The Shula Bowl is the annual game between Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University. The game was named after legendary Miami Dolphins head coach, Don Shula. The two inaugural head coaches of the FIU and FAU football programs were Don Strock and Howard Schnellenberger, who both have ties to Shula's tenure with the Dolphins in the 1970s.
Typically, the Shula Bowl has matched up uneven sides for the two schools from south Florida every year since its inception (FAU holds the lead in the series, 9-3). Only on four occasions have both teams entered the rivalry game following a win. While this may not seem like a heated rivalry on paper, the two teams continue to recruit from the same talent pool and have already combined to win three bowl games in such a short period of time. This Thursday will certainly add to growing history of the Shula Bowl, but first, we take a look at how we got here.
November 23, 2002 - FAU 31, FIU 21
The inaugural Shula Bowl. The game that started it all. With both teams still competing in Division 1AA, Jared Allen and the Owls took on Jerrid Lundstedt and the Panthers at Pro Player Stadium. FAU raced out to a 21-0 lead before FIU began to chip away at the score. Starting FIU quarterback Jamie Burke was replaced by David Tabor after injuring his shoulder. Tabor led the late comeback with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter. It would prove to not be enough and the Owls held on for their second win of the season.
November 12, 2011 - FIU 41, FAU 7
The game that put T.Y. Hilton in the NFL. FIU scored two consecutive touchdowns in two minutes to push their lead to 24-0. FAU continued to feed Alfred Morris the ball, hoping to get some sort of running game going. The Owls were unsuccessful and for some reason, they punted it to Hilton. T.Y. took the kick and gracefully sprinted across the field without a care in the world. FAU's special teams defenders barely even noticed the Miami speedster zip by them en route to a 93-yard touchdown, putting the game officially out of reach. FIU went on to an 8-5 record and a spot in the St. Petersburg Bowl against Marshall.
November 29, 2008 - FAU 57, FIU 50 (OT)
The football moment that defined my relationship with the Shula Bowl. Current students may only think of FAU has an unlucky team that can't seem to get any breaks, but this moment proved otherwise for the Owls. Rusty Smith was talismanic for Florida Atlantic and scored two touchdowns in less than one minute to bring the game to overtime. After Rusty found Cortez Gent for a touchdown with two minutes left in the game, FAU recovered an onside kick and from there, Smith connected with Jamari Grant to tie the game up at 50. I remember calling my dad shortly after the Owls won and telling him that was the best college football game I had ever experienced. It may not have been the best display of actual football talent, but it was definitely the greatest Shula Bowl of all time.
Overtime victories, perfectly placed on-side kicks, and successful trick plays. This is what the Shula Bowl is all about. One team will leave West Miami with the two-sided trophy and a .500 record, while the other team will be sent back to the drawing board empty-handed. Whether you're an Owl or a Panther, this is always the most important game of the season and Thursday's chapter is no different.