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FAU defensive back Keith Reaser, left, celebrates with defensive end Martin Wright after Reaser's fourth-quarter touchdown during the Owls' 37-28 victory vs. Western Kentucky on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Josh Fryd)



FAU survives wild fourth quarter for a 37-28 victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday to snap a 15-game road losing streak.

Originally published on 11/10/2012

by Chuck King

All season long Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini has been saying his Owls need to learn how to close out a game.

For the second time in three weeks FAU showed it has the skill to pass that final exam – though at times the Owls' 37-28 victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday in Bowling Green, Ky. conjured memories of early season disasters.

Leading 31-21 and controlling the ball with two minutes to go in the ballgame, FAU running back Jonathan Wallace's fumble became a Quanterus Smith 75-yard touchdown return that cut the Owls' lead to a field goal.

Moments later Western Kentucky recovered an onside kick, only to have the play overturned by a Hilltoppers offside penalty. Christian Milstead snared the Hilltoppers' second on-side kick attempt, but even that didn't ensure an FAU victory.

The Owls couldn't quite run out the clock, punting the ball back to WKU with 16 seconds remaining.

FAU cornerback Keith Reaser finally sealed the deal for FAU by stealing the pitch on WKU's desperation hook-and-lateral attempt and returning it for a touchdown.

“It was the first road win against a very quality opponent," Pelini said. "I can’t express how big this is for our confidence. I told them going into the last three weeks, ‘You have three Sun Belt opponents. We can play with anyone in the Sun Belt. Let’s go prove it. Let’s go bring all three games down to the fourth quarter and see what happens.’ That’s what we did today.”

The clencher was the second big play by Reaser, whose third-quarter interception set up the touchdown that gave the Owls a lead they would not relinquish.

Following Reaser's interception, Graham Wilbert found Daniel McKinney racing across the middle of the field. McKinney handled the final 10 yards of the 20-yard reception on his own, giving the Owls their first lead of the game, 21-14. It was the second touchdown hook-up between Wilbert and McKinney on the afternoon.

Wilbert completed 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 257 yards and those two scores. He also tied the game at 7 early in the second quarter with a 1-yard plunge that was set up by Travis Jones' 48-yard punt return. The burst was the longest punt return of Jones' career and the third longest in program history.

The game was tied at 14 going into halftime after Wilbert led the Owls on a 13-play, 84-yard drive in the closing minutes of the half. After having one TD pass wiped away by an offensive pass interference penalty, Wilbert responded by eluding the WKU pass rush and tossing a six-yard touchdown pass to McKinney with 14 seconds remaining in the half.

FAU led 24-14 after Mitch Anderson's 47-yard field goal in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. That's when WKU's sluggish offense came to life. A little more than a minute later the Hilltoppers were in the end zone courtesy of Kawaun Jakes' 24-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Andrews.

WKU had a shot to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter, but Garrett Schwettman's field goal attempt sailed wide right. That miss proved critical in the final minutes of play.

Damian Fortner's 4-yard run with 3:09 remaining in the game pushed the Owls' lead back to 10 points and seemed to seal the victory. A minute later Wallace's fumble let WKU back into the game.

GameBrowser: FAU 37, Western Kentucky 28

Game Changer

Garrett Schwettman's missed 32-yard field goal would have tied the game midway through the fourth quarter. Instead, FAU took possession and marched 80 yards for a score, taking 4:50 off the clock.

Trending Topics

  • Graham Wilbert continues to be surprisingly elusive in the pocket. He's difficult to bring down and can buy himself some extra time – like he did on the second quarter TD pass to McKinney.
  • The Owls' punt return team finally showed some life as evidenced by Travis Jones' 48-yard return.
  • FAU coach Carl Pelini wants his players to learn how to win, but it seems as though his coaches may need to hit the books, too. FAU was still in the shotgun while trying to run out the clock and one snap was dangerously high. Wonder whether FAU will practice taking snaps under center this week?
  • The victory snapped FAU's 15-game road losing streak. Their last road victory came at WKU in 2010.

Key Stats

11 – Penalties totaling 100 yards committed by FAU.

16 – Rushing yards in the first half for FAU on 16 carries. The Owls finished with 98 yards on the ground.

48 – Yard punt return by Travis Jones, tying Tavious Polo for the longest in FAU's FBS history. It's the third longest overall for FAU. Brittney Tellis returned a punt 75 yards against Albany in 2001.

88 – Rushing yards for Antonio Andrews, halting a string of seven consecutive 100 yard games for the WKU running back.

191 – Passes by Graham Wilbert without an interception. His last pick came against Georgia in the Owls' third game of the season.

Up Next

With its road schedule complete, FAU returns home for a Friday night Shula Bowl. The Owls host Florida International in what will likely be the final meeting of the two rivals for the next few years.


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> By The Numbers: Official Boxscore

Re-Tweet Replay

  • #FAUfootball Underway at Western Kentucky. Hilltoppers return the opening kickoff to their own 22 yard line.
  • Methodical first drive by the Hilltoppers has them on the board first. Andrew's three-yard run up the middle has WKU leading 7-0.
  • FAU trails WKU 7-0 after first quarter, but a Travis Jones 48-yd punt return has the Owls in scoring position.
  • Wilbert scores from 1 yard out on a baby QB draw. FAU and WKU knotted at 7.
  • FAU int by LeBlanc near the red zone thwarts WKU scoring opportunity.
  • Check that - Glanton got the FAU pick off a deflection.
  • WKU back on top after a 10-play drive culminates with a 6-yard TD pass from Jakes to McNeal. WKU 14, FAU 7.
  • Wilbert leads FAU down the field, buys some time and hits McKinney for a 6-yd TD. Game likely to be tied at 14 at half.
  • #FAU and WKU tied at 14 at the half.
  • Owls manage only 16 yards rushing on 16 tries in first half. Hard to believe they can win by averaging 1 yard rushing.
  • Wilbert 15-of-23 for 158 yards in first half. Dukes the top target with 5 catches for 45 yards.
  • Reaser follows a big hit with an interception. FAU has the ball just outside the red zone.
  • FAU capitalizes quickly. Wilbert and McKinney hook up for their second score of the game. Owls led 21-14.
  • FAU will take a lead into the fourth quarter. Owls lead WKU 21-14 and have the ball in Hilltopper territory.
  • Mitch Anderson drills 47-yard FG into the wind to give the Owls a two-possession lead. FAU 24-14 early in the fourth.
  • FAU had been doing a good job stopping WKU RB Andrews on the ground, but he slips away for a TD reception. FAU 24, WKU 21, 13:08 left.
  • WKU misses tying field goal attempt. FAU still leads WKU 24-21 with less than 8 minutes to go.
  • Damian Fortner short TD run restores Owls'  10 point lead. FAU 31, WKU 21 with 3:09 remaining.
  • Freedom Whitfield int on 3rd down Owls have the ball inside the 20 and looking for 3rd win of season. FAU 31-21. Under 3 remaining.
  • How quickly things change. Wallace fumble returned for a WKU TD. FAU still leads, but WKU has a chance. 31-28, 1:55 left.
  • Flag negates WKU recovery of onside kick. Milstead snatches second onside kick. Owls trying to run out the clock.
  • Reaser steals the pitch on an attempted hook-and-lateral returning it for a TD and sealing FAU's victory. FAU 38, WKU 28.
  • Got ahead of myself. FAU missed the extra point but it doesn't matter. FAU defeats WKU 37-28.
  • FAU coach Carl Pelini gets the Gatorade bath following the win.

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