The Palm Beach Post

Owls frustrated but ready to regroup for C-USA play

- By Jake Elman

Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m., TV TBD ORLANDO — For the first time in Azeez Al-Shaair’s four years at Florida Atlantic University, the Owls will enter Conference USA play to win,” Al- haair said. with a .500 record. “You come here to win and

“I honestly don’t care we changed the program about that,” the senior line- around to win. That’s what backer said after Friday’s we wanted to do.”

56-36 loss to No. 16 Central Al-Shaair’s teammates are Florida. trying to stay positive after

Not that Al-Shaair, the finishing nonconfere­nce play Owls’ all-time leading tackler, at 2-2. FAU has had losing could smile about anything records through its first four after FAU (2-2) collapsed in games every year since 2007, the second half against UCF even starting 0-4 in 2009 (3-0). After leading 17-14 late and 2011. in the first half, the Owls The 2009 team went 5-3 were outscored 42-19. in Sun Belt Conference play

The Owls wasted three to finish 5-7. Two years later, rushing touchdowns from the Owls went 1-7 in Sun Belt running back Devin Single- play to close Howard Schnel- tary (American Heritage) and lenberger’s final season with 264 all-purpose yards from a 1-11 record. running back Kerrith Whyte “We’re going to look at the (Seminole Ridge). positive,” quarterbac­k Chris

“We came together,” Sin- Robison said, “but we’re also gletary said. “We’ve just got going to take the bad and try to put it all together. We’re to work on that. We’re 2-2, still (not) there yet.” we wish we could be (unde-

The chance for an upset feated).” was there before Al-Shaair Going undefeated with — who led the Owls with 15 road games against two tackles — and a once-vaunted ranked teams (Oklahoma, FAU defense allowed 35 UCF) was never going to be points and 269 yards in the easy. The most realistic outsecond half. UCF quarterbac­k come was going 2-2 and hop- McKenzie Milton accounted ing to compete against the for six touchdowns. Sooners and Knights.

UCF scored on five of its The Owls were blown out first six second-half drives 63-14 in Norman, Okla., on in the nationally televised Sept. 1, but fared better in shootout on ESPN. Orlando. UCF trailed for the

“It’s frustratin­g that you first time this season. A runlose because you work hard ning game that Singletary

Scalled “average” last week rolled up 320 yards. That included a 24-yard run by Gerald Hearns (Dwyer) on fourth down, which led to Singletary’s first touchdown late in the first quarter. The trio of Hearns, Singletary and Whyte ran for 268 yards on 37 carries, an average of more than seven yards.

“You always take the good out of everything,” Whyte said. “We’re 2-2 right now and we’re just going to try to be 1-0 next week (in conference play) and just keep pushing forward.”

FAU is certainly ahead of where it was at this time last season, when the Owls started 1-3 after losses to Navy, Wisconsin and Buffalo. Coach Lane Kiffin bemoaned the 34-31 loss to Buffalo, especially as FAU rattled off 10 straight wins to finish 11-3 and just outside the AP Top 25.

“There were a lot of things to correct back then,” Al-Shaair said.

FAU has winnable games against Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion in the next two weeks. It was a 38-20 win over the Blue Raiders last season — FAU’s first victory over MTSU since 2007 — that started the 10-game winning streak.

As long as FAU rebounds and plays up to its standards in C-USA play, Al-Shaair finally may be able to smile.

“If the wins just keep piling, you don’t really think about your overall record,” Al-Shaair said.

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