Graham Wilbert threw for 126 yards and led a fourth-quarter rally to lead the Owls to a season-opening victory over Wagner
Aug. 31, 2012
By Dale Long
Boca Raton, FL - The Florida Atlantic University football team made Head Coach Carl Pelini a winner in his coaching debut, defeating Wagner College 7-3 on Friday, August 31 at the new on-campus football stadium.
Senior quarterback Graham Wilbert sparked the offense in the second half, connecting on 10 of 13 passes for 126 yards and the game-winning 39-yard touchdown pass to senior wide out Byron Hankerson with 11:36 left in the game.
"I had some butterflies before the game, but overall it was just another football game," said Pelini. "There was no sense of panic at halftime. We did make some mistakes but we will learn from this experience. A team's greatest leap should come between the first and second games."
Later, the Owls sealed the victory with an 18-play, 76-yard drive that lasted over eight minutes. The team converted two fourth-down plays and moved the ball to Wagner's 1 yard line before turning the ball over with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
"The offensive line created some good running lanes in the second half," said Jackson.
Jackson ended the game with 99 yards rushing on 21 carries, while Hankerson hauled in five catches for 93 yards.
"We just wanted to win," noted Wilbert. "Nothing surprises me after five years of collegiate football. We were able to move the ball down the field in the second half."
Defensively, senior linebacker David Hinds tied for game-high honors with 10 tackles. Junior safety Jeremy McKnight Recorded nine tackles, and sophomore defensive back D'Juon Smith had an interception in the second quarter to end a Wagner drive in the end zone.
Wagner (0-1) took a 3-0 lead on a 30-yard field goal by David Lopez with 11:13 left in the second quarter.
FAU won its first season-opening game since 2010 when they defeated UAB 33-32. The team will open Sun Belt Conference action on Saturday, September 8, at 7 p.m. against Middle Tennessee State University in Murfressboro, Tenn.
FAU wins its first home opener since UAB in 2008
Quarterback Stephen Curtis made his first career start
Wide receiver Byron Hankerson had his first career touchdown reception in the fourth quarter