FAU football shocked the nation tonight, accomplishing three seemingly improbable tasks against No.1 ranked, and defending champions, Alabama.
They crossed midfield (twice), scored a touchdown and even won — against the spread.
The Owls, 50-point underdogs, were predictably being hammered 40-0 before the miracle of all miracles occurred, a late 6-yard touchdown from Graham Wilbert to Alex Deleon with under three minutes remaining. Even though the rest of the game was dreadful, I’ve never been more proud to be an FAU student then after that 15-play, 75-yard drive.
FAU fell 40-7 to the Crimson Tide, but ended Alabama’s two-game shutout streak to the dismay of head coach Nick Saban — better known around South Florida as Nick Satan — and 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Owls scored a touchdown against Alabama, something ranked opponent Arkansas couldn’t do the week before. In fact, Alabama hadn’t allowed a TD in the last 12 quarters of play.
Don’t get me wrong. Overall, this game was far from pretty. The numbers verify it, and even though I didn’t watch it in person (thanks, FAU Athletics) or on pay-per-view ($140 dollars plus tax on Comcast Xfinity? Yeah, I’ll pass), my ears were suffice to the drumming Bama put on the boys from Boca.
“To me it’s a loss,” FAU defensive line/special teams coach Brett Diersen said to ESPN 760. “I didn’t come to FAU to lose. For me it’s not a moral victory.”
With that said, Wilbert should have requested the game ball after scoring on the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. Guaranteed, it’ll go down as the highlight of not just this game, but of his entire college career.
At halftime, Wilbert had -1 yards passing. No, I’m not making that up. Wilbert went on to finish with 34 yards on 7 of 13 passing.
“He hasn’t stood a chance against the Alabama pass rush at all,” ESPN 760 play-by-play announcer Ken LaVicka said of Wilbert before he redeemed himself.
So, in FAU’s first game against a No.1 opponent, what did they learn?
Alabama and Georgia may play in the same conference, but are in different leagues in terms of competition. Georgia allowed FAU to score 14 points in the first half; Alabama held FAU to one first down at halftime.
The Crimson Tide, national champions two of the last three seasons, could probably hang tight with South Florida’s pro football team — at least that’s what FAU’s new man in charge thinks.
“I’d like to see these guys [Alabama] go against the Dolphins,” FAU Athletics Director Pat Chun remarked to the Sun Sentinel.
Cory Henry made national headlines when he said the Owls had a speed advantage over Alabama heading into the game, but the gap between the two conferences is still massively wide.
“We have seen the difference between SEC speed and Sun Belt speed these past two weeks,” LaVicka said.
Before the late scoring drive, the best thing going for FAU was punting. Kicker Sean Kelly booted his eight punts for an average of 49.4 yards per attempt, with a long of 57.
“He’s done a heck of a job. The more he shows me, the more I’m going to use him,” Diersen said. “A true freshman walking into the last two stadium he’s walked into, he’s handled it for the most part. I just want him to keep focusing every snap.”
The Owls were performing so poorly in the first half that the radio team showered praise on the least important position on the field.
“By far he’s been one of the most important players for the Owls,” the color commentator said of Kelly.
“The way it’s going just let him run the football too,” LaVicka joked.
Defensively, the Owls started out terrible, allowing TD passes from AJ McCarron on Alabama’s first two drives. After that, the FAU defense regained its composure, forcing four straight Crimson Tide drives in field goals. The Owls’ defense only allowed 10 second half points, which is probably a combination of Alabama shutting down their offense and FAU amping up their defense.
FAU leaves its two weekend SEC field trip with a pair of blowout losses. It’s back to reality with Sun Belt play starting up again next week, where the stadiums and players are smaller, and FAU can actually compete.
After today, competing is all anyone could ask for.