FAU coach Carl Pelini was 3-9 in his first season as a college coach. (Photo courtesy of Owl Pix)
Reasons to believe
After a trying start to the season, FAU football coach Carl Pelini saw significant improvement and reasons to be optimistic about 2013.
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BOCA RATON - Tougher and smarter.
Those are the qualities Carl Pelini hopes will define FAU football in his second year as the Owls' coach.
“I do think that we laid the foundation for the program,” said Pelini, after spending a couple weeks reviewing game video from this past season. “And I think there is a level understanding now of what I want and what my coaches want.”
FAU went 3-9 in Pelini's first season as a head coach – a year that was trying on Owl fans' emotions, yet offered reasons for optimism.
“A lot of times I felt more like a psychologist than a football coach - trying to handle the team in a way to make sure they knew the improvement was happening but at the same time have a sense of urgency,” Pelini admitted.
Few would argue that the Owls didn't make significant progress in 2012. After starting the season with a dreadful, mistake-plagued 7-3 victory over Division I-AA Wagner followed by six consecutive losses, the Owls won two of their final five and were competitive in all of those games.
Coming off a devastating 37-34 double-overtime loss to South Alabama, FAU responded with a last second victory at home over Troy. After a tight loss to Navy, the Owls turned in their best performance of the season in a 37-28 win at bowl-bound Western Kentucky.
“By the time we got to Western Kentucky our new system was installed,” Pelini said. “We showed that day what we were capable of when we played clean football.”
Pelini called the emergence of Graham Wilbert as a legitimate Division I starting quarterback, “the story of the year for me,” then quickly added the play of Brent Harstad, Andrae Kirk, Nexon Dorvilus, William Dukes and Daniel McKinney were also bright spots.
All but Wilbert and Harstad from that list will return next season.
“For one reason or another they had all not reached their potential,” Pelini said. “You get enough of those good stories, your program is on its way.”
The Owls will spend the off-season doing what most college football teams do – lifting weights and working on conditioning.
After spending a full year working with Pelini and strength coach Chuck Lobe, the Owls should know what to expect.
“I want to be a physical football team,” Pelini said. “I want people to leave the field against us and say, That was a heck of a football team. That was a tough football team - physical and relentless.”