FAU traveled to Troy in the 2007 season’s final week. The winner would claim the Sun Belt Conference title and the accompanying New Orleans Bowl berth. Rusty Smith threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns, and the Owls produced a late defensive stand to defeat the Trojans. That Troy victory appeared earlier in the countdown, but the 2007 New Orleans Bowl, a game that put the Owls on a national stage for the first time as an FBS school, ranks higher.
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. 7 FAU Game Ever Played:
FAU Football 44, Memphis 27 (New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 22, 2007)
Quarterback Rusty Smith’s arm and a potent ground attack launched FAU to a fast start in the Owls’ first bowl game ever. Touchdown runs by Charles Pierre and DiIvory Edgecomb propelled FAU to a 17-7 first-quarter lead.
Two Smith second quarter touchdown passes sent the Owls to the locker room leading 30-20. A touchdown early in the third quarter drew Memphis within three points, but FAU’s defense shut down the Tigers the rest of the way.
A Smith-to-Jason Harmon 16-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter restored the Owls’ double-digit lead. A second touchdown run from Edgecomb completed the scoring.
Howard Schnellenberger took a Gatorade bath and was eventually carried off the field on the shoulders of his players. He retired in 2011 having never lost a bowl game.
Schnellenberger’s name recognition provided the draw for a curious national audience that normally – and traditionally – overlooked the New Orleans Bowl. That audience saw an entertaining FAU offense and a physical defense ready for prime time.
The Bowl Experience – Kris Bartels, Former FAU safety and current radio analyst
Going to a bowl game seemed unreal. We were so hyped for that game against Troy that the New Orleans Bowl seemed to take a back seat. Once we got there, things changed. We went bowling, got some free Nike sunglasses, a free $250 Best Buy gift card, some Nike New Orleans Bowl hoodies, and a ton of good food.
Our preparation going into the game was like preparing for the first game of the season because we had so long to wait between games. The defensive game plan was easy. We knew who to shut down. Memphis was not a physical team and one of the goals was to remind them of that. I believe we knocked out three of their starting play makers, including their QB.
The team was focused in walk-throughs on that Thursday and everyone was on the same page. The bowl game festivities were behind us and the game was under way.
Defensively, we had to stop the receivers from making big plays and eliminate the running backs from getting into open space. We were confident as a unit and led the nation in takeaways. Unfortunately, we didn’t get one that game.
Every time the defense came off the field, it seemed like a couple of minutes later Rusty was marching down the field to score. It was incredible to see the offense from the sidelines. As a defense, we had a chance to watch the game because of how long some of the offensive drives were. Special teams kept putting the team in good position and as a defense, we shut them down.
I remember having pass interference called against me while trying to defend the tight end on a slant pass in the end zone. We stopped them a few plays later and forced a FG.
As the game progressed our confidence grew. We would get a stop and the linebackers would screaming about how soft Memphis was. They were right. At one point I thought, “Our offense has scored enough to win, so let’s finish this.” Our mentality was play one play at a time until the last play.
When the game was over, Coach was showered with Gatorade, maybe Powerade, and was lifted into the air. I grabbed the Florida Atlantic flag and started swinging it like it was my job. We hugged. We took some pictures. We got a trophy. Then we hit the locker room for some victory cigars. Having played my last game for FAU, I sat there in front of my locker knowing that moment might be the last time I ever wear shoulder pads or play another down of football. I didn’t want the game to end. But I also wanted to get to Bourbon Street. We celebrated, drank some hand grenades, ate a ton of Krystal burgers, partied with some random people, and passed out in the elevator. I think my brother handled the festivities a little better than I did. What’s new?
Although the Troy game had all the hype, the New Orleans Bowl and everything around it was way more memorable. It meant more for us seniors to finish what we started. We wanted to carry on the legacy of what the older guys left us with. We wanted to represent for the state of Florida.
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