
The two teams combined for 56 fourth-quarter points. FAU scored 28 points in the final 6:49 of the game to force the overtime.
FAU became bowl eligible with the victory. Nearly a month later Florida Atlantic defeated Central Michigan 24-21 in the Motor City Bowl.
Mark’s Mad Dash – Mark Noll, FAU alumnus and proprietor of It’s Owl Time
My most memorable game is the 2008 FAU/FIU Shula Bowl in Dolphin Stadium. More than 100 points scored. FIU had a 14 point lead late in the game. It became the first game I ever decided to leave a little early – not because I gave up on my Owls, but only because I did not want to witness FIU running on the field to get the Shula Trophy.
I decided to leave the stadium down 14 in the closing minutes. As I am exiting the stadium, I hear a big roar. I assume we just scored. We would still need to recover an onside kick and score a TD just to send it into OT – a tall task. I get to my car and just turn on the radio. We kick an onside kick…and recover it. I decide I must get back into the stadium to see what happens. I am in a full sprint back through the gate of the stadium. Oh, there is no reentry so stadium security is chasing me and telling me to stop. There is only about 30 seconds left in the game. I realize that I have an extra ticket in my pocket because my wife didn’t attend the game. I flash the extra ticket and they let me go. Now I have to run up those spiral ramps at Dolphin Stadium. I don’t have time to get to my regular seat so I run to the nearest gate to see the field. It happened to be near the corner of the end zone and as soon as I get there, Jamari Grant catches a TD pass to send the game to OT. Grant was so excited to catch the pass he hugged the referee. I hugged just about everyone in that section. It was bedlam in the stands.
With OT coming up, I made my way back to my regular seat and pretended like I never left the game. The Owls go on to win that game in OT. Honestly, I don’t even remember the details of the OT, but remember it as a game I will absolutely never forget.
Not Everyone Agrees – Brian Rowitz, ESPN West Palm and OwlTalk host
This is without a doubt one of the most memorable games in FAU Football history. That being said, I would have multiple other FAU games ahead of it. Beating the “school down South” is always a positive but FAU does it so often that is takes away from the specialness of it a little bit. While the close to 2008 was a special one, I still think everything associated with 2007 should be ahead of this.
Previous FAU Top 25 Game Rankings
FAU’s Best Games Ever (25-21)
FAU’s Best Games Ever (20-16)
FAU’s Best Games Ever (15-11)
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 10 – Carolina Comeback
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 9 – Boca Bowl Blowout
FAU’s Best Game Ever: No. 8 – Burrow Bash
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 7 – The Big, Easy Win
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No 6 – Dancing Days
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 5 – Bama Breakthrough
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 4 – Miami’s Stormy Night
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 3 – Baseball’s Streak
FAU’s Best Games Ever: No. 2 – C-USA Champs