BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Jyruss Edwards and Kolton Browning made sure Louisiana-Monroe spoiled Howard Schnellenberger’s coaching finale.
Edwards ran for two touchdowns, Browning threw for two others and the Warhawks sent the 77-year-old Schnellenberger into retirement by beating Florida Atlantic 26-0 on Saturday.
Louisiana-Monroe (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) finished the season with wins in two of its last three games.
It was the third time FAU (1-11, 0-8) had been shut out this year, a less-than-fitting end for Schnellenberger — an offensive coach for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins, a coach for three national-championship teams under Bear Bryant at Alabama in the 1960s and then the head coach for the 1983 Miami Hurricanes, the club that won the first of five national titles at the school.
FAU is expected to introduce Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Monday as Schnellenberger’s replacement. FAU’s trustees have a Monday morning meeting scheduled to approve his hiring and a five-year contract worth around $2.5 million. A news conference to announce the hiring is tentatively planned for Monday afternoon.
FAU has not publicly confirmed any details of the looming Pelini hire, out of respect to Schnellenberger and the end of his career.
“A lot of us are using the same word: Bittersweet,” FAU President Mary Jane Saunders said. “It’s sad to see that this is the last day Coach will coach for our team, but sweet in the fact that it’s been wonderful to have been part of his illustrious career. We’re so grateful that he came to FAU and worked with us and we’re so happy we have this stadium that he can have for this last game.”
Edwards finished with 94 yards for Louisiana-Monroe, and Browning completed 16 of 24 passes for 183 yards. For FAU, Alfred Morris had 21 carries for 72 yards, nearly half of the Owls’ total offense for the day.
FAU had members of Schnellenberger’s family on the field for the pregame coin toss, and some fans — those who did show up, the 30,000-seat stadium that the coach worked for so long to get built was mostly empty — stopped and took pictures of the statue near the field bearing the inscription, “to believe is to be strong.” Schnellenberger posed with soon-to-be graduating seniors and their families for pictures, kissing a lot of mothers on his way down the line.
There even were a few banners, one reading “The House That Howard Built.”
In the end, it was a most unceremonious ending.
Louisiana-Monroe outgained FAU 107-33 in the first quarter, 260-78 in the first half, and the tide never turned. Luther Ambrose caught a 12-yard pass from Browning to open the scoring, Edwards scored on a 67-yard run early in the second quarter and then a 1-yard burst about 6 minutes later, and the Warhawks were up 19-0.
Kevin Steed’s 1-yard touchdown catch with 8:19 left capped the scoring.
Maybe it was fitting that FAU’s highlight of the day was provided by Schnellenberger himself: As Browning rolled out to his left on one play in the first half, he fired a pass toward the FAU sideline — which Schnellenberger snared with ease, drawing a loud ovation.
“This was the culmination of a great three months of tribute to him,” FAU athletic director Craig Angelos said.
Schnellenberger’s career finished with a 158-151-3 record, 6-0 in bowl games, two of those at FAU along with one Sun Belt title. But the Owls have not had a winning record in any of the last three seasons, though Schnellenberger has said many times that the stadium — which opened Oct. 15 — is the “last piece of the puzzle” before the program can vie to become a consistent winner.
“It really is important to have a winning team,” Saunders said. “People will come out to see a team that’s winning. We’re in the Sun Belt. There’s every possibility in the world that we can have winning teams in the Sun Belt. So we’re really encouraged and hopeful that the next coach will be able to do that.”
When it was over, Schnellenberger walked to the center of the field surrounded by security and photographers, as fireworks burst into the air over one of the end zones. Schnellenberger grabbed a microphone, spoke for about 2 minutes and ended his speech with a simple “Thank you” before leaving his field for the final time.
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