We keep telling you how big tonight’s appearance by the Miami Hurricanes in Boca Raton is for Florida Atlantic football.
Epic, in a word. Enormous, in a longer word. Kardashian, in the mother of all words.
Thought it might be fun, meanwhile, to list the top 20 landmark games in FAU history to this point. None match the symbolic and psychological significance of having the ‘Canes on campus, but the Owls never wouldn’t be where they are tonight without experiencing each and every one of them.
- First game ever – Sept. 1, 2001: FAU falls 40-7 to Slippery Rock at Sun Life Stadium. Disaster of several players academically ineligible. Small crowd. Still, got to start somewhere.
- First win ever – Sept. 8, 2001: In a driving rainstorm, Owls prove themselves a real football team by winning a real football game, 31-28, at Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach. Break up FAU!
- First win over Div. I opponent – Aug. 28, 2003: FAU goes on the road to beat Middle Tennessee of the Sun Belt conference 20-19. Was just 22nd game since Owls started program from scratch.
- First in-state splash – Sept. 13, 2003: Playing as a Div. I-AA independent, the Owls give UCF a scare before falling 33-29 in Orlando. The Knights haven’t played FAU since. Next meeting 2018.
- First winning season – Oct. 18, 2003: Owls beat Northern Colorado 31-19 at Lockhart Stadium for sixth win of year. That clinches winning record with three regular-season games to go.
- First 50-point game- Nov. 15, 2003: Owls crush Siena 51-3 at Lockhart Stadium. It was the best-attended home game of the season with a crowd of 6,159.
- First national TV game – Dec. 13, 2003: Owls lose 36-24 to Colgate at Lockhart Stadium but ESPN2 was there to broadcast the game, a Div. I-AA national semifinal. Crowd is 12,857.
- First overtime win – Sept. 4, 2004 – Owls go all the way to Honolulu and then go a little bit more, topping Hawaii of the Western Athletic Conference 35-28 in overtime.
- First visit from team in a BCS league – Sept. 8, 2005: Oklahoma State of the old Big 12 beats FAU 23-3 at Sun Life Stadium. Crowd of 16,421 turns out for Owls and Cowboys.
- First game against team ranked in AP poll – Oct. 1, 2005: Owls lose 61-10 at No. 11 Louisville. One of three games that season in which the Cardinals scored 60-plus points.
- First bodybag game – Sept. 2, 2006: Owls go to Clemson for big guarantee and get clobbered 54-6. Trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina immediately follow, all big losses.
- First home win over team in a BCS league – Sept. 15, 2007: Owls beat Minnesota of the Big Ten 42-39 at Sun Life Stadium. Again, the building’s too big for the event. Crowd of 10,759.
- First game against Top-10 team – Oct. 6, 2007: South Florida comes to Lockhart Stadium as the No. 2 team in the BCS rankings, having upset West Virginia the week before. Owls lose 35-23.
- First game against one of state’s Big Three – Nov. 17, 2007: Owls take a pretty good team to Florida and lose 59-20. Better things were coming, though, as FAU built to a finish of 8-5.
- First bowl win – Dec. 21, 2007: Owls beat Memphis 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl. Shortest amount of time ever needed for a start-up program to reach a bowl game.
- First back-to-back bowl win: Dec. 26, 2008: Owls beat Central Michigan 24-21 in Detroit’s Motor City Bowl. This was the last of Howard Schnellenberger’s four winning seasons as FAU coach.
- First game at FAU Stadium – Oct. 15, 2011: Owls lose 20-0 to Western Kentucky but their on-campus stadium shows off well in its debut. A near sellout announced at 29,103.
- First game against No. 1 team – Sept. 22, 2012: Owls lose 40-7 to top-ranked Alabama. The usual crowd of 101,821 shows up in Tuscaloosa but the game is available only on pay-per-view.
- First game against Miami – Aug. 30, 2013: FAU loses 34-6 to Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium but it could have been worse. Miami let off the gas, never scoring after the third quarter.
- First winning record at FAU Stadium – Nov. 30, 2013: Owls beat FIU 21-7 to finish 3-2 in games played on their own campus. Interim coach Brian Wright got all the wins after Carl Pelini’s firing.
If you ask me, the biggest game to this point was that New Orleans Bowl win over Memphis because it came, shockingly, in the program’s seventh year of existence.
Now comes Miami at FAU, which is guaranteed to be far more impactful, for the good or for the bad, when it comes to establishing the Owls’ credentials with recruits and with South Florida’s hard-to-impress fan base.