The Owls broke open the contest with 14 points in the span of 24 seconds to close the half, then extended their lead to 45-14 before cruising through the final 13 minutes.
FAU players and fans celebrated a bowl victory on their home field for the second time in three years – all concern about not having traveled for a bowl game seemingly dissolved.
Every week we examine the good, the bad and the curious from the previous day’s FAU football game as part of our Four Down Territory analysis. There’s plenty to like after this one.
Four Down Territory: FAU (11-3) 52, SMU (10-3) 28
Chuck King: Rashad Smith. Quarterback Chris Robison made this decision extremely difficult by throwing for 305 yards and two touchdowns despite playing the game without the Owls’ top three receiving targets, but Smith delivered an otherworldly performance. Playing his last game as an Owl and without starting LB Keke Leroy, Smith led the Owls with 11 tackles, intercepted a pass and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Special recognition also goes to interim coach/defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who did more than simply hold the Owls together following Lane Kiffin’s departure, they created and employed a winning game plan, then blew the doors off the Mustangs.
King: That FAU won in the fashion it did. SMU is a good football team that spent much of the year ranked. Shorthanded because of suspensions and injuries, the Owls entered the Boca Bowl as heavy underdogs. Once the game kicked off, none of that mattered. The Owls played inspired football, and effectively put the game out of reach early in the third quarter. That FAU won isn’t all that surprising. Bowl games can be unpredictable. FAU, however, dominated. No one saw that coming.
King: All-American tight end Harrison Bryant elected not to play in the Boca Raton Bowl. Sitting out bowl games is becoming common, and it’s understandable when NFL prospects, which Bryant certainly is, choose to protect their financial future. Battling an illness early in the week likely made the decision easier for Bryant, whose character over his four years at FAU has never been questioned and isn’t in question now. Still, it would have been nice to see Bryant celebrating with his teammates one final time. On the plus side, John Raine enjoyed one of his best games in Bryant’s absence, catching seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. And Raine still has one more year of eligibility.
King: New FAU coach Willie Taggart seems to be a naturally gregarious fellow, but his smiles were extra big while watching the Owls on Saturday. He knows the kind of talent he’s inheriting. There will be some losses in the coming days. Spencer has already been named the defensive coordinator at USF. Weis could soon be the offensive coordinator there. Other assistant coaches learn today whether they will be retained by Taggart. Several players will likely transfer. Some may even leave early for the NFL. Those are the kinds of things that happen to winning teams undergoing coaching changes. But that shouldn’t diminish what this FAU team, largely under-appreciated all season, accomplished. Revel in the victory. Worry about next year next year.