By: David DiPino Contributing Writer
Back in 2008, during the height of Coach Howard Schnellenberger’s era, the Florida Atlantic University Football program and their fans had just enjoyed back to back winning seasons and consecutive bowl game wins. Unfortunately, FAU hasn’t had a winning season since and the program hasn’t finished higher than fourth place in the end of season conference standings. In fact, since 2008 FAU hasn’t even sniffed a post season bowl game – the Super Bowl of a successful college football season. In their third straight year under the leadership of the program’s only fourth head coach, Charlie Partridge, the question is – can a team led by a young and unproven head coach lead the program back to winning ways and a bowl game berth?
The question of another conference championship and bowl game could be answered by a talented group of Owls football players led by Trey Hendrickson, an FAU defensive end recently named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list after recording 13.5 quarterback sacks during the 2015 season. After each college football season, the Chuck Bednarik Award is awarded to the best defensive college football player in the U.S. as judged by the Maxwell Football Club. Hendrickson, a senior from Apopka majoring in criminal justice at FAU, is the Owls All-Time Leader with 20 Sacks. Last year, Hendrickson led Conference USA in sacks and was ranked no. 2 nationally for NCAA Division I-A College Football. He’ll lead an Owls defense which had a program record 35 sacks last season.
On the offensive side of the ball the Owls will soar behind the leadership of offensive lineman Dillon DeBoer, a senior from Tarpon Springs and now a graduate student studying for an MBA in business after already completing a degree in finance. DeBoer’s versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line including center, will help FAU control the line of scrimmage. DeBoer is on a college football watch list for the Rimington Award, which is given out to NCAA Division I-A College Football’s best center. The award also raises money for cystic fibrosis, an inherited, life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system.
Dalton Schomp, a senior punter majoring in criminal justice at FAU who last season led NCAA Division I-A College Football in yards per punt in 2015 has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. The Ray Guy Award is given out annually to NCAA Division I-A College Football’s best punter. Schomp, a senior from Seminole set a new FAU record with a 76-yard punt. With the senior leadership of Hendrickson, DeBoer and Schomp, Coach Partridge will double last season’s win total (3) and have the Owls talking about going bowling. First, FAU needs to get off to a hot start on a very favorable schedule with only two teams likely to be in the Top-25 leaving Coach Partridge and the Owls 10 winnable games. Surely, FAU won’t win ten games, the program’s never won more than eight games in a single season, but if they win six games they could be putting on their bowling shoes. To be bowl eligible, teams have to win at least six games.
FAU Owls Football schedule and predictions:
September 3, 2016 – Southern Illinois University Salukis at FAU Owls, 6p.m., FAU Stadium. FAU 32 SIU 29 – this one will be close as both teams are coming off three win seasons in 2015.
September 10, 2016 – FAU Owls at University of Miami Hurricanes, 6 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens. UM 51 FAU 36 – FAU will hang with Miami just like they did in 2015 but with the addition of former University of Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt, a Boca Raton native, the “U” will be much more effective offensively.
September 17, 2016 – FAU Owls at Kansas State University Wildcats, 2:30 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS. KSU 49 FAU 23 – this will be the farthest FAU travels this year and it will show on their weary wings after a letdown at Miami and the Wildcats still have momentum after winning the last three games in 2015 before losing to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Liberty Bowl.
September 24, 2016 – Ball State University Cardinals at FAU Owls, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium. FAU Owls 24 Ball State 10 – FAU is actually a bit more advanced and two touchdowns better offensively after tough road losses at Miami and K-State. The Owls defense will also shine in this one and the later home start will rejuvenate the program and bring FAU to 2-2 early in the season.
October 1, 2016 – FAU Owls at Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers, 7p.m., FIU Stadium. Miami. FAU Owls 27 FIU Golden Panthers 24 – the Owls open their Conference USA Season with a rivalry game with FIU who won five games last year but has only won the Shula Bowl (FAU vs. FIU rivalry game named after legendary football Coach Don Shula) four times since the inaugural effort in 2002. No Shula Bowl has been closer than seven points until this year when FAU squeezes out a win with a late field goal as time expires.
October 8, 2016 – University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) 49ers at FAU Owls, 3:30 p.m., FAU Stadium. FAU Owls 34 Charlotte 49ers 19 – the Owls will win two in a row and stay undefeated at home with a win over Charlotte, a team they dominated 17-7 last year in a rain squall up in North Carolina.
October 15, 2016 – FAU Owls at Marshall University Thundering Herd, 7 p.m., Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV. Marshall Thundering Herd 38 FAU Owls 21 – Marshall won 10 games last year including the St. Petersburg Bowl, a 16-10 win over UConn. Coach Partridge is 0-2 against the Herd. Marshall dominates this one front to back.
October 29, 2016 – Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers at FAU Owls, 3:30 p.m., FAU Stadium. WKU Hilltoppers 35 FAU Owls 28 – with the Owls coming off a bye week they get started a little slower in this one and while they keep the score close, they lose their second in a row, after last year’s Conference USA and Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park Champions, WKU win by just a touchdown late.
November 5, 2016 – FAU Owls at Rice University Owls, TBA, Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas. Rice Owls 44 FAU Owls 43 – In the battle of the Owls, Rice has momentum after defeating FAU 27-26 in Boca Raton last season. Rice is just one season removed from winning the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl and FAU loses by a close call in the Lone Star State.
November 12, 2016 – University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) Miners at FAU Owls, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium. FAU 28 UTEP 23 – the Owls avenge a 10-point loss last year at UTEP 27-17 in El Paso, TX.
November 19, 2016 – Old Dominion University (ODU) Monarchs at FAU Owls, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium. FAU 16 ODU 14 – the last two meetings between the Owls and Monarchs were split by a total of five points. Expect ODU to keep it close for the third straight year but FAU prevails on a late field goal and becomes bowl eligible at 6-5.
November 26, 2016 FAU Owls at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Blue Raiders, 5:30 p.m., Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN. MTSU Blue Raiders 37 FAU 14 – the Blue Raiders have owned FAU since the Coach Schnellenberger era ended with MTSU winning seven meetings over the Owls since 2008. Murfreesboro is a tough place to pull out a win and FAU stumbles in their regular season finale.
Prediction: The 2016 FAU Owls will finish the season bowl eligible with 6 wins, 6 losses, and be invited to play the Central Michigan University Chippewas in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. Friday, December 23, 2016 at 1 p.m., Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau Bahamas.
Tickets to any or all 2016 FAU Owls Football games at FAU Stadium, FAU Boulevard, Boca Raton, are available by calling 1-866-FAU-Owls or online at: https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/fau/EN/buy/details/FB2016 or www.fausports.com. Season ticket packages start at $60.
By: David DiPino Contributing Writer