BOCA RATON – Florida Atlantic is creating new traditions as it plays football on campus for the first time since the program began in 2001.
Unfortunately in the first two games played at the $70 million, 30,000-seat FAU Stadium, the tradition that has been established is losing badly.
Saturday Middle Tennessee took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and that would be all they needed as FAU's inept offense turned the ball over six times as the Blue Raiders trounced the Owls 38-14.
"With all the experience I have had, I can't figure out why we have the problems we have," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "We are making these kinds of errors which disallows to have any chance to win the game."
Last week, in the first game at the new stadium, a crowd of 29,103 watched Western Kentucky beat the Owls 20-0.
A much smaller crowd witnessed Saturday's debacle, which dropped the Owls to 0-7 and 0-4 in the Sun Belt. The crowd was announced at 16,344, but was probably closer to 10,000 and in the hundreds by the time the game ended.
It was FAU's fourth straight loss to the Blue Raiders, who improved to 2-4 and 1-2 in the conference.
The loss extended FAU's record losing streak to 10 straight going back to last season. The loss also assures the Owls of three straight losing seasons, another first. FAU and New Mexico (0-7) remain the only two winless teams in the 120-team Football Bowl Subdivision.
The loss also ends all hopes of FAU making it to a bowl game, meaning coach Howard Schnellenberger's last game as a college coach will be Dec. 3, when the Owls close the season by hosting Louisiana-Monroe.
With nothing left to play for, the only question remaining about this season is if will manage to win any of its five remaining games.
FAU has gone 2-9 twice, in 2002 and 2005. Schnellenberger also had two of his Louisville teams finish 2-9, but he has never had a team with fewer wins in his 26 previous seasons.
This is Schnellenberger's last season with FAU, the program he created, as he earlier he would retire at the end of the season at the age of 77.
Saturday the Blue Raiders shredded FAU's defense in the first 15 minutes, as quarterback Logan Kilgore completed 18 straight passes, three for touchdowns of 20, 5 and 23 yards.
Kilgore completed his first pass of the second quarter before his first incompletion. The 19 straight passes was a team record for MTSU and career-high for Kilgore.
"We weren't prepared as a defense. They were going really fast and didn't have the right guys in," said FAU defensive back Marcus Bartels. "We can't let that happen. It is hard to win when they score 21 points in the first quarter."
FAU's defense recovered from the onslaught in the second quarter, shutting out the Blue Raiders.
The Owls offense scored the first points in the stadium with 9:57 left in the second quarter when tight end Darian Williams caught a 5-yard pass from quarterback Graham Wilbert.
But the offense hurt itself as fumbles killed drive after drive. The Owls fumbled eight times, and Middle Tennessee recovered five of them.
FAU running back Alfred Morris had two of the fumbles that were recovered by MTSU.
"The turnovers really hurt us. We are beating ourselves, as usual, and that has to come to an end if we want to win a game this year," Morris said.
A three-play sequence in the third quarter sums up FAU's season: With FAU trailing 21-7, Keith Reaser picked off a MTSU pass and returned it 33 yards to the MTSU 26 yard line.
On FAU's first play, Wilbert was hit as he threw and the ball was intercepted and returned to the FAU 21. MTSU would kick a field and the rout was on. FAU is off this week, and hosts Arkansas State Nov. 5, the third straight game at FAU Stadium.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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