If At First You Do Succeed, Reach For A Higher Goal
by Mike Mitchell
December 22, 2007
Howard Schnellenberger has done it again.
Even at age 73, the master of college football program-building can still get a team on the map. Schnellenberger, the only football coach that the fledgling FAU program has known since its birth in 2001, raised his bowl record to 5-0 with a 44-27 New Orleans Bowl win over Memphis.
It was FAU's first-ever bowl appearance, a feat that was accomplished in just three short seasons as a FBS school.
Schnellenberger rose to prominence as a head coach when he led Miami to its first national championship in 1983. He then shook things up at Louisville where his 10-year stay included a 10-1-1 season and a 41-7 Fiesta Bowl whipping of Alabama at the end of the 1990 season.
At FAU, he has recruited a roster that's nearly 100% Florida-bred and turned them into the class of the Sun Belt conference this season. The bowl win put the finishing touch on an 8-5 season, and laid the foundation for greater success - just like what has happened at Miami and Louisville since Schnellenberger planted the seeds.
Sophomore QB Rusty Smith threw 5 TD passes and Florida Atlantic never trailed. The game was tied just once, at 7-7.
Memphis did put up a fight, rallying from a 30-13 deficit to close within 30-27 in the third quarter. But FAU sealed the victory by scoring the final 14 points, and had possession of the football when the clock expired.
Memphis fell to 7-6 with the loss, and went 0-3 against Sun Belt teams. The Tigers lost to Arkansas State on September 27 when they blew a 31-6 halftime lead. Sixteen days later, they lost 21-7 at home to Middle Tennessee.
FAU's season included a 6-1 Sun Belt record and its first win over a BCS school, a 42-39 home win over Minnesota in Dolphins Stadium on September 15. The Owls clinched the automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl with a 38-32 upset win at heavily-favored Troy in the final regular season game.