FAU conquers Troy with last-minute 34-27 win

BOCA RATON — FAU coach Carl Pelini had seen the scenario before.

Trailing, with possession, late in the fourth quarter against Troy Saturday night at FAU Stadium, Pelini couldn't help but think of his team's failures in similar situations earlier in the season.

Pelini had drilled his team in the two-minute drill all week leading up to Saturday's game. Hopefully, if the Owls had another opportunity, they'd be ready.

Down 27-26 with 1:49 remaining, FAU senior quarterback Graham Wilbert drive the Owls into scoring range — something the team couldn't do against North Texas. But instead of kicking a field goal — as the Owls did on first down with 12 seconds remaining against South Alabama last week, only to have the kick blocked — the Owls went for the touchdown.

The result was a 22-yard touchdown pass from Wilbert to William Dukes with 17 seconds remaining, lifting FAU (2-6, 1-4) to a 34-27 win and its first Sun Belt Conference victory in nearly two years.

"We've got a lot to learn around here about winning," a Pelini said after the game, still dripping from his post-game Gatorade shower. "It's hard to keep pointing to the positives when they don't manifest themselves as wins... but this is good, this is the surge of adrenaline we needed."

Wilbert threw for a career-high four touchdowns and 261 yards on 26-40 passing. Before Saturday, the last time an FAU quarterback had thrown for four touchdowns was Oct. 24, 2009.

Jenson Stoshak's first career touchdown gave FAU a 26-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but after Stoshak's touchdown, an illegal substitution penalty and a false start set up a 30-yard field goal for the extra point. Instead, Blake Bierman dropped the hold and was forced to throw the ball. The result was less than optimal, as his pass fell incomplete.

Pelini said after the game that he thought that the failed extra point would do his team in, and it nearly did.

A goal-line stand halfway through the fourth quarter had Troy (4-4, 3-3) kick a 17-yard field goal to bring the score to 26-20, and Shawn Southward's 31-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes and the subsequent extra point put Troy up 27-26.

FAU held an early 17-0 lead, but it had floated away in the 30 mile-per-hour winds that pelted FAU Stadium Saturday night. Troy scored 17 unanswered points in the final five minutes of the second quarter to tie the game at halftime.

With the wind gusts playing a major factor in both the passing and kicking game — Troy did not score a point going into the wind Saturday — it was ironically a running miscue that led to the tied game at halftime.

Marteese Jackson's fumble with 49 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the ball back to Troy on the FAU 29 yard line, and three plays later Southward jumped over a goal-line pile to knot the contest.

For the second straight week, the FAU Owls scored on their first two possessions, as Graham Wilbert connected with Nexon Dorvilus for touchdown passes from 11 and 9 yards.

Dorvilus' first two-touchdown game of his career came on his 22nd birthday and made the tight end the 21st player to achieve the feat in FAU history. The last time FAU had a receiver catch three touchdowns in a contest was Nov. 29 2008, when Cortez Gent snagged three against FIU.

FAU entered Saturday's contest losers of its last 14 Sun Belt conference games. The win also marked the first for FAU over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since Nov. 26, 2011.

Freshman defensive tackle Trevon Coley was used as a blocker in FAU’s wildcat formation against Troy. He's the first FAU player to play on both sides of the ball since Stetson Wilson played both offensive and defensive line against Edward Waters on Nov. 27, 2004.

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