Oct 13, 2001 by Bob Gosmann, Boca Raton News
MIAMI- Jacksonville coach Steve Gilbert paid FAU a supreme compliment after watching the Owls dismantle his team 35-12 on Saturday at Pro Player Stadium.
"They're going to compete at the I-A level before too long," Gilbert said. "About 99 percent of them are freshmen, and it's scary to think what they will be like when they develop in the weight room and as football players. They have a bright future. The sky's the limit." Although Jacksonville (4-2) is a non-scholarship program that has never defeated a I-AA school that gives scholarships, the Dolphins' roster was loaded with seniors. FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger was excited with the way the Owls (3-2) wiped out a two-game losing streak by physically dominating a more experienced team.
"The defense played with more reckless abandon," he said. "Our running game finally got on track. I'm relieved we don't have to go through another week trying to figure out how to get a win."
Redshirt freshman running back Doug Parker and the offensive line made a statement to the announced crowd of 10,295 how ready they were to play on the game's first drive. Parker capped an 11-play, 72-yard scoring march with a 1-yard touchdown run. That was Parker's first rushing touchdown of the season, and it turned out to be just the start of a monster game. Parker gained 110 yards on 22 carries and had four rushing touchdowns.
"Our offensive linemen pushed them back, and I ran north and south," he said. "That is why I got the four touchdowns."
Schnellenberger said much of Parker's success could be attributed to his newfound willingness to give his blocking a chance to develop.
"Doug made the commitment that he was going to give the hole that was called in the huddle every chance to be open," Schnellenberger said. "He hit the hole hard and burst through. It was more strength and power than finesse."
FAU's front four and defense in general prevented Jacksonville from establishing a running game to match the Owls. Senior running back Brent Alexander came in averaging 116.8 rushing yards per game. After four quarters against the Owls, he managed just 36 yards on 12 carries.
"Our kids accepted the challenge," said FAU defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza, whose unit produced a season-high seven sacks. "If you cut off the head of the beast, then the beast dies. (Alexander) couldn't run because we had guys attacking him. Our defensive interior (Ramon Rickards, Danny Hernandez, William Gray and Yrvens Guerrier) did a fantastic job."
The Owls made two major defensive stands that helped them open up a big lead. After FAU's opening touchdown, Jacksonville, aided by two penalties, moved the ball from its 25-yard line to the FAU 11. On third-and-eight, redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Walker shot through the offensive line on a blitz and sacked quarterback Gary Cooper to force a field goal.
"We felt like we wanted to pressure them, but we wanted to see how they attacked us," Hoza said. "They moved the ball, so we said it's time to pin our ears back and make a play."
FAU's defense also rose to the occasion early in the second quarter. FAU redshirt freshman fullback Dekolan James mishandled a pitch from redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Allen, and the Dolphins recovered the ball on FAU's 1-yard line.
After three defensive stops, Jacksonville settled for a 22-yard field goal. Instead of losing momentum and facing a deficit on the scoreboard, the Owls were enthused to still be leading 7-6.
"That was the series of the game," Schnellenberger said. Added Hoza: "That was huge. We really got our mettle tested."
Walker led FAU in sacks, while safety Mauratae Johnson topped the Owls in tackles.
"It was encouraging to play a game like that," Allen said. "We've got to keep the momentum going."