FAU Owls Outclass FIU Panthers in Shula Bowl Rout

Running Back D’Vonte Price in Friday Night’s Shula Bowl. Photo by FIU Athletics

Richard Gibson & Fabio Lopez

The FIU Panthers couldn’t keep up with the Florida Atlantic Owls, losing by a score of 38-19 on November 13th at the Riccardo Silva Stadium. 

The game was the nineteenth annual Shula Bowl matchup between both schools. FAU has now won the last four matchups, with the Panthers’ last win being in 2016.

Facing three consecutive losses this season, the Panthers had their backs against the wall versus the Owls. With only five games left in the season, the Panthers need to start winning games to qualify for a bowl game.

Even when this year’s Shula Bowl was tied 10-10 in the second quarter, FAU had the edge in passing, rushing, and defense. In a rushing-dominant game, the Owls came out on top winning by a 19-point difference. 

Head coach Butch Davis said that game cancelations have impacted the team’s ability to perform on the field.

“The only way that you can get better if you got young inexperienced players, is for guys to play in games… and learn from their mistakes and try to get better for the next week.”

The first offensive drive for the Owls was brief but efficient, earning FAU a passing touchdown in less than four minutes to lead 7-0. FIU quarterback Stone Norton began the game for the Panthers offense, but couldn’t convert down the field for their first drive. 

After a pair of three-and-outs from both teams, FAU received the ball back and drove down the field. However, the Owls failed a fourth-down conversion, giving the ball back to the Panthers but a sack on Norton ended their chance to convert any points. 

Two minutes into the second quarter, FAU converted a field goal to extend their lead to 10-0. On the Panthers’ next drive, running back D’Vonte Price rushed for a 77-yard touchdown to cut down the Owls lead to 10-7.

On the Owls’ next drive, they fumbled the ball in their own territory, giving the Panthers a golden opportunity to score. The Panthers settled for a field goal by kicker Chase Gabriel, which tied the game 10-10. 

It didn’t take long for FAU to answer. Within eight plays and three minutes, a rushing touchdown for the Owls put them back in the lead by a score of 17-10. FIU’s offense struggled to convert third downs, and they had to punt the ball back to the Owls. 

Once again, another pair of three-and-outs from both teams killed time and didn’t produce points. With 7 minutes left in the second quarter, the Owls crafted a long drive resulting in their second touchdown of the game, extending the score to 24-10. FAU kept this lead into halftime.

Norton and the Panthers offense was just as inefficient as they began the second half. It didn’t take long for them to punt, but both teams failed to score any points in the third quarter. 

With five minutes left in the third quarter, FIU put in quarterback Max Bortenschlager. His first drive saw the most offensive progress for the Panthers, taking the game to the fourth quarter. FIU couldn’t reach the end zone and settled for another field goal to cut the lead to 24-13.

The Panthers’ efforts died out quickly as FAU ran down the field and scored another touchdown, increasing their lead to 31-13 with 12 minutes left in the game. Bortenschlager’s next drive on offense saw the Panthers move down the field, but an incomplete pass on fourth down left FIU off the scoreboard.

To add insult to injury, FAU drove down the field on the Panther’s turnover on downs, scoring the dagger touchdown with two minutes to go, bumping the lead up to 38-13. 

FIU responded with a touchdown pass to tight end Rivaldo Fairweather, but failed a two-point conversion, only shortening the lead to 38-19. Even if they had converted, it was too little, too late.

FAU secured their fourth consecutive Don Shula Award with a score of 38-19.

Between both FIU quarterbacks, Bortenschlager yielded better numbers. He threw for 10 completions out of 18 attempts and 82 yards. Running back Price rushed for 178 yards off of 28 carries as well as a rushing touchdown. Tight end Fairweather led all FIU receivers with 49 yards and the other touchdown of the day for the Panthers.

FAU outclassed FIU in total yards, earning 448 compared to 281. Likewise, they also earned more first downs, committed fewer penalties, and led in time of possession. FIU, however, forced a turnover and earned more passing yards. 

Despite the loss, Coach Davis praised his players in the post-game press conference.

“The one thing I was somewhat pleased and proud of our kids is they didn’t quit,” Davis said. “Obviously there’s aspects of the game that right now we’re just not good enough.”

Davis continued, going over the aspects of the game that FIU is struggling with.

“If you can’t convert third down…. And if you don’t put any points on the board, the defense gets absolutely suffocated,” Davis said in the press conference. “The inexperience on the offensive line shows up almost every single week.”

FIU is now 0-4 this season. They’ll head to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday, November 12st at 2 p.m. They’ll then head back to the Riccardo Stadium for a game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on November 28th. 

Davis said the team had a good outlook for the season but game cancelations, COVID-19 cases among players, and injuries in the team have derailed the season. 

“At the beginning of the season, it was the single most talented room we’ve ever had,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to go our way right now.”

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