BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After a most bizarre week for Florida Atlantic, the Owls rallied around their new coach and each other.
FAU beat Tulane 34-17 on Saturday, three days since coach Carl Pelini resigned after admitting to school officials he used illegal drugs. Defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis also resigned on Wednesday after admitting drug use.
The Owls (3-6, 3-4 Conference USA) came together under trying circumstances. Instead of wearing their names on the backs of their jerseys, they all had FAU.
"Sometimes you need a slap in the face to refocus," said defensive end Andrew Stryffeler, one of FAU's captains. "This wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but we really took the opportunity to step it up this week."
Offensive coordinator Brian Wright was promoted to interim coach after Pelini stepped down.
"It felt awesome," Wright said of the victory. I've been auditioning for 18 years for this opportunity."
FAU athletic director Patrick Chun said during halftime he wouldn't be discussing the search for a new head coach until he names that new coach. Chun, however, did say Wright will be considered for the position, saying, "He's absolutely a candidate for the job."
It was FAU's defense that delivered for the team on Saturday night. The Owls held Tulane (6-3, 4-1) to 167 yards, 105 passing.
The Owls had interceptions on four straight possessions, three by D'Joun Smith, who now leads the nation with seven interceptions.
"We weren't going to give up on nothing," Smith said. "I was just happy to have an opportunity to make plays."
The game was tied at 17 going into the fourth quarter, and then the Owls took control.
Mitch Anderson kicked a field goal at 14:50 for a 20-17 lead. Damian Fortner followed with a 24-yard touchdown run at 12:06.
Jaquez Johnson capped off the Owls win with a 49-yard rush touchdown -- his eight rushing touchdown of the season -- with 4:46 remaining.
Tulane's most impressive moment in the game came in the first quarter when Lorenzo Doss put the Green Wave on the scoreboard first with a 69-yard return interception at 11:05.
The win keeps FAU in bowl contention with three games remaining: against winless Southern Miss, one-win New Mexico State, and FAU's struggling rival, FIU.
"This was real big," Smith said. "We still have our bowl game dreams alive."
FAU) took control early in the fourth quarter, starting with Mitch Anderson's field goal that gave the Owls a 20-17 lead.
Damian Fortner followed with a 24-yard touchdown run at 12:06. Jaquez Johnson capped off the Owls win with a 49-yard touchdown run with 4:46 remaining.
Tulane managed only 167 yards of offense.