Following FAU’s 52-28 victory over SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl, Spencer wanted to make sure everyone appreciated Smith’s contributions on and off the field.
“He’s my rock, and we built this thing around him and his character,” Spencer said of Smith. “His actions have always spoke. His practices habits and how he prepares for the game, he is a pro already and he’s going to make somebody very happy that he’ll be on their squad next year.”
Smith’s final game in an FAU uniform was arguably his best. Playing without suspended starting middle linebacker Keke Leroy, Smith led the Owls with 11 tackles, intercepted a pass and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
“To go out on top means a lot to me,” Smith said.
Those 11 tackles pushed Smith past the 100-tackle mark on a season for the first time in his career. With Leroy not playing, Smith became the Owls leading tackler on the season with 109.
His interception late in the first half, and the subsequent FAU touchdown one play later, turned the game’s momentum.
His 34-yard scoop-and-score off a botched SMU reverse late in the third quarter, Smith’s fifth fumble recovery of the season, put the game out of reach.
“I saw them drop the ball and I just made the play,” Smith said. “Right place, right time.”
Smith leaves FAU having recorded 316 tackles (fourth most in program history), six interceptions and six fumble recoveries (most in program history). Smith will play in the East-West Shrine game on January 18.
“I feel complete,” Smith said. “I had the opportunity to play with my brother (FAU freshman tight end Rahmod Smith). I had the opportunity to win two titles. It’s been a number of blessings here at FAU. Now I’m ready for the next level.”
GameBrowser: FAU (11-3) 52, SMU (10-3) 28
Smith’s interception at the end of the first half turned around the game for the Owls. The pick allowed FAU to score 14 points in the span of three snaps heading into half. Afterward the Owls never looked back.
* Chris Robison completed the best statistical passing season in FAU history. With a swing pass in the third quarter he became the all-time record holder for passing yards in a single season. He also recorded the most completions in a single season by an FAU quarterback. Robison finished the season with 3,701 yards and 291 completions.
* Despite losing its top three receiving targets, the Owls were able to still pass effectively, throwing for more than 300 yards. Forced into a starting role by the Pico Harrison’s suspension, walk-on Brandon Robinson led the Owls with 78 yards and his first career touchdown.
* FAU offensive coordinator Charlie Weis showed the college football world that he is one of the brightest young minds in the game. Even without the Owls’ three leading receivers, Weis developed a strong game plan, then called a masterful game. This victory should make those who attributed the Owls offensive success solely to Lane Kiffin rethink than stance.
* Yes, SMU’s offense looked out of sync early – potentially the aftereffect of a three-week layoff – but that doesn’t diminish the job the Owls’ defense did shutting down one of the nation’s best offenses. SMU’s quick-strike offense never gave an indication it could rally in the second half.
* As nice as it would have been for the players to travel to a new city for their bowl, it sure did look like both the players and fans enjoyed celebrating a bowl victory on their home field with friends and family.
2 – Boca Bowl wins for the Owls.
4 – 1-yard touchdown runs in the game – three by the Owls.
6 – Rushing touchdowns by running back B.J. Emmons on the season.
11 – Wins on the season, tying a program high set in 2017.
30 – First downs for the Owls
120 – Rushing yards allowed by the Owls.
188 – Total Rushing yards for the Owls.
305 – Passing yards from Quarterback Chris Robison.
521 – Total yards by FAU’s offense.
23,187 – Announced attendance.