An Inside Look at FAU

Recently I caught up with Andrew Ivins, a staff writer for FauOwlsNest, who has been covering the team for three years. I asked him a few questions about Florida Atlantic and the upcoming game against Marshall. The kickoff is set for 5pm.

1. Being a relatively new program in the grand scheme of things, tell me a little bit about the history of Owl football, how it came about, what the excitement level is?

Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger is the father of FAU football, having helped form the program back in 1998. The Owls didn't play their first season of football until 2001, but it only took a few years to make some strides. FAU went 11-3 in 2003 at the FCS level and a few years later made the jump to FBS.

Schellenberger led FAU to back-to-back bowl game wins in 2007 and 2008 before a spell of losing seasons resulted in his retirement. Now, Carl Pelini has taken over and generated some buzz. The former Nebraska defensive coordinator has focused on recruiting the junior college level and winning with a stout defense.

2. How difficult is it to recruit your immediate area with Miami of Florida located in your back yard?

I wouldn't say the Hurricanes are much of an issue –– because FAU will never be able to compete for that level of prospects. The real difficulty lies with the baron of coaches from schools across the country that raid South Florida high schools every spring. FAU is constantly trying to sell local talent on staying home, but it's difficult when schools like Marshall come through and offer almost any prospect in the area with FBS talent.

FAU's "backyard" is arguably one of the most recruited areas in the country, and I'm sure Marshall fans would attest to that. Just look at the Thundering Herd's roster. The FAU coaching staff has done a respectable job of signing local kids, but has started to realize that they can find talent in other under-recruited areas of the state. The Owl's will always have to compete with out-of-state schools locally for recruits.

3. What are some cant miss things, other than South Beach, etc, for traveling Marshall fans to see this weekend while visiting your area?

The South Florida area should provide lots of options for Marshall fans making the trip. While South Beach is a bit of a trek from Boca Raton, there are plenty of other beaches just a couple of minutes away from campus. Delray has a nice beachside town feel to it and can provide a nice afternoon and waterfront meal. For the younger crowd looking to see some nightlife, I would recommend the Las Olas Boulevard scene in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

4. What does your fan base know about, and/or think about Marshall's football program?

I think the general consensus about Marshall, is they are a program with a lot of history. From the events that were portrayed in the recent motion picture, to former players such as Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington and Randy Moss –– Marshall is a familiar name for FAU fans.

For the more "tuned-in" fan, Rakeem Cato is certainly a familiar face. Lots of people remember his time at Miami Central High School.

5. What is the consensus regarding your jump to C-USA? Is your fan base excited?

The move to C-USA was one that many fans thought wasn't actually going to happen. After FIU was initially invited to the conference without FAU, it was perceived that the Owl's were going to be left in the dust. However newly-hired athletic director Pat Chun was able to shake some hands, and well that's how FAU got the invitation.

The fans have embraced C-USA as the next step in the development of the program. What I feel most are excited about is the additional bowl bids. That's something that the Sun Belt or as I like to call it "Fun Belt" didn't have.

6. Excluding your quarterback, who is the one offensive player and one defensive player who could single handily win the game for you guys this weekend?

Finally, some X's and O's. The one player to keep your eye on when the FAU offense in on the field is junior wide receiver William Dukes. The Owls don't take too many vertical shots, but when they do –– Dukes is usually involved. He's a lanky pass catcher who has hauled in touchdown passes in each of the past three games and in my opinion is late-round NFL talent. It should be interesting to see how he match's up against the Marshall secondary.

On the other side of the ball, junior linebacker Andrae Kirk is second on the team with 37 tackles. Kirk was a preseason all-conference selection and a former teammate of Cato at Miami Central. He's the leader of the defense, and should be making plays on Saturday.

7. What is your prediction on this weekends game?

I've gone back and forth with how I see playing this one playing out, but I will say that in the preseason I didn't have FAU pegged at 2-4 heading into the Marshall game –– so this is a bit of a surprise. I think the 13-point line is very accurate and it will be a competitive contest from the opening kickoff. The Owls believe they know how to win following the victory over UAB and this is a statement game, but Marshall's offense will be too much in the long run.

8. Tell me one thing, other than Howard Schnellenberger, that Herd fans may not know about your program?

When you hear the word FAU in conversation, you can always bank on the name Schnellenberger closely following it. He was the face of the program for the first decade, but now it appears things are changing. Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris is a product of FAU, and he is the first former player to really make it on a national stage in the NFL. When Morris arrived at FAU he was just a backup fullback buried on the depth chart, now he's the program's most notable player.

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