New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans Bowl
Schnellenberger says FAU ready for step on to bowl stage
December 6, 2007
MIAMI (AP) -Nine years ago, Howard Schnellenberger began building a football program from scratch, pledging that his team would compete with Florida, Miami and Notre Dame.
The Florida Atlantic Owls aren't quite there yet. But they are bowl-bound for the first time.
As the Sun Belt Conference champions, the Owls earned a berth in the New Orleans Bowl and will play Memphis on Dec. 21.
``It's a wonderful and exciting feeling,'' the 73-year-old Schnellenberger said.
Schnellenberger started the Miami Hurricanes' 1980s dynasty and then built Louisville into a Top 25 team, but the Owls' success may be his niftiest achievement yet. They won the conference last week with a 38-32 upset of Troy.
``It's a reward for all the things that they've done to this point, but more importantly than that, it's still part of the mission that all the kids came here for,'' Schnellenberger said.
The Owls played their first game in 2001 and their first full Division I-A schedule in 2005. Schnellenberger has been the coach from the start, and South Florida's abundant high school talent gave him a solid recruiting base.
To make it to the bowl game, the Owls went 7-5 overall and 6-1 in the Sun Belt.
``Our goals were to win our conference and beat one of the big teams out of the conference. And we did both of that,'' quarterback Rusty Smith said. ``We made it to a bowl game. This is simply just additional stuff.''
Before the season, Schnellenberger called this Florida Atlantic team his most talented and experienced. The Owls won their opener against defending co-conference champion Middle Tennessee and later earned a milestone victory over Minnesota.
``They feel that they have done what they set out to do and they're a complete success at this moment,'' Schnellenberger said.
He and his players recently marched in a holiday parade, giving fans a chance to applaud a team countering the recent trend of failure in South Florida sports. The Miami Hurricanes failed to make a bowl game and the hapless Miami Dolphins are 0-12.
But the Owls are bowl-bound.
``Is it miraculous? Possibly,'' said former player Chris Laskowski, who was with the team during its early years. ``But for people who have played there and bought into the reality, it's not a surprise, because it's the way we always thought we could be.''
Football is still new at the Boca Raton campus, and the Owls played their home games this season in Fort Lauderdale or Miami Gardens, averaging about 15,700 fans per game.
By 2010, the Owls hope to have a 30,000-seat stadium, and their bandwagon is growing. Signs proclaiming support for the Owls are posted on campus, and Smith said classmates sometimes greet him with congratulatory words.
Schnellenberger said his inbox is flooded with e-mails and his voice mail is full.
``There is a real appeal for the underdog in this United States of ours, particularly in sports,'' he said.
The Owls are no longer that much of an underdog - they're favored to beat Memphis.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
2007 New Orleans Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel
Florida Atlantic (7-5) vs. Memphis (7-5)
Conference Matchup: Sun Belt vs. Conference USA
Date: Dec. 21
Location: New Orleans
Spread: Florida Atlantic -2
On the surface, there doesn't seem to be a lot to get excited about for this game, a matchup of two 7-5 teams that most of the nation hasn't heard or seen much of, and a contest that seems like it exists just because there is some rule that any team with seven wins gets to participate in a bowl game. But try telling that to the Florida Atlantic Owls. Picked by most media outlets to finish sixth in their conference, they went 6-1 in the Sun Belt and wrapped up the school's first-ever bowl bid with a 38-32 win at conference frontrunner Troy in the season finale. So while much of the viewing public might see this game as just a walkthrough on the TV set in preparation for the meaningful bowl games, the Owls have other thoughts.
"If you get to go to the bowl game, we get 15 extra days of practice, we get much more TV coverage, we get mentioned in all the cumulative bowl stories," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said after the win over Troy. "With that attention comes more fans and better recruits. It is the first spiral in the upward spiral of success."
However, Memphis is not a lack for motivation, either. The Tigers started 2-4 and appeared headed toward a dismal season, then were dealt a blow when receiver Taylor Bradford was murdered. They, however, regrouped and made a success of their season.
There also is potential intrigue in that the game might be a high-scoring contest. Neither team plays much defense and they both like to throw quite a bit, too, factors contributing to the total coming in at 67.
Florida Atlantic can cover if: If the Owls bring the same type of intensity that they had in the win over Troy and do not show up with a "happy-to-be-here" attitude, they should be just fine. On paper the teams are strikingly similar; each has a quarterback with 3,000 yards (Rusty Smith has 3,352 with 27 touchdowns against just eight interceptions) and both teams have one of the nation's worst statistical defensive squads. The Owls like to spread the ball around, as they have four receivers that have at 375 yards receiving, led by Cortez Gent with 1,030 yards and nine touchdowns. Their leading rusher is Charles Pierre with 733 yards and seven touchdowns. In a match-up of seemingly even teams, you would think the nod would go to the squad from the tougher conference. However, the teams have two common opponents - Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State - and FAU beat them both, while Memphis lost to both clubs. Momentum also appears to favor the Owls.
Memphis can cover if: The Tigers can cover if they get the majority of the defensive stops … two might be enough. Carrying the nation's 103rd ranked defense, the Tigers haven't stopped many teams but they have managed to outscore some. They beat SMU 55-52 in the Nov. 24 season finale to secure a bowl bid. First-year offensive coordinator Clay Helton has the Tigers near the top of several offensive categories nationally, and their 308 yards per game passing ranks 12th. Quarterback Martin Hankins has thrown for 2,939 yards and 22 touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes. Joseph Doss has 715 yards and five touchdowns to lead the rushing attack.
General Notes: The over is 7-0 in FAU's last seven games. The Owls are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games on turf. The Tigers are 4-1 ATS in their last five as an underdog of three points or fewer. Schnellenberger is the former University of Miami coach.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans Bowl preview: Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Teams: Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Memphis Tigers
Date: Friday, Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
Line: Florida Atlantic -2½, Total 67½ points
Both the Memphis Tigers and the Florida Atlantic Owls rebounded from poor opening halves of the season to claim berths in the New Orleans Bowl.
The Tigers won five of their last six games to finish 7-5, advancing to their fourth bowl game in five seasons. The Owls upset Troy in their season finale to also finish 7-5. FAU also claimed the Sun Belt Conference title and the school’s first bowl appearance in the process.
Memphis might not like its opponent’s pedigree, having lost to a pair of Sun Belt schools earlier this season. Both defeats occurred before quarterback Martin Hankins returned from a hip injury in mid-October. From that point on, the Tigers’ offense became one of Conference-USA’s most potent. Memphis averaged 34 points and 504 yards of total offense in the second half of the season.
Hankins led the way, passing for at least 320 yards and three touchdowns in five of the Tigers’ final six contests. His top targets are Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton, a pair of sophomore receivers. Calhoun led the Tigers in receiving yards for the second straight year while Singleton’s 10 touchdown receptions underline the 6-foot-8 target’s red zone prowess.
The Tigers defense is a concern. Memphis held only one opponent under 21 points this season and conceded 50-plus points to three C-USA opponents.
Florida Atlantic will look to maintain its own brand of second-half firebrand football in the Louisiana Superdome. The Owls averaged 36 points per game in the second half, including a 38-point performance against the conference favorites in the final game of the season.
The win at Troy was the culmination of Florida Atlantic’s meteoric rise under head coach Howard Schnellenberger. A former national title winner from his years at Miami, Schnellenberger took over the Owls as they made their football debut seven years ago. Now Florida Atlantic is in a bowl game, the youngest NCAA football program to ever qualify for a bowl.
The offense is led by quarterback Rusty Smith, who posted the best passing numbers in the Sun Belt in only his sophomore season. Senior linebacker Cergile Sincere is the Owls’ defensive star and a reason why FAU easily topped the Sun Belt in turnover margin. Sincere made 108 tackles and forced six fumbles. A trio of Owls defensive backs also combined for 17 interceptions this season.
Both schools appearing at the New Orleans Bowl dug early-season holes for themselves but turned up the offensive firepower to fix their poor records. As such, the Tigers and Owls should deliver an explosive and entertaining game at the Superdome on Dec. 21.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans Bowl preview
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Dec. 21, 2007
Florida Atlantic Owls 7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS
Memphis Tigers 7-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS
Troy was the big favorite to go back to the New Orleans Bowl. However, Florida Atlantic had a different plan this season as it celebrated its first Sun Belt Conference Championship and bowl appearance. The Owls have been playing FCS football (formerly Division-I) for only three years. It goes to show what a job head coach Howard Schnellenberger has done in the short history of this program. It also shows how much talent there is in Florida.
Memphis was basically left for dead after a loss at home to Middle Tennessee to fall to 2-4 on the season. Two of the losses came against Sun Belt Conference teams, while another was a 36-point blowout at Central Florida. Head coach Tommy West was as good as gone. Instead of quitting, the Tigers responded by winning five of their last six games including a bowl-clinching overtime win over SMU. A preseason favorite in C-USA, Memphis will have to settle for a lower tier bowl. After its start, it will gladly take it.
Why Florida Atlantic will cover
The Sun Belt is the weakest conference in the nation but you can’t blame the Owls. They went out and played five teams from BCS conferences. The only win came against 1-11 Minnesota, but the four losses came against bowl-bound teams. The Owls do have a potent offense and Memphis had one of the worst defenses in the country, finishing 100th overall. Florida Atlantic led the nation in turnover margin and there is nothing more important than protecting the ball.
As mentioned, Memphis has already lost to two different SBC teams this season. Those two were middle-of-the-pack teams. The Tigers did finish the season with strong wins to get here but a couple plays here and there could have meant no postseason. Four of those final five victories came by a field goal or less. Of all the teams playing in bowl games, only Hawaii played an easier schedule than Memphis. One Tigers win came over FBS Jacksonville State and five others came against teams that are a combined 13-47.
Why Memphis will cover
While the Owls have a great offense, Memphis has an even better one. The Tigers finished 23rd in total offense and averaged 33.7 points per game in their final six contests (not counting the 13 points scored in three overtimes against SMU). Memphis did a great job in turnovers as well, finishing 17th in the country in margin. Don’t expect many sacks: the Tigers allowed the 14th fewest in the nation while Florida Atlantic was 117th in the country on defense, gaining only 1.3 sacks per game.
The win over Troy was obviously the biggest this season for Florida Atlantic. Other than that, there was no solid victory. A record 11 teams in bowl games were actually outgained in yardage this season and the Owls are part of that club. Many teams were able to take advantage of the porous Memphis rushing defense, but don’t expect the Owls to after finishing 91st in rushing offense and getting outgained on the ground in all but two games this season.
**Florida Atlantic is 0-7 ATS in non-conference games away from home over the last two seasons.
**Memphis is 10-2 ATS in road games when playing against a team with a winning record over the last seven years.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans Bowl
By Josh Jacobs
New Orleans Bowl
Florida Atlantic (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Memphis (7-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
How they got there:
Florida Atlantic reaches its first bowl game since the football program started in 2001. Seven years later FAU finds itself in New Orleans after finishing the season with a 7-5 SU record (4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS in its last six games – two of which went into overtime). While the stats don’t jump off the page, the Owls’ defense has been a staple for this school’s success. Hands down, FAU’s biggest win came on Dec. 1, when it nudged Troy on the road 38-32 and walked away with the Sun Belt Conference Title.
Memphis can hold its head up just as high, rebounding from a 1-2 SU start to cap off the season going 5-1 SU (4-2 ATS). Despite losing defensive end Taylor Bradford in a tragic on campus shooting, the Tigers where able to band together to make this their third bowl game appearance in the last four seasons. Memphis ended up tied for second in Conference USA with a 6-2 SU record. A triple-overtime win at home against Southern Methodist (55-52) put a huge red bow on the Tigers’ season.
What to expect:
There’s no doubt that FAU’s defense will be the main focal point against a Memphis offensive squad capable of going deep with the pigskin. While the Tigers finished the season with the 12th best passing offense in the nation (307.8 YPG), the ‘D’ squad struggled to stop opposing running backs (allowing 209.8 YPG on the ground). It may be under analyzed, but the Owls’ weren’t slouches with the air attack either. FAU finished the regular season with 286.2 YPG passing and racked up 30.1 PPG.
Players to watch:
Florida Atlantic – Quarterback Rusty Smith was voted the Sun Belt player of the year after wrapping up the season with 3,352 passing yards, 27 touch downs (school-record) and only eight interceptions. Wide receiver Cortez Gent was Smith’s No. 1 target, snatching up 61 receptions for 1,030 yards and nine TDs. Defensive team leaders Frantz Joseph and Cergile Sincere combined for 232 tackles with four sacks and two interceptions.
Memphis – Although he missed two games this season, QB Martin Hawkins gave life to the offensive unit, hitting his receivers for 2,939 passing yards with 22 scores (136.6 QB rating). Wide out Carlos Singleton led the core with 10 TDs, while WR Duke Calhoun registered a team high 850 receiving yards.
Both schools are average at best with the run game. FAU’s RB Charles Pierre holds a razor thin edge with 733 rushing yards and seven trips across the goal line.
This will be FAU’s first appearance in a bowl game throughout its brief football history. Coach Howard Schnellenberger is no stranger to the postseason, going 4-0 SU in bowl games. His most notable was the 1983 Orange Bowl win over Nebraska when he built the football program at the University of Miami from the ground up.
Memphis will make its second appearance in the New Orleans Bowl. In 2003 the Tigers ousted Sun Belt member North Texas 27-17. Its last bowl win came in 2005 by the score of 38-31 in the Motor City Bowl against Akron. Memphis is 4-1 SU and 2-1 ATS (1971 bowl game never had a spread installed) in its five total meetings when bowling.
Inside the Line: Florida Atlantic -2½, 67
Most books opened the line on this contest in the “Big Easy” at three-points in favor of FAU with a total set at 67. The total hasn’t moved but most books, including Bodog.com, have cut the spread by a ½ of a point (now at minus-2 ½ for FAU).
Memphis is 9-4-1 ATS in its last 14 overall games, while FAU is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games versus a team with a winning record.
Expert Opinion: Paul Prestridge from Bullseye Handicapping
FAU was predicted to finish 6th in the Sun Belt Conference by many experts. Needless to say, they erase all doubt that they are pretty decent football team as they finished with a respectable 7-5 SU record. However, they are clashing with a Memphis team that is used to playing bigger programs. Under first-year offensive coordinator Clay Helton, the Tigers are averaging 307.8 passing yards (13th nationally) and 447.4 total yards per game (23rd nationally) as well as 285 first downs. These are some of the best numbers in school history. The Tigers are also second in C-USA and 17th nationally in turnover margin at plus-.75 per game.
Florida Atlantic becomes the fastest football program to become a bowl contender from inception. Coach Howard Schnellenberger is a proven leader who can assemble a team from the ground up with very favorable results.
The Owl’s defense, while not ranking very high in the nation in any one category, will be the make or break factor for either a win or a loss. With FAU’s QB Rusty Smith going against a Memphis’ ‘D’ that has fallen flat on its face, the only school representing South Florida might just walk away with the victory.
For the Tigers, all eyes will be lined up on QB Martin Hawkins and WR Carlos Singleton. These two make the offensive spin and hold the key to Memphis’ chances in New Orleans.
One hidden factor is FAU’s running back Charles Pierre. While not the largest contributor when compared to the backs around the country, Pierre has been instrumental inside the red zone and finished the regular season with 726 rushing yards and seven TDs in 158 attempts.
Final Score: Florida Atlantic 37, Memphis 34
Re: New Orleans Bowl
The ball will be in the air in New Orleans bowl matchup
When the Memphis Tigers were sitting at 2-4 midway through the football season, a bowl game was the last thing on coach Tommy West's mind.
When Florida Atlantic played its first football game ever, a 40-7 loss to Slippery Rock on Sept. 1, 2001, a bowl game was the last thing on coach Howard Schnellenberger's mind.
But here they are. The Memphis Tigers won five of their last six games to reach the New Orleans Bowl against Florida Atlantic, a team that is going to its first bowl game in only its seventh year as a football program.
"We are going to use these practices to try and keep getting better at what we do," said West when the Tigers started practicing for the bowl game. "We are going to take a little extra time on some days to work our young guys and try to teach them and get a little bit of a jump on spring practice with them. Outside of that, we are going to prepare here and be ready when we get down there so we can enjoy the bowl."
And while most teams take the approach of using bowl practices to get ready for next season as well as the bowl game, they also realize there is an opponent waiting at the end of the practices.
"FAU is a team that does not beat itself," said West. "They are really good at protecting the ball, which is probably the best thing about them. They throw the ball really well but you have to beat them and they are hard to beat. They are a good team."
Memphis comes into the game having been outscored and outrushed on the season. But the Tigers have overcome that thanks to a prolific passing game orchestrated by Martin Hankins and Will Hudgens. Hankins was 236-of-389 for 2,939 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was intercepted 12 times. When he missed time with injury, Hudgens stepped in and hit 51-of-99 for 587 yards and five touchdowns. He was not intercepted.
Duke Calhoun was the leading receiver on the season with 58 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns but Carlos Singleton was the leading points producer out of the receivers with 10 touchdowns on 47 catches for 704 yards. Steven Black added 41 for 472 yards while Maurice Jones caught 36 passes for 634 yards and Earnest Williams had 30 receptions for 331 yards.
Linebacker Jake Kasser led the Memphis defense with 95 tackles and three fumbles recovered while free safety Brandon Patterson had 71 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. Safety Dontae Reed had 64 tackles.
The bowl game is validation of just how far this program has come in a short period of time. It is a great opportunity for Schnellenberger to show the country that his program can play on the national stage.
The Owls are led by quarterback Rusty Smith, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Smith completed 256-of-447 passes for 3,352 yards and a school record 27 touchdowns. He was named Player of the Week four times. His biggest game against Minnesota on Sept. 15 when he was 27-of-44 passes for a school record 463 yards and five touchdowns as the Owls defeated the Big Ten team 42-39.
"We know that we need to push the tempo in practice if we expect to go in and get a win," said Smith.
Wide receiver Cortez Gent led FAU with 61 catches for 1,030 yards and nine touchdowns while tight end Jason Harmon was named to the All-Sun Belt team along with Smith and Gent. Harmon had 56 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns. Willie Rose added 32 catches for 212 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensively, linebackers Franz Joseph and Cergile Sincere both named to the first team All-Sun Belt team. Joseph set a school record with 121 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. Sincere had 111 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two sacks. Cornerback Corey Small was third on the team in tackles with 97 and he picked off five passes, second on the team to Tavious Polo who had seven.
This is a matchup where neither team relies on the rush so it might come down to which quarterback has the hot hand.
Our pick: Memphis 37, Florida Atlantic 35.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
Betting strength of schedule in the New Orleans Bowl
You know the old riddle “If a tree falls in an uninhabited forest, does it make a sound?” A twist on that philosophical riff might apply to Friday night’s New Orleans Bowl.
“If a football team schedules incredibly tough non-conference opponents but loses to them all, does its strength-of-schedule really make a difference?”
It’s a question college football bettors have to consider when the Florida Atlantic Owls meet the Memphis Tigers at the Louisiana Superdome. The Sun Belt champion Owls are 2½-point favorites over C-USA’s Tigers.
Florida Atlantic played five non-conference games this season, all of them against BCS-conference opponents. Four of those big boys went on to qualify for bowl games.
Memphis faced a much softer non-conference slate. The Tigers opened against Ole Miss, the SEC’s last-place team. They then faced a FCS school (formerly Division I-AA) and a pair of sub-.500 Sun Belt schools.
Not surprisingly, FAU sits well atop of Memphis in strength-of-schedule rankings. But check out the Owls’ results against their bowl-bound opponents: a 36-point loss at Oklahoma State; a 28-point loss at Kentucky; a 12-point home loss to South Florida; and a 39-point loss at Florida.
Florida Atlantic’s only non-conference win was a 42-39 triumph over Minnesota, easily the worst team in the Big Ten.
It’s great that Howard Schnellenberger & Co. had the chutzpah to schedule so many tough opponents, but should bettors credit the Owls for simply racking up four double-digit losses?
They likely should, according to Covers Expert Scott Rickenbach.
“I have always put extra value on a team losing with a tougher schedule and I have always put less value on a team simply rolling through a bunch of cupcakes,” the handicapper says.
“All things must be weighed and given appropriate value but as long as a team showed me something against a tough team, I’m more likely to be impressed by that then if they beat Tapioca State 61-10.”
The Owls definitely showed signs of their quality in their most recent games against bigger opponents.
They forced USF into four turnovers and nearly matched the then-undefeated Bulls yard-for-yard and point-for-point until late in their Oct. 6 clash.
FAU also came to play at the Swamp in mid-November, scoring 20 points in an impressive second quarter. They posted 311 total yards of offense in the first half before getting shut down by the Gators after the intermission.
Rickenbach notes that the Owls improved as the season progressed, culminating in their upset at Troy in the season finale.
“Keep in mind that if a team is off of one demoralizing loss after another, that’s one thing,” Rickenbach says. “That's because psyche, of course, is critical to a team. In the case of most bowl teams they have already grown from losses rather than suffered from them.”
The Owls grew right into the school’s first conference title. They followed the loss at Florida with a 32-point win at Florida International as a 10-point road favorite and the win against the Trojans as a 15-point road underdog.
It seems prudent to note that the Tigers, despite a far easier schedule, also won only one non-conference game. Memphis beat Jacksonville State after its two-point loss to Ole Miss to open the season, then lost to both its Sun Belt opponents.
To be fair, the Tigers improved after its non-conference losses. Memphis went 5-1 straight up and 4-2 against the spread against C-USA competition in the second half of the season.
But for bettors who put stock in schedule strength during bowl season (and reading the forums, there are a lot of you out there), betting FAU to win the New Orleans Bowl is shaping up as one of the easier bowl season plays.
Re: New Orleans Bowl
Game Preview for Memphis vs Fla Atlantic
GAME NOTES: The Florida Atlantic Owls make their bowl debut in the seventh annual New Orleans Bowl, as they take on the Conference USA Memphis Tigers at the Louisiana Superdome Friday, December 21st. Memphis did not have a solid start to the 2007 campaign. After losing four of their first six contests, the Tigers came to a crossroad just as conference play began. With two road conference games at Rice and Tulane in mid-October and standing at 2-4, the Tigers could have easily folded a lost season and looked towards next year. However, they hung on to defeat Rice 38-35 and staged a late scoring drive against Tulane to come away with a 28-27 victory. Their lone blemish in the last six games came in a 56-40 loss on their homefield against East Carolina, a game that probably cost them the conference title. However, the Tigers rallied after the defeat and rattled off three straight conference wins to finish C-USA play at 6-2, a new school record. The 7-5 overall record was a vast improvement over last year's 2-10 campaign. Florida Atlantic's breakout season's validity came down to the very last week of the season. After opening the 2007 stanza with a 3-1 mark, the Owls fell hard to previously nationally- ranked opponents Kentucky and South Florida. The two powers thrashed the Owls by a combined 80-40 margin. In the next contest, an inferior Louisiana- Lafayette squad took them to overtime, but FAU prevailed 39-32 in the extra frame. Louisiana-Monroe came back the very next week and handed the Owls there lone conference loss on the year, a triple overtime 33-30 defeat. After taking two of its next three games, Florida Atlantic would take on Troy in what was essentially the Sun Belt Conference championship. FAU scored 28 points in a span of 12 minutes in the second half to secure a 38-32 victory and its first ever postseason experience. This is the first head-to-head meeting between the Tigers and Owls.
As the season wore on, Memphis showed it could air the ball out against its competition. Martin Hankins came into his own late in the year and wound up averaging 293.9 passing yards per game, ranking him second in all of Conference USA. Down in the red zone he was even better, as his 22 touchdowns can attest. Hankins spread the wealth to a slew of receivers. Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton were the primary beneficiaries, as they combined for 105 receptions on the year. Calhoun hauled in more receptions (58) for more yards (850), but Singleton had an affinity for the end zone in catching 10 touchdown passes. The offensive line was tremendous throughout the season in only allowing 13 sacks. The ground game was mediocre, averaging a modest 139.6 yards per game with only 13 touchdown jaunts. Joseph Doss led the squad with 715 yards and five TDs. The offense took care of the ball as well, as they finished tied for third in the country with only four lost fumbles.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers didn't produce so well. Some key injuries in their linebacking core contributed to their lackluster effort. Outside starting linebacker Greg Jackson injured his knee early in the second game of the season and was lost for the year. Another starting linebacker, Winston Bowens, missed four games with a knee injury, and his status for the bowl game is questionable. Nevertheless, the Tigers still fielded 11 players on defense that simply could not stop the run. On the season, the squad was decimated for 209.8 rushing yards per game on an inexplicable 5.2 yards per carry, ranking second worst in the league. The blame could not be pointed at Jake Kasser, who led the defense with a stout 95 tackles. The Tigers were somewhat stingy on pass defense, allowing just 229.8 passing yards per game. What the Tigers gave up in yards however, they made up for in turnovers. Memphis forced 25 turnovers on the season, allowing them to rank 17th nationally with a +9 turnover margin.
There's no question who holds the reins of the Florida Atlantic offense. On the way to throwing for conference records of 3,352 yards and 27 touchdowns, Owl signal-caller Rusty Smith was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. He connected on 57.3 percent of his passes and threw just eight interceptions. Cortez Gent pulled down 61 passes for 1,030 yards and nine touchdowns to lead the team in those categories. Willie Rose only caught 32 passes, but crossed the goal line on six occasions. The rushing attack played second fiddle because of Smith's ability to throw effectively. The team averaged just 126.9 rushing yards per game and only came away with 16 touchdowns. Charles Pierre was the workhorse back, gaining 769 yards and seven TDs on the year.
The Owl defense has been very generous to their opponents, allowing a staggering 33.8 points per game. Whether through the air or on the ground, FAU has had trouble stopping teams. The pass defense is giving up 237.6 yards a contest while surrendering 24 touchdowns. However, much like their bowl-game counterparts, the Owls have a knack for forcing turnovers. The squad set a school single-season record for most interceptions with 19. Tavious Polo set a school mark with seven picks in earning All-Sun Belt honors. These numbers helped the team end the season with a +19 turnover margin, tied for the best differential in the nation. On the ground, the Owls have given up 22 touchdowns and 179.5 rushing yards per game. Joseph Frantz and Cergile Sincere have done their part, finishing first and second in the league with 121 and 111 tackles, respectively.
These two teams come into the game sporting similar resumes. Both like to air the ball out, but give up huge chunks of yardage on the defensive side. Florida Atlantic holds a slight advantage over the Tigers, as their penchant for creating turnovers should put them in great field position to attack in their first ever bowl game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 42, Memphis 38
Re: New Orleans Bowl
NEW ORLEANS BOWL (at New Orleans)
Florida Atlantic (7-5 SU and ATS) vs. Memphis (7-5, 7-4 ATS)
Led by veteran head coach Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic makes its first-ever bowl appearance when it takes the field in the Superdome against a red-hot Memphis squad that won five of its last six games to reach the postseason.
Schnellenberger, who is 4-0 SU and ATS all-time in bowl games, is back in the postseason for the first time in 13 years, and his fingerprints can be seen all over the Owls’ offense, which averaged 36 points a game in the second half of the season. In the season-finale against Troy State, Florida Atlantic pulled off the outright upset 38-32 as 15-point underdogs to snatch the Sun Belt Conference title and the automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl. The Owls went 6-1 in Sun Belt play (5-2 ATS), with the only loss being a 33-30 overtime setback to Louisiana-Monroe as a six-point home chalk.
The Tigers lost to Sun Belt teams Arkansas State (35-31 as six-point underdogs) and Middle Tennessee State (21-7 as a three-point chalk) midway through the season, but found their offense after that, scoring at least 25 points in their final six. Memphis earned this bowl bid by defeating Southern Methodist 55-52 in overtime in its regular-season finale, failing as a 6½-point favorite. Despite that non-cover, the Tigers finished on a 4-2 ATS roll.
Four of Florida Atlantic’s five losses were to major-conference squads, including three coming against teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at some point in the season in Florida (59-20), South Florida (35-23) and Kentucky (45-17).
The Owls are just 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games against teams with a winning record. However, they are 4-1 ATS in their last five as a road favorite.
Memphis is on ATS runs of 9-4-1 ATS overall, 15-7 against teams with a winning record and 8-2 as a road underdog. Also, during their 5-1 run to cap the regular season the Tigers pulled off three outright upsets.
Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith threw 27 TD passes and just seven INTs this season, completing 57.3 percent of his throws for 3,352 yards.
Much of Memphis’ success this year was tied to the Tigers taking care of the football, as they coughed it up just 16 times in 12 games and finished with a plus-9 differential. On offense, Memphis is led by QB Martin Hankins, who threw for 2,939 yards this season, completing 60.7 percent of his throws with 22 TDs and 12 INTs. His favorite target is 6-foot-8 sophomore Carlos Singleton who had 10 TD receptions.
The over is 7-0 in the Owls’ last seven overall and 8-2 in their last 10 non-conference games.
ATS ADVANTAGE: MEMPHIS
Re: New Orleans Bowl
New Orleans Bowl: Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Memphis Tigers
Sun Belt champions Florida Atlantic trek to the Louisiana Superdome to face the Memphis Tigers December 21 in the New Orleans Bowl. Memphis allowed 31+ PPG on the year and could be susceptible to an Owl attack that produced a 7-4 ATS mark on the season.
Florida Atlantic scored 28 points in a 12-minute span of the second half last time out in a 38-32 win at Troy, coming in as 16-point road underdogs. The 70 points scored were OVER the posted total of 63.
Rusty Smith was 23-for-34 for 291 yards and two touchdowns, while Cortez Gent had eight catches for 155 yards for the Owls.
Matt Reagan booted the game-winning field goal in triple overtime last time out as the Tigers defeated the SMU Mustangs 55-52. Memphis failed to cover the 7.5-point spread at home, and the combined score sailed OVER the posted total of 69.
Martin Hankins completed 30-of-59 pass attempts for 336 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the game.
Florida Atlantic: 7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS
Memphis: 7-5 SU, 5-5-1 ATS
Florida Atlantic most recently:
When playing in December are 1-1
When playing on turf are 4-6
After being outgained are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 1-9
Memphis most recently:
When playing in December are 2-1
When playing on turf are 7-3
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing outside the conference are 3-7
A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Florida Atlantic's last 5 games
Florida Atlantic is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games
Memphis is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
Re: New Orleans Bowl
Schnellenberger back in a bowl as FAU meets Memphis
December 20, 2007
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Howard Schnellenberger's career in football has spanned generations, touching the lives of numerous successful coaches and players.
There were his days as an assistant coach at Alabama, winning championships under Paul "Bear" Bryant in the 1960s; his stint with the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s, winning Super Bowls under Don Shula; his resurrection of college programs at Miami, where he won a national championship in 1983, and at Louisville; then his one-year stint at Oklahoma in 1995.
Apparently, the 73-year-old coach, the epitome of an old wise man with his distinctive white mustache and white head of hair, hasn't let the game pass him by yet.
He'll be on the sideline Friday night when his Florida Atlantic Owls (7-5) play their first bowl game against Memphis (7-5) in the New Orleans Bowl.
"It's nice to be with a football team that's growing, winning games and qualifying" for the postseason, Schnellenberger said while a Florida Atlantic practice wound down this week. "The bowl game is a result of that. So I guess I'm a happy camper that we've done the right things to get us here. I'll be a doubly happy camper if we can win this game."
For a while, it appeared that Schnellenberger's one season at Oklahoma, when the Sooners went 5-5-1, might be his last as a Division I coach.
He spent a couple years in virtual retirement before Florida Atlantic, a state university in Boca Raton, called with an intriguing offer. They wanted him to build a new football program, starting in what was then known as Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) and eventually moving up to the I-A, now the Bowl Subdivision, in 2005.
Hired in 1998, he was given a couple years to recruit, with his first team beginning practices in 2000 and playing its first NCAA game in 2001. By 2003, FAU was in the semifinals of the I-AA playoffs.
FAU was 2-9 in its first season in the top division, followed by a 5-7 mark a season ago.
Despite his own background as a turnaround specialist, Schnellenberger said FAU's location in south Florida gave it a particular advantage in creating a competitive program.
"We're blessed that we sit right in the middle of a hotbed of high school football programs that allow us to have the opportunity to satisfy our goal," Schnellenberger said.
Schnellenberger knew he couldn't recruit head-to-head against Miami, Florida or Florida State, but thought he had a chance to keep out-of-state schools from luring away some of the local talent that remained.
Another question was how well a new generation of players would relate to a coach who's old enough to collect social security.
FAU senior defensive back Taheem Acevedo recalled what attracted him to Schnellenberger right away.
"My initial thoughts were that I saw a guy walking around with a championship ring," Acevedo recalled. "Even though it was a new program, some of the coaches had experience in bowls or even Super Bowls, so I was kind of into that."
Now Schnellenberger's won a Sun Belt Conference title, upsetting Troy 38-32 in the last game of the regular season to do it.
And if Schnellenberger looks and acts old school, that doesn't mean his offense is.
Rusty Smith has thrown for 3,352 and 27 TDs. Hi top target, Cortez Gent, caught 61 passes for 1,030 yards and nine scores. FAU used a two-back tandem of Charles Pierre and Willie Rose to gain most of team's 1,523 yards rushing.
This will be FAU's first meeting with Memphis, which beat North Texas in the 2003 New Orleans Bowl and this season was one of the top teams in Conference USA.
Like FAU, Memphis throws the ball frequently. Martin Hankins, who started his college career at Southeastern Louisiana before transferring to the Tigers, passed for 2,939 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He spread the ball around to a handful of receivers, his top two being Duke Calhoun (58 catches, 850 yards, five TDs) and Carlos Singleton (47 catches, 704 yards, 10 TDs).
A bowl victory would mean a lot to a Memphis team that lost four of its first six games and was reeling from the early season shooting death of junior defensive lineman Taylor Bradford.
"We had so many things go on, on top of not playing very well to start the season. Then we had the tragic loss of one of our teammates," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "Young people can be pretty resilient and they hung in there and really the last half of the season we played really well and got better as it went along. Our challenge during this time off is to try to get back to where we were, because offensively, we were playing really well when the season ended."