BOCA RATON – The 2017 season proved to be special for FAU, so let’s end the year on a special note. Over the past few days we’ve documented the offensive and defensive plays of the year for the Owls. We’ll conclude our rundown by examining special teams plays. The Owls broke several records in the kicking game this season under first-year special teams coach Corey Batoon. If the Owls do so again next season, they’ll have do so without the help of Batoon, who accepted Hawaii’s defensive coordinator job.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYS OF THE YEAR
1. Whyte Makes Right – FAU accomplished many feats since 2001 – the Owls’ first season of football. But the Owls had never returned a kickoff for a touchdown. That surprisingly long run came to an end on Nov. 11 with the opening kickoff of the second half at Louisiana Tech. Kerrith Whyte fielded the ball on the left hash, raced straight ahead to the 25, where he spun off a Bulldog tackler. Whyte ran through another attempted tackler as he cut to the left sideline, then showcased his speed. Whyte easily pulled away from the final two La. Tech defenders for a 98-yard kickoff return that gave FAU a 27-9 lead, effectively putting that game out of reach. For those who’ve followed FAU football since its inception, that play was a long time coming.
2. Rickel Rolls – Leading 35-28 midway through the fourth quarter at Western Kentucky, FAU took possession looking for a drive that would put the game away. A 21-yard Devin Singletary run started the drive right, putting FAU in WKU territory. But the next three plays netted a one-yard loss. FAU sent on the punt team. Punter Ryan Rickel took the snap, rolled right and simply kept rolling. The Owls needed 11 yards to pick up a first down. Rickel raced (maybe a little generous there) 22 yards. Five Singletary rushes later, FAU held a 42-28 lead with a little more than three minutes remaining. Game over.
3. Rewriting the Record Book – Really wanted to include Bobby Mitchell’s hit on a North Texas punt return in the Conference USA championship game here because it was probably the biggest hit of the year – it was certainly the loudest of the season – but what Greg Joseph accomplished against Navy can’t be overlooked. Joseph needed one extra point and one field goal to tie Mark Myers’ FAU career-scoring record of 231 points. Joseph accomplished that in the first half. In the third quarter Joseph booted a 54-yard field goal, a kick that not only made him FAU’s career scoring leader and career leader in field goals, it was also the longest field goal in program history. Quite a kick.