FAU running back Damian Fortner works for yardage against Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Photo Courtesy of Ralph Notaro/ Owl Pix)
No answer for No. 1
FAU spoils Alabama's bid for its third consecutive shutout with a late touchdown, but can't overcome a slow start in a 40-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - There was drama in the fourth quarter of Florida Atlantic's game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday
Unfortunately for the Owls, the intrigue was when FAU threatened to end Alabama's bid for a third consecutive shutout in a game that had already been decided.
FAU answered the challenge by scoring a late touchdown in a 40-7 loss. After a rough start to the day, the Owls have no choice but to take Graham Wilbert's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alex DeLeon with just 2:49 remaining in the game,
“I don't know how important the touchdown was, but it is important that our guys never quit playing and that's the one thing I'll take away from this game,” FAU coach Carl Pelini said. “I promise you that doesn't excuse the way we started. We've got to be able to be a team that comes out with higher expectations and I don't think we did today. I think we let Alabama's reputation affect the way we started the game. If we are going to become the program I want us to be, we can't do that no matter who we are playing.”
Led by 106 yards rushing by running back Eddie Lacy and three touchdown passes by quarterback A.J. McCarron, who sat out most of the second half, Alabama rolled up 503 yards in total offense.
Alabama scored a touchdown on an 85-yard pass play from quarterback A.J. McCarron to Kenny Bell less than two minutes into the game and scored a touchdown on their next possession as well.
After a fast start against Georgia last week, the Owls started off slowly and didn't recover until the end.
“They were tough and we didn't come out and play our best,” said quarterback Graham Wilbert who was 7-of-13 for 34 yards. “If you are going to have a chance against then, you are going to have to play your best. ...We started slow and it was tough to get things going in the first half. We just did a terrible job coming out. We didn't have a lot of energy.”
FAU went three-and-out on four of its first five possessions.
“That's a great defense that we faced,” said FAU coach Carl Pelini. “I don't know if that was a slow start (for us) or a fast start for them defensively. They are a very good defensive football team. They were just physically handling us up front.”
The Owls had a great scoring chance when the Owls punted but long-snapper Tim Raber recovered a fumble by returner Christion Jones at the Alabama 25-yard line.
Three plays later, a 48-yard field goal attempt by Vinny Zaccario was blocked by Alabama's Jesse Williams.
The FAU defense was able to hold Alabama out of the end zone on its next three possessions as the Crimson Tide had to settle for field goals of 52, 26 and 30 yards.
Alabama added another field goal in the second half, giving something positive for the Owls to build on.
“Obviously you'd rather hold then to field goals rather than touchdowns, but we gave up way too many yards,” Pelini said. “We didn't tackle very well. Yards after contact were ridiculous and we have to do better than that.”
FAU fell to 1-23 all-time vs. teams from BCS Conferences, but won't play another team from those leagues the rest of the season starting with a Sun Belt Conference game next week when the Owls play host to North Texas on Saturday at 5 p.m.
GameBrowser: No. 1 Alabama 40, FAU 7
In a game devoid of crucial plays, let's go back and look at an early play that showed FAU was in for a long day. After Bama scored a quick TD, FAU's offense came out on its first series and gave the ball to running back Damian Fortner who ran for six and three yards. On 3rd-and-1, FAU was flagged for a delay of game. How big would a first down have been on the first series instead of with four minutes remaining in the first half?
- Alabama's defense is perhaps the best in the nation and is probably the biggest reason the Owls' offense looked so bad.
- Even with backup quarterback Stephen Curtis sidelined, the Owls had some success with the “wildcat” formation with Fortner and RB Jonathan Wallace taking some snaps.
- FAU didn't mount a serious challenge to Alabama, but can take some pride that Alabama coach Nick Saban was upset at many times during the game.
- 101,821 – Announced crowd (although there were some empty seats) which makes it officially the largest crowd to see an FAU football game.
- 1 – Punts by Alabama
- 4 – Completions by Graham Wilbert in four attempts in the fourth quarter when he had 23 yards and the only FAU touchdown of the game.