FAR wide receiver William Dukes, right, is congratulated by tight end Nexon Dorvilus after his 22-yard game-winning touchdown vs. Troy on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Owl Pix)
Twice is nice
Florida Atlantic won for the second time this season, surpassing last season's victory total by rallying to defeat Troy 34-27 on Saturday at FAU Stadium.
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BOCA RATON – After losing a heartbreaker in double overtime last week against South Alabama, the Owls were faced with a similar situation in the final two minutes against Troy on Saturday.
Like last week, the Owls had squandered a lead in the fourth quarter and desperately needed some heroics down the stretch to win for the first time since the season-opener.
FAU didn't get it done it last week, but this time found a way to finish.
Owls receiver William Dukes' 22-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Graham Wilbert with 17 seconds remaining in the game gave FAU a 34-27 homecoming victory vs. Troy at FAU Stadium. The victory was the first over a Sun Belt opponent for the Owls since Nov. 13, 2010, when FAU defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 24-23.
“I told the guys at halftime that this was going to come down to the final possession and it did,” said Owls coach Carl Pelini. “You just need to get over that hump.”
Tight end Nexon Dorvilus stressed the importance of the victory for the team.
“It shows what happens when we stay the course,” said Dorvilus, who celebrated his 22nd birthday with a pair of touchdowns and a victory. “We just keep going, going and going and going. No matter what happens through all the trials and tribulations, all the lessons. This can happen. We can actually win. It was good for everybody to see that.”
The Owls held a 26-20 lead late in the fourth quarter before Troy running back Shawn Southward broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run to put the Trojans ahead by one with 1:49 remaining.
Wilbert then led the offense on a 9-play, 74-yard scoring drive capped by Dukes' catch to give the Owls the victory.
“We were playing for the field goal,” said Wilbert, who completed 26-of-40 passes for 261 yards and threw four touchdowns. “I just took a shot with Dukes and he made the play.”
Pelini had the team practicing two-minute drills quite frequently earlier in the week and it worked in their favor against the Trojans.
"It's funny, in our two-minute drill this week (we practiced) 1:45, two timeouts,” Pelini said. “We almost nailed it. That's what we worked in four different drives and it came true tonight."
FAU (2-6, 1-4 Sun Belt) jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead in the first half led by two touchdowns from the combination of Wilbert to Dorvilus in the first quarter.
The Trojans (4-4, 3-3) countered with 17 points of their own in the span of 4:12 to force a 17-all tie at halftime.
The wind proved a factor in the first half, with winds blowing around 30 mph, but died down in the second half, which made it easier on the Owls offense in the fourth quarter.
“It was definitely a factor,” Wilbert said. “In the third quarter I was thinking to myself, in the back of my head, we’ve got to get a lot of points while we have the wind, but it started dying down toward the third or fourth quarter. I don’t think it was a big deal at the end.”
The victory proved to be a huge morale boost for a squad that has struggled to win that elusive second game.
“We’re building a foundation - We’re not trying to win a national championship right now,” Pelini said. “We’re laying a foundation for the future. I think we'll continue to do that as we continue to work hard and play with pride and play for each other and all those great things.”
GameBrowser: FAU 34, Troy 27
On FAU's final drive, the Owls converted a 3rd and 8 play from the Troy 45 when QB Graham Wilbert connected with Nexon Dorvilus for a 12-yard gain. The play gave the Owls a fresh set of downs and stopped the clock as the Owls could begin to think about taking a shot at the end zone.
- FAU may have appeared to be at rock bottom after last week's 37-34 double overtime loss at South Alabama, but the lessons learned in that defeat are what put the Owls over the top vs. Troy.
- To FAU's credit, players didn't get too down during the six-game losing streak but winning the important second game of 2012 (and improving on last year's victory total) should be a huge morale boost for the rest of the season.
- Even after blowing a 17-point lead in the first half and 9-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Owls didn't get rattled and managed to battle back.
- 14 – Number of consecutive Sun Belt games the Owls had lost until Saturday, just one away from the conference record of 15 consecutive losses by North Texas from 2007-09.
- 4 – Touchdown passes by Owls quarterback Graham Wilbert, the first time an FAU player other than Rusty Smith has thrown for four Tds.
- 2 – Number of times FAU has beaten Troy in 10 games. The last time the Owls beat the Trojans was in 2007 when FAU clinched the Sun Belt Conference with a 38-32 victory.