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The 2007 season put FAU football on the map and solidified Howard Schnellenberger’s legacy

Ten years ago FAU football realized its potential.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Memphis v Florida Atlantic Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

For those who don’t know, FAU has only been a Division I/FBS football program for 13 years. It’s been a rough 13 years for the most part. Against even competition FAU has really never done anything of note as a conference member of the Sun Belt and now Conference USA. Against superior competition they’ve been worse.

One clear exception is the 2007 season. Yes, 2007 wasn’t just a year of football in paradise for the Owls. It was the best year of football that has ever been played in paradise. It is a season that FAU alumni look back on very fondly as it has still yet to be topped and is a crowning moment for what can be achieved at FAU.

FAU was picked to finish sixth in the Sun Belt at the beginning of the season despite a promising 5-7 record the year before. It was their second season as members of the Sun Belt Conference. The main headline for the FAU program was still should-be-college-football-hall-of-famer head coach Howard Schnellenberger. His rebuilding project in Boca Raton was going smoothly but no one expected the Owls to have the year they had in 2007.

The season started off with a conference win over Middle Tennessee (remember what it was like to beat the Blue Raiders?). After losing to Oklahoma State the Owls notched their first BCS/Power Five victory in school history by defeating Minnesota 42-39 with Tavious Polo sealing the game with an interception. It was the biggest victory in FAU history at the time.

The Owls then defeated North Texas the following week to go 2-0 in conference play. The best start to conference play the school has ever had.

During FAU’s best season another school in the state was having unprecedented success as USF started their season 4-0 with upset victories of Auburn and West Virginia. FAU hosted their first ever ranked opponent as the 6th ranked USF Bulls would visit Lockhart Stadium. Another milestone was reached as this was easily the biggest home game in FAU history.

From meeting the FAU fans that attended the game, a few Owls still rank that as their favorite FAU home game they’ve attended despite the narrow loss.

A road overtime win over the Ragin’ Cajuns was followed by a home triple-overtime loss to Louisiana Monroe. At 4-4 overall and 3-1 in conference play, FAU had three road games and one home game left on the schedule. The home loss to ULM seemed like the one that’d come back to prevent the Owls from accomplishing more.

It didn’t.

FAU would go on to win three of the next four with the lone loss coming to Florida and the biggest victory taking place in the season finale against the Troy Trojans in Movie Gallery Stadium to win the Sun Belt.

The Shula Bowl was a lopsided 55-23 victory for FAU. Usually the Shula Bowl would have been the highlight of the year. In 2007 it was an afterthought. FAU defeated a Big Ten team, hosted a top 10 opponent, and for the first time in school history won the Sun Belt and were going bowling.

A trip to the New Orleans Bowl against Memphis awaited the Owls. On a grand stage, Howard Schnellenberger and the FAU football program had an opportunity to put themselves on the map and boy did they. The Owls dominated Memphis 44-27 and won the first bowl game they ever played in.

The Owls became the fastest program in college football history to win a bowl game, after playing just seven seasons of college football. They finished 8-5, the best season ever in FAU history. It cemented Schnelly’s legacy as a great head coach and a master of taking on rebuilding projects. You can still see traces of how special that 2007 season was in FAU Stadium as pictures of FAU legends such as Rusty Smith and Frantz Joseph decorate the stadium.

I’ve mentioned this before but 2007 was my first introduction to FAU. I remember how some astronaut that was an FAU alumni was introducing the team in the New Orleans Bowl. I remember seeing DiIvory Edgecomb torch Memphis. I remember seeing FAU play against USF on ESPNU. These were my first memories of the program and what peaked my interest in the school. If that magical 2007 season doesn’t happen, I’m not an Owl.

FAU was beginning to start something special in 2007. Two years removed it was over. But 10 years later the impact of that 2007 season is still felt.

The university has gotten bigger, the Owls have their own stadium, Schnellenberger has a statue and the field is named in his honor, and for the first time since Schnelly roamed the sidelines they have a pretty famous head coach in Lane Kiffin ready to put FAU on the map again.

This season not much is expected of FAU. They were picked to finish fifth in C-USA East. The Owls will start conference play against Middle Tennessee. Feels like 2007 doesn’t it?

I don’t know about you but I’m getting the sense that the stars are aligning for another magical season in Boca.