Florida Atlantic’s hopes of repeating as Conference USA champs were already dimming, with two conference losses. Now, the Owls dropped what may turn out to be a key game in determining bowl eligibility.
With backup quarterback Rafe Peavey getting the start over injured Chris Robison, FAU lost 21-13 against Louisiana Tech at FAU Stadium on Friday night.
The Owls (3-5, 1-3 C-USA), who snapped their 10-game home win streak, dominated in the running game, outgaining the Bulldogs 227-113 on the ground. Junior running back Devin “Motor” Singletary went for 171 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. They allowed chunk plays via the pass and surrendered two touchdown drives and had two turnovers in a matter of three minutes at the end of the first half that proved costly.
And then, there were the special teams blunders. FAU was called for leaping the shield of punt protectors on a fourth down that kept La. Tech’s offense on the field to eventually run out the clock when the Owls could have had one final try at tying it in a one-possession game.
It was the second special teams penalty against the Owls that kept their offense from taking over. After getting a defensive stop in the third quarter, the Owls received a Bulldogs punt that was fielded by Singletary. The only problem was Singletary, who isn’t usually on special teams, wears No. 5, like Ahman Ross, who usually is. FAU was flagged for an equipment violation that gave La. Tech a first down.
“We killed ourselves. No disrespect to them. They played hard, they won the game, but it’s just ridiculous, you know, the things we do,” coach Lane Kiffin said.
FAU had 11 penalties for 77 yards.
Peavey, a grad student, went 15 of 26 for 115 yards, no touchdowns and an interception after a sharp opening drive that resulted in Singletary’s touchdown within the first two minutes.
“[Peavey] didn’t get a lot of help. We drop a critical third down early,” Kiffin said. “Even though he’s older, he hasn’t played a bunch, so confidence is always fragile.”
Robison, a redshirt freshman that didn’t start due to an ankle injury, came in to play midway through the fourth quarter after La. Tech scored a touchdown that put the Bulldogs up eight.He turned the ball over on downs in Louisiana Tech territory on the ensuing drive, which ended up being the offense’s last.
Louisiana Tech (6-2, 4-1) extended a one-point lead to 21-13 when quarterback J’Mar Smith hit Teddy Veal for a diving touchdown on a corner route 15 yards to the back of the end zone with 8:27 remaining. The Bulldogs extended that drive with a 28-yard pass on third-and-3 that went deep down the right sideline to Adrian Hardy, was juggled between he and the FAU defender and ended up in Hardy’s hands to get La. Tech deep into Owls territory.
Trailing 14-10 at halftime, FAU got a quick three-and-out stop on La. Tech’s opening second-half drive and then drove 54 yards in 11 plays to tack on a second short field goal from Vladimir Rivas.
With Peavey starting, the Owls came out energized after receiving the opening kickoff. He was 4 for 4 on his first drive for 51 yards as FAU went up 7-0 1:49 into the game.
Late in the first quarter, Rivas extended the Owls’ advantage to 10 when he connected on a 29-yard field goal. It was the culmination of a 13-play, 84-yard drive that spanned four minutes and 25 seconds.
FAU was shutting out the Bulldogs for the first 27 minutes Friday. With 2:46 remaining in the first half, La. Tech’s Jaqwis Dancy rushed to the outside and 20 yards into the end zone to cut the Owls lead to 10-7.
After a Peavey fumble that was recovered by the Bulldogs, Louisiana Tech went up 14-10, scoring on a Kam McKnight 5-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds remaining before half. A blown coverage allowed George Scott to get free down the left sideline for a 45-yard pitch and catch from Smith to set the Bulldogs up at the 5-yard line before the score.
Trying to drive one last time before the half, a Peavey interception that deflected off his intended receiver on a deep corner route was intercepted by safety Darryl Lewis.
“You have to play clean, and we didn’t do that,” Peavey said. “A lot of that’s on me, turning the ball over. Just can’t happen.”
Andrew Soroh, a redshirt senior who is filling in at middle linebacker for injured Azeez Al-Shaair, had a first-half sack for the Owls defense while Leighton McCarthy and Hunter Snyder teamed up for another. Ernest Bagner sacked Smith in the second half. FAU forced La. Tech to punt on each of its first four drives.
After the Friday night game, the Owls have an extra day of rest to prepare for the Shula Bowl against rival FIU in Miami on Nov. 3.
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