FAU beats Tulane, days after Pelini resignation

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.