Published On: Mon, Dec 23rd, 2019

FAU wins Boca Raton Bowl, names new defensive coordinator in same weekend

This past weekend was an eventful one for the Florida Atlantic University Owls football team, as they defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, 52 -28, on Saturday, Dec. 21 and announced their new defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt, on Sunday, Dec. 22.

Starting with the Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium, the Owls were led by interim head coach Glenn Spencer with newly appointed head coach Willie Taggart watching from the sideline. While the team took control of the game early with a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter after running back B.J. Emmons ran for a 1-yard touchdown, SMU answered back with two touchdown runs of their own. Nonetheless, FAU remained poised and went into halftime with a 28-14 lead, following a 15-yard rushing touchdown by running back James Charles and a 13-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Brandon Robinson from quarterback Chris Robison, both scored with under a minute left in the half.

From there, FAU’s lead over SMU only got larger, as Robison threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Raine and defensive end Rashad Smith ran a 34 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, both in the third quarter, to increase the score to 42-14. To seal the victory for the Owls, backup quarterback Nick Tronti was subbed into the game for Robison and threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Javion Posey to make the score 52-21 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

Despite a last minute touchdown pass from SMU, FAU remained victorious to win their second Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl in three years and increased their bowl game record to 4-0 in the program’s history. With this, FAU finished their season with an 11-3 record, making them just the second Conference USA team to win at least 11 games twice in three seasons since Western Kentucky University in 2015 and 2016. Other end of the season notable statistics, include Robison setting the school record in passing completions (291) and passing yards (3,701), as well as the team’s defense forcing the most turnovers in a season with 33.

“I am always the kind of guy who sees what happens because I have been a part of games I go in thinking you are prepared and think you are so much better and then all of the sudden get bit,” Spencer said, according to FAU Sports. “Then there are times when you go out there and it just clicks. I go back to the players. It was all about preparation, execution and finish, that’s what we talked about [on Friday night] and [in the morning before the game].”

Although rumors were heard of Spencer’s tenure with FAU coming to an end before the Boca Raton Bowl, the announcement didn’t become official until Sunday, in which Taggart made his first coaching hire as the team’s head coach of Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator, ultimately forcing Spencer to take the defensive coordinator job at the University of South Florida.

Photo provided by FAU Sports

Leavitt, who has an over 40-year coaching resume, including working with Taggart when the two were at Florida State University and the University at Oregon, looks to continue building off of what Spencer accomplished with the Owls defense and is ready for the challenge.

“The opportunity to be at FAU, close to my 94-year-old mom means so much,” Leavitt said on Twitter. “[FAU] is such a beautiful place with high expectations.”

Now, with a long off-season of recruiting future players and retaining the current ones, Taggart, Leavitt and the rest of the FAU football team will begin to prepare for the 2020 season, as the team opens at the University of Minnesota on Sept. 5, before taking on USF at home on Sept. 26.


About the Author

- Justin Baronoff is currently a junior at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. He is pursuing a major in Multimedia Journalism, where he hopes to some day write for major news media publications, such as the New York Times, ESPN, or even Billboard Magazine. In high school, Justin wrote for his high school newspaper for three years where he was a staff reporter for the first two years before becoming the Sports Editor in his final year. At FAU during the first semester of his sophomore year, he began interning for, where he wrote about and covered his favorite professional football team, the New York Jets, and his favorite professional basketball team, the New York Knicks. Then during his second semester of his sophomore year, he began writing for FAU's student newspaper, the University Press, as a contributing writer. Justin now serves a News Writer Intern for the Boca Raton Tribune.

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