We're one day away from Don Shula Bowl XI between FIU and Florida Atlantic from FAU Stadium. The Owls' new home will be the sixth venue to host the Shula Bowl after Dolphin Stadium, FIU Community Stadium, Orange Bowl, FIU Stadium and Lockhart Stadium.
Before we get to Shula Bowl XI, Marcus Nelson and I finish our look back at each Shula Bowl giving you an FAU and an FIU perspective, respectively. Marcus, like myself, has covered every Shula Bowl. As the FAU beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, Marcus covered the first six Shula Bowls for the newspaper before starting FAUOwlAccess.com and covering the last four Shula Bowls on that site.
Here is a look back at the last five Don Shula Bowls.
DON SHULA BOWL VI thru X
Shula Bowl VI (Nov. 24, 2007, Orange Bowl) -- FAU 55, FIU 23 (Game MVPs: FAU -- Rusty Smith 330 passing yards, 4 TDs; FIU -- A'mod Ned [below] 68 rushing yards, 23 receiving yards, 2 TDs)
MN: In what was undoubtedly the strangest Shula Bowl, FAU quarterback Rusty Smith threw four touchdown passes as Owls fans celebrated at one of the last games played at Miami’s Orange Bowl. After the game Howard Schnellenberger, took a knee in the end zone to pay homage to where he coached as a Dolphins assistant and later head coach at the University of Miami.
PP: Undermanned without a full roster of scholarships and going through the transition between former coach Don Strock and first-year coach Mario Cristobal, the Panthers had a tough time with the Owls falling behind 35-3 until the fourth quarter where each team scored 20 points. FIU quarterback Wayne Younger had his collarbone broken by a host of Owls defenders on a sack in the second quarter. Paul McCall entered the game and threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns. One week later, FIU closed out the Orange Bowl in fine fashion defeating North Texas in the final college football game played at the historic stadium. Shula Bowl VI is also the most recent game between FIU and FAU that Don Shula attended.
Shula Bowl VII (Nov. 29, 2008, Dolphin Stadium) -- FAU 57, FIU 50, OT (Game MVPs: FIU -- Paul McCall 400 passing yards, 4 TDs; FAU -- Rusty Smith 389 passing yards, 5 TDs)
PP: This is the type of game that makes rivalries so great. It was also the game where FIU began to catch up to FAU talent-wise. One year after losing by 32 points to the Owls, the Panthers took two 14-point leads in the fourth quarter but could not hold on. It was probably a bad omen for FIU when FAU officials, in anticipation of an FIU win, started moving the Shula Bowl Trophy toward the FIU sideline with the Panthers up by 14 points and 3:09 left in the game. FAU proceeded to score twice to send the game into overtime. FAU quarterback Rusty Smith had three straight completions for 87 yards on the first of those two touchdown drives. FAU then recovered the on-side kick. The Owls would score again with 18 seconds left in the game to tie the score at 50-50. FAU needed just three plays to score a touchdown in overtime. FIU could not get a first down in overtime.
MN: Was this the most exciting of all the Shula Bowls? FAU erased 14-point deficits in the fourth quarter twice as both teams combined for 56 points in the final quarter and 1,037 total yards of offense for the game. Rusty Smith’s fifth touchdown pass of the game to tight end Jamari Grant (who hugged the referee) in overtime was the difference. The victory gave the Owls a 6-6 record, made them bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season and later were invited to the Motor City Bowl.
Shula Bowl VIII (Dec. 5, 2009, FIU Stadium) -- FAU 28, FIU 21 (Game MVPs: FAU -- Alfred Morris 158 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 8 receiving yards, TD; FIU -- Daunte Owens 86 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 33 receiving yards)
MN: Running back Alfred Morris was the difference in this game as he scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to break a 14-14 tie with 10 minutes remaining to give the Owls the Shula Trophy for another season. Morris finished with three touchdowns and 158 yards on the ground, which gave him the Sun Belt Conference rushing title.
PP: There was some gamesmanship early on by FAU. The Owls scattered ashes over the FIU logo at midfield before the game. The antic left the golden Panther with a blue hue. Alfred Morris left the FIU defense feeling blue after scoring three touchdowns. It was the second consecutive seven-point loss to the Owls for the Panthers. Fullback John Ellis (above) helped FIU tie the score with a 25-yard run on a fake punt that set up the second touchdown. Linebacker Scott Bryant broke the then-FIU all-time tackles record in this game.
Shula Bowl IX (Oct. 30, 2010, Lockhart Stadium) -- FAU 21, FIU 9 (Game MVPs: FIU -- T.Y. Hilton 124 receiving yards; FAU -- Lester Jean 114 receiving yards, TD)
PP: The earliest date a Shula Bowl was ever played occurred in 2010, the day before Halloween. FIU was the better team coming into the game and appeared ready to wrest the Shula Trophy from FAU. However, the Panthers couldn't get much going that afternoon in Fort Lauderdale. FIU fell to 2-5 on the season, but the loss was sort of a turning point in the season for the Panthers. FIU won the next four consecutive games to clinch its first Sun Belt Conference championship and become bowl-eligible. The Panthers ended the 2010 season with a dramatic last-second victory over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
MN: FAU’s fourth quarter goal-line stand was the difference in the game as Panthers receiver Wayne Times threw an incomplete pass on fourth down from the Owls’ 2 with FAU leading 14-9. The Owls scored an insurance touchdown seven plays later on a 65-yard run by Willie Floyd and Marcus Bartels’s second interception of the game sealed the victory for FAU.
Shula Bowl X (Nov. 12, 2011, FIU Stadium) -- FIU 41, FAU 7 (Game MVPs: FAU -- Alfred Morris 110 rushing yards; FIU -- Kedrick Rhodes 122 rushing yards, TD, 36 receiving yards)
MN: FAU trailed 31-0 at halftime and committed 14 penalties in a bitter and painful loss to FIU in the final Shula Bowl for Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger, who offered an apology to Don Shula and others he coached under for the Owls’ pitiful play versus their rival. The lone bright spot for FAU was running back Alfred Morris, who became the Owls’ all-time leading rusher in the second quarter.
PP: With his flair for the dramatic throughout his FIU career, T.Y. Hilton (above) added another thrilling moment to his time as a Panther. In the final home game and final Shula Bowl of his career, Hilton fielded a punt at the FIU 3 -- usually a no-no for punt returners, but we are talking about T.Y. here -- and ran past the entire FAU punt coverage unit for a 97-yard touchdown. The score in the second quarter extended the FIU lead to 31-0 to bury the Owls. After the game, FIU coach Mario Cristobal quipped, "T.Y. can field a punt at the scoreboard and return it for a touchdown. He's the best I've ever seen."