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Owls win ugly Opener, 7-3

Posted on 06 September 2012 by LeslieM

If there were ever a time to be late for a football game (due to a prior commitment), then FAU’s home Opener Friday night against Wagner College was it.

I arrived at 9:10 p.m. with five minutes left in the second quarter and FAU trailing the Seahawks, 3-0. The first person I saw was Assistant Athletic Director and Media Relations Director Katrina McCormack. She smiled and said, “things worked out for you.” This meant that I didn’t miss much.

By halftime, FAU had amassed a mere 79 yards in total offense.

The Owls woke up during the fourth quarter as QB Graham Wilbert connected with wide receiver Byron Hankerson for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 11:36 left in the game. The drive was one play for 39 yards and the time of possession was seven seconds.

The 14,510 fans had their first win of the season before Labor Day. (Last season, it was after Thanksgiving before FAU won their first game. The Owls defeated UAB 38-35 on Nov. 26, 2011 in a 1-11 season.)

Wilbert went 10-13, had no interceptions for 126 yards and one touchdown. Hankerson had five receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Running back Martese Jackson gained 99 yards on 21 carries as FAU finished the game with 327 total offensive yards.

They defeated Wagner, which is located in Staten Island, New York and has been playing football since 1927. Going into the FAU contest, Wagner had an alltime record of 379-324-19 for a .534 winning percentage. They currently play in the Football Championship Series (FCS), a level below FAU, which participates in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

FAU has been playing football since 2001 and the Owls record is 58-74 for a .439 winning percentage. Despite being on different levels, the FCS schools compete well against the FBS squads.

(On Sept.1, 2007, Appalachian State put the FCS on the map, defeating the Michigan Wolverines, 34-32, in Ann Arbor, MI, in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.)

During week one of this season, FAU’s next opponent, Middle Tennessee State, lost 27-21 to McNeese State. Another FCS upset occurred in Pittsburgh, as Youngstown State defeated the Panthers, 31-17, of the Big East at Heinz Field.

These FCS schools are good and they produce quality NFL players. Former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton and San Francisco ‘49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice began their Hall of Fame careers at FCS institutions.

When the game was over, FAU Coach Carl Pelini admitted he had butterflies during his head coaching debut.

“This was just another football game, but we prepared as best as we could,” Pelini said. “Nothing that happened out there shocked me. Graham did it for us. We made mistakes, no panic, and I will not apologize for a win.

“Our greatest leap should be between weeks one and two.”

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OWL CORNER: Storey called up by Houston Astros

Posted on 08 August 2012 by LeslieM

As football training camp opens this week in preparation for the season opener on August 31 against Wagner College, there is one unexpected, but positive story line that occurred on Friday, August 3.

Former FAU Pitcher Mickey Storey was called up by the Houston Astros and arrived in Atlanta at 6:30 a.m., taking an overnight trip from Portland, OR, where his AAA team was playing, according to MLB.com.

Hours later, the 2008 graduate was making his bigleague debut, retiring the only two batters he faced against the Braves in Atlanta.

The first hitter Storey faced was veteran Dan Uggla, who started at second base for the National League in the 2012 Major League, Baseball All-Star Game.

Through Sundays action, the Astros are 36-73 and 30.5 games back behind National League Central Division leader the Cincinnati Reds and are the worst team in baseball. The Astros are playing their final year in the Senior Circuit.

Houston will begin play in the American League West in 2013 and will need all the capable pitching it can get as the Astros face the designated hitter.

The right-handed Storey compiled a 7-4 record with a 3.05 ERA this summer for Oklahoma City. He struck out 72 batters in 65 innings and yielded only 14 walks.

At FAU, Storey ranked second all-time in Owls history with 292 strikeouts and is tied for second in wins with 23.

He threw the program’s last no-hitter in 2006 against Campbell University, after being named the 2005 National Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.

Storey is the seventh FAU baseball player to advance the major leagues. Jeff Beliveau is currently a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs (43-62) after being called up from the minor leagues in July.

There are now two players who got called up this summer by struggling teams.

For Storey and Beliveau, these promotions mean they have excellent opportunities.

With no disrespect to September, this is a month where the rosters are expanded to 40 players and it is considered “The Cup Of Coffee” to make an impression for Spring Training.

It will be interesting to monitor the careers of Storey and Beliveau in the coming years.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl corner: FAU athletic department changes

Posted on 12 July 2012 by LeslieM

There will be one face missing at the FAU Football Opener on August 31 – for the first time since 2003.

Craig Angelos won’t be in attendance when the Owls face Wagner College. He was fired as Athletic Director on March 21, 2012 from his position where he earned $192,000. The main reason he was let go was utilizing his fundraising. There was a lack of money.

Add that to the fact that FAU failed to sell out its Oct 15 opener at the new stadium, in addition to fewer than 4,000 showing up at the final football game of a 1-11 season, and it’s safe to say that Angelos will watch future Owls games on TV.

On July 2, the Owls decided to go to Big Ten Country to hire Angelos’ replacement. Now, the challenge of fundraising falls in the hands of 37-year old Patrick Chun. He has spent the past 15-years in numerous roles with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

He worked in endowment building, strategic planning, management and leadership.

Ohio State University (OSU) provides services for more than 1,000 student athletes, 36 intercollegiate athletic programs, 100 coaches and more than 330 full-time athletic department staff in 15 facilities.

The Ohio State athletics operating budget is in excess of $126 million.

Chun’s colleagues gave him strong endorsements.

Among those who voiced positive reviews: OSU Associate Vice President/ Athletic Director Gene Smith; Clark Kellogg, who is CBS Sports College Basketball lead analyst/ vice president of Indiana Pacers; football coach Urban Meyer; basketball coach Thad Matta; former football coach Jim Tressel, who is the current Vice President of Strategic Engagement at the University of Akron; Dutch Baughman, executive director of Division IA Athletic Directors Association and Joseph R Castiglione, vice president of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Oklahoma.

During the past year, the FAU Athletic Program has experienced numerous changes. In May, Women’s Basketball hired Kellie Lewis- Jay, 36, who spent five years at the University of Nebraska, where she coordinated the Cornhuskers recruiting efforts. Lewis-Jay becomes the fourth head coach in FAU’s 28-year existence.

Current Football Coach Carl Pelini was an assistant coach for Nebraska last year, so the road from Lincoln to Boca Raton has filled two coaching vacancies, plus it could lead to games in the field with FAU facing Nebraska in women’s hoops along with football. FAU is scheduled to travel to Nebraska on August 30, 2014 to face the Cornhuskers.

Don’t be surprised to see FAU face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the future with the automatic connection between Chun and the Buckeyes.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl Corner: FAU’s renewed energy

Posted on 14 June 2012 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

It’s hard to believe that FAU’s first football game is Aug. 31, 2012 against Wagner College.

This will be the first year that a new man is roaming the sidelines. Carl Pelini takes over for the father of the program, Howard Schnellenberger. When the Owls kicks off, Schnellenberger will probably be watching the game from a private suite at FAU Stadium.

Pelini is determined to erase the agony of a 1-11 season with a group of players who have a clean slate, but it won’t take long for that slate to become dirty. During FAU’s Spring Game in April, Pelini had a chance to see his team on the field for the first time. When the game was over, I asked him what he thought of his team’s energy and he made several things clear about what to expect in 2012.

“I’m energetic and I want to see more energy and enthusiasm on the field,” Pelini said. I want guys who love to play the game. Right now, it sometimes seems like guys are going through the motions. I’ve never seen as many guys as I saw laying on the ground between plays.

“Unless your leg is falling off, you better walk off the field. I don’t want to see the trainers out there unless you’re truly injured. Guys walking around between plays and slow getting into their stances is all stuff that I want to get cleaned up. You can talk about it and talk about it, but now it’s on tape. That’s something that we’re going to address with them right away.

“I want a different energy level. I want a guy who loves the game of football, is excited about it, plays passionately.”

Pelini has one other message that he wants to make sure all of his players understand.

“I always warn my players at every level I’ve been at that when that day comes and you walk off the field for the last time, you’re going to miss it. Pelini added.” Don’t waste the time you have. Have fun at the game. That’s important. Sometimes, I don’t know if we know how to do that.”

The players better comprehend these messages fast. Pelini is 46 years old and not only is he trying to make the most out of his first head coaching position, trying to turn a program around, but it’s no secret that what he accomplishes at FAU will determine where his head coaching career is headed in the future.

These players better be prepared for training camp after last year’s poor season.

I have a feeling the 2012 FAU Owls know that there is a new sheriff in town. This guy will get every ounce of energy out of them, otherwise, they’ll be on the bench or off the team.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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OWL CORNER: FAU 2012 NFL Players

Posted on 09 May 2012 by LeslieM

Despite a 1-11 season, there are two FAU Football players that have a chance to continue their football careers.
Former FAU running back Alfred Morris was selected by the Washington Redskins on the final day of the NFL Draft, April 28, in the sixth round, as the 173rd overall pick.
Morris is FAU’s all-time leading rusher with 3,529 yards. The Pensacola native also holds FAU career records for total touchdowns with 31, rushing touchdowns (27) and all-purpose yards (3,843). He now has a chance to join Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III in the Washington backfield.
Morris was named offensive MVP of the football team and FAU’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
FAU has now had a player drafted in the last three NFL Drafts. Morris joins Rusty Smith in 2010 (Tennessee Titans) and Rob Housler in 2011 taken by the Arizona Cardinals.
Former FAU defensive end Kevin Cyrille has signed a rookie free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, following the completion of the NFL Draft.
The 6’-4”, 275 lb. Cyrille finished his FAU career as the school’s all-time leader in quarterback hurries with 14. He also ranks among the Top 10 in five defensive categories despite only playing three years after transferring from Western Michigan University.
Last season, Cyrille started 11 of FAU’s 12 games and has 36 total tackles. He was second on the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (4.5), while leading the team in quarterback hurries with nine.
The Miami native is among 15 Vikings’ rookie free agents that will travel to Winter Park, Minnesota for the team’s rookie mini-camp which began, Friday, May 4.
A year ago, former FAU wide receiver Lester Jean made the Houston Texans roster but spent the season on injured reserve. He is expected to compete for a starting spot in 2012.
In other football news, FAU and the University of Miami Hurricanes have agreed to play a three game series. It will begin with FAU traveling to Miami on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. FAU will play host to the Hurricanes in 2015 then return to Miami in 2016.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl Corner: Public relations debacles

Posted on 11 April 2012 by LeslieM

FAU Owls and FIU Golden Panthers have more things in common besides being rivals in the Sun Belt Conference and being small mid-major schools in South Florida. Over the past few months, both schools have made changes with their revenue producing sports where each have taken a hit in the Public Relations Department.

On Dec. 1, 2011, Carl Pelini became the successor to Howard Schnellenberger as he hopes to revive a 1-11 program. This is Pelini’s first head coaching job and FAU is paying him $375,000 to rebuild the program. When Pelini was hired, his introductory press conference was handled poorly. He told the university’s Sports Information Department to hold an impromptu press conference and gather as many media as possible, regardless of how many didn’t make it, without knowledge. I was told later by the FAU Sports Information Department that Pelini’s accessibility would be far less then Schnellenberger, who would be extremely accommodating, realizing how necessary it was to gain the free publicity to promote his program. Schnellenberger is an icon and built the program from scratch while Pelini has more recruiting tools to work with, in addition to the new stadium. It’s his job to win and put rear-ends in the seats to pay for his salary.

Speaking of putting rear-ends in the seats, down in Miami, Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas averaged 1,071 for the Golden Panthers in three seasons, while attendance was four times that amount on the road. However, Thomas, who was hired in 2009 via a fiveyear contract, never had a chance to see his rebuilding project through. He was fired after three seasons, posting a 26-65 record.

Prior to Thomas’ arrival, FIU’s last winning season was in 1999-2000 and its winning percentage of .315 since, according to STATS LLC, is 329th out of 344 Division I Men’s programs that competed over the last 12 years.

I’ve known Thomas since the late 1980s and I know that he wouldn’t have taken this job if he didn’t have a chance to see it through. He loves basketball and didn’t take a base salary his first year, agreeing to a deal where he would receive nearly half of any gross revenues from ticket sales, commissions collected on food and beverage concessions and sponsorships.

Thomas put FIU on the map and the average college coach usually gets five years to recruit his players and institute his philosophy.

Timing couldn’t have been worse for FIU to make this change, and I do believe it will backfire. It’s not like the university is a cash cow, since its football stadium holds 20,000. There will be a small budget and Thomas’ controversial firing only puts a stain on the program. What reputable coach would come to FIU with a sub-par basketball stadium?

Thomas will likely land back in the NBA while FIU will go back to being an unknown commodity that is the Miami Hurricane’s infant brother.

FIU’s Football Program is best known for a controversial brawl it had with the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 14, 2006.

As for Pelini, I hope his second impression is better than his first. There is no doubt that both situations are under a major public relations microscope and we’ll see how they both play out.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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FAU Corner: Disappointing season for men’s basketball team

Posted on 08 March 2012 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

A year ago, the FAU Owls basketball team had a 21-11 record and were in first place in the Sun Belt Conference with a 13-3 mark. That earned them a trip to the NIT, where they would lose to the Miami Hurricanes.

What a difference a year makes. The Owls finished with an 11-19 overall mark and were tied for third place in the conference with Western Kentucky with 7-9 records.

FAU’s only chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament was to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas. But Arkansas State (13-19) put an end to FAU’s post-season aspirations by ousting the Owls, 70-55, Saturday Night.

Dennis Mavin led the 8th-seeded Owls with 12 points and Shavar Richardson had 11. FAU finished the season with a five-game losing streak. This was the last game for Richardson and his fellow senior Alex Tucker.

Richardson finished his career with 1,018 points, which is 9th in FAU history, while Tucker leaves as the all-time leader in assists with 538, which is also good for 7th all-time in Sun Belt Conference history.

FAU Coach Mike Jarvis’ career record at FAU stands at 52-71, while he is 371-273 overall.

After the Owls blew a double-digit lead to the Troy Trojans and lost an 83-82 decision, he had some critical comments about the way the season has gone, especially after the high expectations following last year.

“We’re still not ready to win and we may not be again this year,” Jarvis said. “This team should have been better, has the ability to win games and the games we lost were mostly mental. We haven’t played as hard as we can for 40 minutes all year. Until we do, we don’t deserve to win.

“We’re talented enough. I love my guys. They’re mature, but my children are not hungry enough like most teams in America.

“Last year’s team was much hungrier and this team lacks hunger. Lots of teams will go into their conference tournament, hoping the fairy godmother will get them to the NCAA Tournament.”

The players will be watching the NCAA Tournament like the rest of us on their couches or at sports bars.

During the Owls final home game against Troy, former FAU Baseball Coach Kevin Cooney was honored as the newest member into the School’s Sports Hall of Fame.

With basketball season over, this hasn’t been a good year for Men’s Producing Revenue Sports, as the football team finished with a 1-11 mark. In addition, the basketball squad reported an  underachieving year at 11-19.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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FAU battles hard in Orange Bowl Classic

Posted on 12 January 2012 by LeslieM

If anybody was hoping that after a 1-11 Football Season that there would be better results for the FAU Men’s Basketball Team, then think again. Going into Monday night’s road game against Arkansas State, FAU was 5-11, 1-2 in the Sun Belt Conference.

FAU’s latest loss, the Owls offense failed to show-up in Little Rock, as Arkansas Little Rock won a 40-38 contest Saturday night. That’s correct, 40-38, as both teams combined to score a mere 78 points. FAU scored 20 points trailing 22-20 at half-time.

Thus far, the highlight of the 2011-2012 FAU Season occurred at the Orange Bowl Classic, as the Owls lost a 93-90 double overtime contest to the Miami Hurricanes. Omari Grier led FAU with 27 points.

Miami leads the all-time series against FAU 21-1 as FAU’s last win against the Hurricanes occurred on Dec. 3, 2002, 74-73 in Boca Raton. This game set Orange Bowl Basketball Classic records for most assists (41) and 3-pointers made (29) and tied for most field goals made (63) and 3-pointers attempted (49). This was only the second game in Orange Bowl Classic history where both teams eclipsed the 80-point plateau, joining Florida’s 94-93 double-overtime win over Miami in 2002.

FAU now stands 0-2 all-time in Orange Bowl Classic play.

When the game was over, Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga had nothing but positive things to say about the Owls.

“My hats off to Florida Atlantic, their coaches and their team for the outstanding job they did,” Larranaga said. “Their 3-point shooting was incredible, the way they got those threes with tremendous dribble penetration and kicking it out. We were very concerned about that going into the game and it proved to be very true.”

Will there be any more Miami vs. FAU Men’s Basketball games in the future?

“Yeah, if they came to our place every other year,” FAU Coach Mike Jarvis said. “We would love to continue to play them, but they don’t want to play in Boca. So, we’ll ask them again if they’ll play home and home, and if they don’t want to play a home and home, then we probably won’t play them again.”

Since the Miami loss, FAU has lost four of the last five games. Those losses have come against Harvard, Siena, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas Little Rock.

The Owls next home game is Saturday, Jan. 14 against Middle Tennessee State at 7 p.m. During the next month, FAU travels to Miami to face Isiah Thomas’ FIU Golden Panthers on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. The two teams meet again on Feb. 4 in Boca Raton at 7 p.m.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Loss ends Schnellenberger era

Posted on 08 December 2011 by LeslieM

The Howard Schnellenberger era is officially over, as the only coach in FAU Football History leaves the program with a 58-74 mark. Schnellenberger’s all-time record in 27 years of coaching college football is 158-151 with a National Championship for the Miami Hurricanes in 1983.

The Owls can thank the UAB Blazers to avoid going winless this season as FAU pulled out a 38-35 win Saturday, Nov. 26, thanks to Senior Running Back Alfred Morris’ 198 yards and four touchdowns. Morris became the first person in Schnellenberger’s career to surpass 1,000 yards twice in his career. He finished with 1,186 yards in 2011 with a 72-yard effort against ULM. In 2009, he amassed 1,392.

The embarrassing defeat by UAB led to the firing a few days later of its’ Head Coach Neil Callaway, who had a 3-9 season and was 21-51 in five years.

When the game was over, FAU sent Schnellenberger out with a fireworks display. He also gave a game-ending speech thanking everyone in the stadium for their support. It took him longer to address the media because he spent extra time talking to his players. At the end of the press conference, the popular coach was busy signing media members’ press passes.

Schnellenberger said, “This is the first time I’ve turned a football team over in this type of situation. But I want the players to know that I value them being here. I didn’t want these players to go out as losers. There are a lot of good football players on this team.”

But Schnellenberger was pleased that his retirement would turn out differently than legendary coaches like former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden and Penn State’s Joe Paterno by leaving on his own terms.

“I talked to Bowden about this and with the way coaches are getting disposed of. I didn’t want to leave like that. I wanted this to be a seamless transition. I’ve never missed a day of work in 52 years of coaching, and I’m glad that I can retire, relax, spend time with my wife Beverlee, children and grandchildren,” Schnellenberger added. “I’ll be moving out of my football office Sunday and into a new one in the administration building Monday, helping out any way I can, but “won’t be in the way of the new coach.”

My time with Coach Schnelleberger dates back to our days with the Miami Hurricanes in the early 1980s. It will be different without my friend in the future, but the UAB win meant so much that it would have been a major injustice for him to end his final season as the only winless team in NCAA Division I FBS. Thankfully, it didn’t happen and I’m pleased he left on his own terms.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33.com.

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SPORTS: FAU loses homecoming to ASU

Posted on 10 November 2011 by LeslieM

The FAU Owls couldn’t get it right when they were shut out 20-0 by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to open up their new on-campus stadium on Oct. 15.

But the Owls had a second chance for another first in their new home. The Arkansas State University (ASU) Red Wolves were the first opponent in FAU’s inaugural Homecoming Game. The results were encouraging. With 10:55 left in the first half, the Owls were -13 yards in total offense.

But that was before running back Alfred Morris got his hands on the football and ran for 39 yards, thus putting the Owls in the black in total offense.

Two plays later, the Owls capped off a four play, 71-yard drive as Morris would score a 13-yard touchdown as he tied Doug Parker with 25 total all-time, rushing and receiving. FAU trailed at this point 15-7.

With 2:49 left in the first half, the Owls put together a seven plays, 62-yard and 3:16 drive and cut ASU’s lead 18-14. Morris would cap this drive with a four-yard touchdown run as he broke Parker’s record with 26. Morris has 22 rushing and four receiving touchdowns.

In the second half, Morris picked up where he left off, as he had 33 yards on the Owls opening drive, which led to an FAU eight play drive that went 70-yards and lasted 4:36.

Quarterback Graham Wilbert connected with Derek Moise for an 18-yard touchdown. It was the first of Moise’s career. The Owls took a 21-18 lead, and this was the first FAU lead in the new stadium.

But that lead wouldn’t last long as ASU responded with a six plays, 40 yards and 2:18 drive that gave them a 25-21 lead. It was capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Aplin to Taylor Stockemer.

The Red Wolves scored 21 unanswered points to build a 38-21 lead by the 7:39 mark in the fourth quarter. Aplin had five touchdowns, four rushing and one passing. He threw for 244 yards.

Morris finished with 163 yards rushing, while Graham ended his night with 147 yards and two interceptions. FAU had four turnovers and committed nine penalties for 69 yards in the 39-21 loss. ASU out gained FAU in total yards 429-281 and first downs 28-15.

The Owls dropped to 0-8 and 6-5 in Homecoming Games. The Red Wolves lead the all-time series 4-3.

When the game was over, Morris downplayed his personal accomplishments as he said, “This is bittersweet, but we wanted to win. As usual, we made a lot of mistakes. The film shows it. I don’t play for the accolades, but because I love the game. I don’t look at stats, just wins and losses.

“I take pride in blocking and take it serious because I don’t want them touching my other running back or quarterback. The positive part of this game is we showed we can move the ball.

“But I don’t want to be part of a win-less team. We have four chances to win a game. We’re not desperate for a win, but hungry for one. If I had the answers to this losing, I’d try to fix it.”

Coach Schnellenberger added, “Taking the lead in the third quarter was an accomplishment. This game was more disheartening because of the improvements you saw. I was a proud football coach and remain one. It’s tough trying to develop a football team that hasn’t won. What’s history is history. It’s a different type of development and we’ll continue to develop these players for the new coach.”

FAU’s next chance for a win is on Saturday night at 6 p.m. when it travels to Miami to face FIU in the Shula Bowl.


Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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