By: David DiPino Contributing Writer
The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls football team has experienced flight plans deterred by inclement weather over the past two seasons including numerous lightning delays but even when they experienced perfect 85-degree, balmy, breezy weather in Boca Raton against the Charlotte 49ers, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s college football team, FAU lost the game by the score of 28-23. In 2015, the Owls beat Charlotte handedly in North Carolina, 17-7. This year, after a week of Hurricane Matthew delays, practices being moved to Tampa and the game being moved from a 3:30 p.m. Saturday start to Sunday at 2 p.m. once again knocked FAU football off track. The loss to Charlotte was the Owls fifth in a row after winning their 2016 opener against the Southern Illinois University Salukis. The combined record of the Owls during the 2015 and current 2016 seasons is four wins and 14 losses. Charlie Partridge, Head Coach since 2014, has a combined record of seven wins and 23 losses.
Lightning has struck the FAU football program, three times in fact over the past full season at FAU Stadium in 2015 with losses against the University of Miami Hurricanes and Rice University Owls, and during this season in a game against the Ball State University Cardinals. In the Miami game, the Owls were tied 20-20 with the Hurricanes prior to an hour-plus lightning delay and 30,000 fans in attendance, against Rice, FAU led 26-14 in the fourth quarter before a 90-minute delay soaked FAU’s chances and Rice came back to win 27-26. Prior to losing to Charlotte at home, FAU led Ball State University before the first of three lightning delays hit the pause button on the Owls hopes and eventually the Cardinals scored on their final possession to win the game after a lengthy, final weather delay.
“The biggest challenge honestly is when you lose practice time. We’re used to heat and we live in heat year round. The biggest thing is when we lose practice time. The last couple of years we’ve lost a significant amount of practice time and so have the other two teams down here in South Florida (FIU, Miami) have to also deal with I’m sure. Hopefully as the weather begins to clear we’ll get all of our practice time,” Coach Partridge said.
Owls players didn’t seemed to mind the Charlotte game getting moved to 12 p.m. on a Sunday. The game between Charlotte and FAU also was free admission for fans, but after Hurricane Matthew closures and the game being moved from Saturday to Sunday, just a few took advantage of the free admittance into the game and the attendance was the lowest the Owls have had at FAU Stadium this season.
“Practice is hot so we’re used to it. We sometimes get the pleasure of having night games but we’re ready for that (playing at night) just like we’re ready for the hot sun. We go through that every day. It felt good. It was a nice day, 12-o-clock. Just come out there and have fun and enjoy the game. Basically it’s going out there and be blessed and enjoy the game. Anytime I’m ready to go,” Buddy Howell Jr said.
In FAU Football’s midway point of 2016, against the Charlotte 49ers in what looked like early on as a mirror image defensive game reminiscent of last year’s Owls victory, the teams looked evenly matched on the field. Owls running back Buddy Howell Jr. scored on three touchdown runs all of three yards each, including two touchdowns in the second quarter alone and the last to narrow Charlotte’s lead in the fourth quarter. Howell Jr. now has 12 career rushing touchdowns for FAU, and is only the fifth Owls football player since the program’s inception in 2001 to have more than 10 career rushing touchdowns. Other bright points for the Owls included Greg Joseph connecting on his 38th field goal of his FAU career, good for second place all-time for the Owls.
The surprise in the game against Charlotte came from Coach Partridge, when in the second quarter he inserted freshman quarterback Daniel Parr for a series rather than starter Jason Driskel, a sophomore and the Owls starter so far all season long. Parr, a freshman at FAU, played at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens. After leading FAU into Charlotte territory, Parr had found some momentum with the Owls offense going 2-5 passing, with 22 passing yards before leaving the game in just the second quarter after getting injuring his non-throwing hand on his first rushing attempt. Parr did return in the fourth quarter with FAU down by five points and just over seven minutes in the game but he couldn’t get anything going for the Owls and they had to punt the ball away back to the 49ers.
“Coach Partridge told me the Friday before the Charlotte game I’d be playing the third series of each half. After being in the game and completing a couple of passes I definitely felt more comfortable. I was up to speed in practice but the game speed was just a little faster (and felt ready for it),” he said.
Parr added that when Driskel was put back in for FAU to try and rally the Owls for the last offensive series he wasn’t bothered because he is ready to do whatever needed for his team.
The Owls host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a Conference USA Football game at 3:30 p.m., on Saturday, October 29, at FAU Stadium. In November, FAU home games include games at 6p.m. on November 12, against the University of Texas El Paso Miners and on November 19, against the Old Dominion University Monarchs. For more information and tickets to the upcoming three home games visit www.fausports.com.
By: David DiPino Contributing Writer