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South Florida showcases talent in Miami's 44-20 win at FAU

Hurricanes score 24 unanswered points in first-ever trip to FAU Stadium

Miami running back Joe Yearby crosses the goal line on a 34-yard touchdown reception that gave the Hurricanes a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
Miami running back Joe Yearby crosses the goal line on a 34-yard touchdown reception that gave the Hurricanes a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. (Peter Burke/Local10.com)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Miami scored 24 unanswered points in the second half of the biggest home game in Florida Atlantic history, defeating the Owls 44-20 on Friday night.

A sellout crowd of 30,321 filled the 29,495-seat FAU Stadium -- the first sellout since the venue opened in 2011 -- in what was arguably the biggest sporting event ever to be played in Boca Raton.

The Hurricanes made the short trek north along Interstate 95 to spoil FAU's home opener. It was Miami's first-ever trip to FAU Stadium, which played host to a team from a "Power Five" conference for the first time. 

Miami (2-0) got things going early with a 4-yard touchdown run from Mark Walton on its opening drive. On FAU's first possession of the game, starting quarterback Jaquez Johnson led the Owls 59 yards on nine plays, but the home team settled for a 23-yard field goal from Boca Raton native Greg Joseph that cut Miami's lead to four.

For the second week in a row, Miami's game was suspended during play because of lightning. A weather delay with 6:10 left in the first quarter sent both teams back to their locker rooms, but the Hurricanes seemed to pick up right where they left off after the teams returned to the field after a 67-minute delay.

The next possession ended with a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brad Kaaya to running back Joe Yearby that gave the Hurricanes a 14-3 lead.

Johnson injured his ankle before the delay and didn't return to the game. He finished the night 2-of-4 passing for 11 yards.

The Owls (0-2) then turned to backup quarterback Jason Driskel, who led FAU on a four-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nate Terry.

Miami extended its lead to seven on a 48-yard field goal from kicker Michael Badgley, but Driskel once again led the Owls on another scoring drive. Running back Jay Warren plowed into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run, and Joseph's extra point tied the game at 17.

Badgley kicked a 21-yard field goal with 3:46 remaining in the first half to give Miami a 20-17 lead, and the Hurricanes had an opportunity to score again before halftime.

After FAU fumbled a punt return on its own 17-yard line, Miami was poised to score again, but Badgley's 24-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right, leaving the Owls with 40 seconds left before halftime to try to tie the score. Instead, Joseph missed a 54-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.

FAU was able to move the ball downfield early in the second half, and the Owls gambled by going for it on fourth-and-4 to keep its opening drive of the third quarter alive. Driskel connected with running back Greg Howell on a 12-yard strike, and FAU tied it up again with Joseph's 32-yard field goal.

It turned out to be the last score of the night for the Owls.

"When they scored to make it 20-20, a lot of the guys smiled," Kaaya said after the game. "I looked at Joe and (freshman running back) Mark (Walton) and said, 'Let's go. This is what we live for.'"

Kaaya connected with Yearby on a 52-yard pass that set up his 1-yard score to take a 27-20 lead.

FAU began to unravel in the third after Howell fumbled on the next possession, and Miami kicked another field goal to go up by 10.

Walton scored the final two touchdowns for the Hurricanes -- a 1-yard run late in the third quarter and a 4-yard run for the lone score of the fourth quarter.

Driskel, whose brother is former Florida Gators and current Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel, finished the evening 17-of-30 for 155 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two costly interceptions.

Kaaya ended his night without a turnover, throwing for 287 yards and a touchdown.

Yearby rushed 18 times for 146 yards and also caught three passes for 97 yards, scoring on the ground and through the air.

Howard Schnellenberger, who led the Hurricanes to their first national championship in 1983 and was FAU's coach for its first 11 seasons before retiring in 2011, was on the field that bears his name before the game for the coin toss.

A total of 17 FAU players on the roster hail from Miami-Dade County, while three Miami players are from Palm Beach County.

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