FAU coach Carl Pelini celebrates the Owls' 34-27 victory vs. Troy on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Owl Pix)
'Let's just take a shot'
Even in position to kick a game-winning field goal, FAU coach Carl Pelini wanted to go for a touchdown with the game on the line. Here's how the Owls scored their late touchdown to beat Troy 34-27 on Saturday.
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BOCA RATON – Trailing Troy 27-26 with less than two minutes remaining, Florida Atlantic only needed a field goal to win Saturday's game.
A field goal was just the backup plan.
Faced with kicking into a wind that had died down from earlier 30 mph gusts but still affecting play and with a kicker who had three attempts blocked the week before, the Owls wanted a touchdown.
Even after driving into field goal range, the Owls decided to throw to the end zone, resulting in FAU quarterback Graham Wilbert's 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver William Dukes with 17 seconds remaining that gave the Owls their first victory since the season-opener vs. Wagner.
Once in field-goal range, FAU coach Carl Pelini told offensive coordinator Brian Wright to try for the touchdown so the game wouldn't come down to a field goal attempt.
“We felt like the 25-yard line was field goal-range,” Pelini said. “Once we got into field goal-range, I said to Brian, 'Let's take shots. We don't want to leave it in the kicker's hands. With the wind and whatever else, let's just take a shot' and we executed it.”
The decision to eschew a field goal attempt had its roots in last week's 37-34 double-overtime loss at South Alabama. Against the Jaguars, Pelini called for a field goal on a 1st-and-10 play from the South Alabama 15-yard line with :12 remaining and the scored tied at 31.
Placekicker Mitch Anderson, who had already had a field goal attempt blocked earlier in the game, attempted a 32-yard field goal that could have won the game, but was batted away by the Jaguars to send the game into overtime.
A few days later, Pelini says he wished he would have faked the field goal and gone for the touchdown.
“Driving on the bus, I was kicking myself and couldn't wait to see the film,” Pelini said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “Sure enough, we would have walked in.”
A week later against Troy, the Owls were given the rare chance to redeem themselves.
After Troy running back Shawn Southward's 31-yard touchdown run gave the Trojans a 27-26 lead with 1:49 remaining, the Owls took over on their own 26-yard line armed with two timeouts - and the experience of playing in a close game.
Wilbert quickly drove the Owls down the field with quick passes to Dukes and tight end Nexon Dorvilus, who caught a 12-yard pass on a 3rd-and-8 play to give the Owls the ball on the Troy 33-yard line, just out of field goal range of Anderson. However a 5-yard completion to Dukes on the next play and a 6-yard pass to Dorvilus gave the Owls another first down and the ball on the Troy 22-yard line.
That's when FAU decided to run a play it calls “Venus.”
Dukes, the primary receiver, lined up to the right and headed to the right sideline near the end zone. Dukes and Dorvilus were both in the vicinity when Wilbert tossed it to Dukes, who lept over Troy true freshman cornerback Chris Davis who, at 5-foot-8, gave up eight inches to the 6-foot-4 Dukes.
“I was supposed to run a hitch, but the corner was playing up and I just took it deeper,” Dukes said. “I knew I had it.”
Dukes easily caught the ball, setting off a wild celebration in the end zone and on the sidelines with :17 remaining.
“We were playing for a field goal and then I just took a shot with Dukes,” Wilbert said. “He made the play, the O-Line did a great job and that's the game.”
After taking a 32-27 lead by scoring on the nine-play, 74-yard drive, FAU called timeout to set up its 2-point conversion play, a successful pass from Wilbert to Jonathan Wallace. On the ensuing kickoff, the Trojans took a knee at the 1-yard line thinking they were in the end zone and three plays later fumbled the ball while attempting a lateral to give the Owls the victory.
“It was a situation where we fought our guts out and tried hard ” said Troy coach Larry Blakeney. “They did the job. They drove down the field.”