Aug. 28, 2003
MURFREESBORO, TN - Florida Atlantic University stunned Middle Tennessee State University, 20-19, Thursday night in the Owls' season opener in Murfreesboro, TN. Jared Allen connected with Roosevelt Bynes on a 62-yard touchdown pass as time expired to give the Division I-AA Owls the improbable victory against the I-A Blue Raiders.
"This was one of the most courageous and superlative wins I ever been a part of," said FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger. "If we can play at this level, or above, for the rest of the season, this game will go down in the annals of FAU football history."
When Eugene Gross ran for an 11-yard touchdown with 6:11 remaining in the game, it seemed MTSU was poised to prevent the upset leading 19-7.
That's when the FAU comeback began. The Owls put together a 12-play, 75 yard drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Bynes. That pulled FAU within 19-14 with 2:53 to play.
FAU then stopped MTSU on three plays, forcing a punt. Colby Smith promptly angled his 36-yard boot out of bounds at the two-yard line with 1:42 left in the game. What began at the point was a game-winning, eight-play, 98-yard drive. After a three-yard rush by Doug Parker, Allen hit Bynes for a 12-yard completion for a first down at the 17. On second down, the same two connected for a 20-yard pass play for a first down at the FAU 37.
Three plays later, on 4th and nine from the 38, and time running out, Allen took the snap, bobbled the ball, scrambled left and hit Bynes downfield who did the rest, eluding the MTSU defender and scampering untouched the rest of the way to give the Owls the 20-19 victory.
"I'm just so happy," said Bynes after the game. "I don't even know what to say. Their defensive back missed the tackle, and all I saw was green in front of me. It's a great feeling to score the game-winner."
Bynes finished with six catches for 126 yards and both offense touchdowns for the Owls. Allen was 17-of-28 for 208 yards. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The game was scoreless in the first quarter before MTSU's Nick McAfee caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Andrico Hines to put the Blue Raiders up 6-0 with 10:46 left in the second quarter. MTSU failed on its extra point try.
With 2:29 left in the half, Shomari Earls blocked a Colby Smith punt, and Taurian Osborne picked it up in the endzone, helping FAU to a 7-6 lead. MTSU took advantage of an FAU turnover and added a 37-yard field goal with nine second left in the half to take a 9-7 lead at the break.
Much like the first quarter, neither team was able to score in the third quarter, setting up the dramatic fourth quarter.
In all, MTSU had 343 total yards to FAU's 257. However, the Owls outgained the Blue Raiders 185-50 in the fourth quarter while holding MTSU to just three first downs. Allen went 13-of-17 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was much the same story with Bynes, who had five of his six catches in the final period for 111 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Quentin Swain led FAU with 10 tackles. Tyrone Higgins and Chris McKinley each had seven while Chris Laskowski and Christian Amaya added six. The Owls' defense, which held MTSU in many key situations, forced the Blue Raiders into 10 punts. Penalties were also a factor, with both teams combining 201 yards on 21 penalties. MTSU was damaged most with 11 penalties for 120 yards.
The win was Florida Atlantic's first against a Division I-A team and also marked the first time FAU picked up a victory in its season opener. The Owls next face Valdosta State, September 6, in their home opener at Lockhart Stadium.