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Palm trees and pipe dreams: Florida Atlantic off to horrific start

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire

Boca Raton’s layout mimics that of a mural masterpiece.

Palm trees aplenty coupled with the off-white sand that disperses across crystal-clear beaches make the city one of the most alluring places Florida has to offer.

It’s a shame that there’s no correlation between stunning city sights and football programs embedded amid those spectacles.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are the complete opposite of the town in which they reside. The palm trees that dance to the evening wind have been sliced by their gridiron roots. The beaches have been washed up with pigskin loss after loss — after loss.

From choruses that chime in with ‘Fire Charlie Partridge’ to CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli pitting Florida Atlantic near the ocean floor of his satirical Bottom 25 rankings, it’d be much easier to sift through the rummage and find things that are going right for the Owls.

A team with bowl aspirations prior to the season will more than likely find that goal cut down in the next few weeks.

With a 1-5 record and still searching for its first win over an FBS program, Florida Atlantic is doomed in 2016.

The Owls watched momentum slip through their fingers in Week 5 versus in-state rival Florida International. The team handed over the Don Shula Award to the Golden Panthers a season after it claimed the hardware with seemingly nothing to play for other than the sole satisfaction of drowning Florida International’s bowl hopes.

Florida Atlantic followed that loss up with a close defeat to the hands of the Charlotte 49ers, who entered last Sunday’s clash versus the Owls with an 0-9 start in conference play. Some believe that “close losses” can signal turning points for teams that are consistently on the short end of the stick; even Phil Steele harps on the sabermetric-type formula time and time again.

At the end of the day, it all centers around accountability. A loss is a loss.

“It’s us, man,” running back Gregory “Buddy” Howell told South Florida’s Sun Sentinel after the loss to FIU.

“It’s not the coaches. We are the ones playing. We are the ones that make plays and make mistakes. Me, I made a big mistake, at a crunch time. I can’t do that. I got to go look in the mirror and talk to myself. That’s for everybody.”

If marginal defeats point to better things to come, the team has defied that notion. Four out of the nine losses last season came by single digits, bookended by casualties in overtime. It hasn’t translated to wins this time around.

Optimistically speaking, it’s not as though the Owls don’t have a pulse; the team just can’t buy a win right now. The only victory this season came against FCS member Southern Illinois, and even that came by a mere eight points, in which Florida Atlantic needed to erase a halftime deficit.

Following back-to-back 3-9 seasons, there’s a chance that Partridge will duplicate that record once more. The Owls, with five losses, still have to go on the road to play Marshall and Middle Tennessee, as well as play host to Western Kentucky.

Athletic director Pat Chun has remained firm in his support of the head coach. Others will allude to the fact that despite succumbing to defeat week in and week out, Patridge has enjoyed sporadic success on the recruiting trail. His 2015 class clocked in at No. 2 in Conference USA, while the latest cycle has Florida Atlantic slotted No. 4.

The prospect potential and star-ratings are great, but if that doesn’t translate into wins on the field, then there’s not a single thing to rave about. At all.

Right now, the palm trees are the only things staying upright in Boca Raton.

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