Panthers rout Owls in 13th Annual Shula Bowl

By: Jorge Corrales/Staff Writer

The Panthers defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 38-10 in the 13th annual “Shula Bowl”. Both teams entered the game 2-3 overall and 1-0 in conference play.

A strong conference start for a Panther team that finished 2013 without a conference victory.

Freshman quarterback Alex McGough started strong; leading the Panthers down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive. McGough was 3-of-3 on the drive that culminated with a 24- yard touchdown run by freshman runningback Alex Gardner.

The Panthers got their next score following a sack and forced fumble by defensive end Denzell Perine deep in Owls territory. Runningback Anthon Samuel muscled it in on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line to give the Panthers a 14-3 lead.

FAU closed the gap on their next drive with the help of some FIU penalties. The Owls took it 85 yards on only 3 plays and scored on a 30-yard touchdown run by Jay Warren.

The Panthers added a field goal on the opening drive of the second half.

Cornerback Richard Leonard continued his monster season on Thursday night. Leonard returned another Warren fumble 100 yards for a score. It’s the third game this season and the second one in a row in which Leonard has recorded a defensive touchdown. Leonard also added an interception in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great play by Jordan Davis,” said Leonard when asked about the fumble return. “He came down and hit the running back and the ball popped loose. I picked it up, saw daylight and ran. It was a good block by Jeremiah McKinnon too.”

McGough finished the night 18-of-29 for 160 yards and a rushing touchdown. He hit seven different Panther receivers.Thursday night marked the second straight game in which McGough took every snap.

“I thought Alex played really well,” said Head Coach Ron Turner. “He was seeing the field extremely well. He really showed poise out there.”

Gardner led the Panther running assault with 100 yards rushing. His touchdown run in the first quarter was his first collegiate score. He also became the first freshman in school history to have two 100-yard rushing games in the same season. Samuel also contributed with 57 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

The Panther defense stepped up once again. Defensive end Denzell Perine notched another sack and and forced fumble. The sack brought Perine’s season total to 5.5, which ties him with Michael Wakefield for the team lead.

Wakefield didn’t record a sack on the night but he did force a fumble deep in FIU territory. They once again played clean football; winning the turnover battle 4-to-1.

The Panthers brought home the Don Shula Award for the first time since 2012. FAU still leads the all time series, 9-4.

“We talked about the trophy a lot this week,” said Turner. “We made a point of emphasis. I said, ‘Let’s go get that thing back. It’s worth fighting for.”

The teams endured an extended halftime thanks to heavy rain and dangerous lightning in the area. The weather delay began at 8:44 p.m. as both teams made their way to the locker rooms for halftime. The delay lasted almost two hours and play was finally resumed at 10:56 p.m. It was the third straight game at The Cage that was delayed by the weather.

The Panthers will now travel West next week when they take on the University of Texas at San Antonio. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

 

Photo by Carl-Frederick Francois/ The Beacon

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