NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Howard Schnellenberger is still undefeated in bowl games, and now so is the fledgling college football program he built from nothing. Rusty Smith threw for 336 yards and a New Orleans Bowl record five touchdowns to lead Florida Atlantic to a 44-27 victory over Memphis on Friday night.
It was the first bowl game for FAU, which has had a football team for only seven seasons and didn't join the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) until 2005. The game also marked another meaningful step for the young Sun Belt Conference. The league champion has now won three of seven New Orleans Bowls, including the past two by convincing margins, with Troy beating Rice 41-17 last year.
It certainly wasn't the highest-profile bowl victory for Schnellenberger, who led Miami to the 1983 national championship with an Orange Bowl triumph over Nebraska. He is now 5-0 in bowl games over his 23 seasons as a head coach. He won the 1980 Peach Bowl with Miami and two bowl games with Louisville, the 1990 Fiesta Bowl and the 1993 Liberty Bowl.
Still, this one had to be special, given that he is the father of FAU's program and the only head coach the Owls have ever known. As the final minute ticked away, the 73-year-old's head of white hair and blue blazer were left drenched by a bucket of ice water his players dumped over him in celebration.
But the old coach didn't even flinch. Florida Atlantic started fast and never trailed. Smith had 102 yards passing and a pair of touchdown tosses in the first 10 minutes. His second, a short pass that Dilvory Edgecomb turned into a 29-yard score, gave FAU a 17-7 lead.
Edgecomb also set up FAU's first two scores with kickoff returns of 42 and 62 yards. He added a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Memphis quarterback Martin Hankins helped the Tigers keep the game competitive into the second half, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers got as close as 30-27, but he left the game late in the third quarter with a right leg injury after getting tangled up in a heap of players after releasing a pass.
Reserve quarterbacks Will Hudgens and Matt Malouf finished the game for Memphis, which couldn't muster a significant threat in the final quarter. Smith also had touchdown passes of 4 yards to Charles Pierre, 16 yards to Chris Bonner, 4 yards to Willie Rose and 16 yards to Jason Harmon.