What Schnellenberger saw coming in 1998 almost happened for FAU at the Swamp

They probably don’t want to hear it right now but it needs to be said.

Congratulations to the Florida Atlantic Owls for pushing the No. 8 Florida Gators to the absolute limit Saturday.

 

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

GAINESVILLE, FL – NOVEMBER 21: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

What could have been the greatest game in Owls history turned into just another close call, this time in overtime, but you know what? I’m calling it the greatest game anyway, or at least a close second to that landmark 2007 New Orleans Bowl victory over Memphis.

When Howard Schnellenberger birthed FAU football, it was with moments exactly like that thriller at the Swamp in mind.

It seemed silly when Howard popped up in Boca Raton in 1998 with talk of a team that didn’t yet exist competing one day on a straight-up basis with the Gators and FSU Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes for control of Sunshine State loyalties.

College football, however, is built for dreams and dreamers.

If you had just dropped in on the Swamp Saturday with no prior information on these teams, it would have seemed impossible that the Gators are playing for the SEC championship in a couple of weeks. They didn’t look up to winning the Conference USA title.

[Better find a coach who majors in defense because all of UM’s title teams sure did]

[FSU won’t play for the ACC title this year but do you realize just how rare that is?]

[Learning from the Big Three and the Heat’s ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

As for the Owls, 2-9 is the last record you would have guessed. Coach Charlie Partridge has done everything with this team but teach it how to win. It’s got to be coming soon, right?

This weeks Florida-FSU game may be an entirely different matter, with all the emotion that the Gators didn’t bring to their meeting with FAU. For now, though, it doesn’t make much sense worrying about where Florida winds up in Tuesday’s new College Football Playoff rankings.

Without a reliable quarterback and a serviceable kicker, there can be no national championship run. It’s a tribute to coach Jim McElwain that Florida has squeezed 10 wins out a team with such obvious flaws.

Now wait and see if the Owls don’t go out and lose their season finale at Old Dominion and have us all scratching our heads again.