The Owls not only blew out UTSA 40-26 in San Antonio, basically every game across Conference USA yielded the results FAU desired, positioning the Owls perfectly heading into the season’s final week.
FAU’s victory combined with Marshall’s 24-13 loss at Charlotte, returned the Owls to Conference USA East Division’s driver’s seat with one game remaining in the regular season.
And in Birmingham, Ala., West Division leaders La. Tech fell to UAB 20-14, giving the Bulldogs two C-USA losses on the season.
The confluence of events means that an FAU victory over Southern Miss on Saturday will not only land the Owls in their second C-USA title game in three years, Florida Atlantic would host that Dec. 7 championship game.
“What a neat day,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said on the FAU radio postgame show.
“For all this other stuff to go right, all of those others were underdogs in their games, it was pretty amazing.”
FAU (8-3, 6-1) rolled through UTSA (4-7, 3-4) on the ground, with three different Owls rushing for TDs, and tight end Harrison Bryant proved unstoppable though the air.
Announced earlier this week as a Mackey Award semifinalist, Bryant caught his lone touchdown on his ninth catch of the afternoon, a two-yarder in the closing seconds of the third quarter. That was Bryant’s ninth of 10 catches on the day, yielding 182 yards on the day.
“No one’s playing like this guy,” Kiffin said. “Pretty amazing.”
Playing for the first time since breaking his ankle in the season-opener at Ohio St., former Alabama running back B. J. Emmons returned to rush for the first two touchdowns of his FAU career, the second one, a five-yard scamper, completed the scoring for the Owls.
Earlier in the second half Emmons raced 32 yards around left end for his first score, capping a two-play drive that started at the UTSA 37 following a Jordan Helm fumble recovery. Emmons ran for 53 yards on nine carries.
“It definitely felt good being back, just making up for lost time,” Emmons said.
Unlike FAU’s performance against MTSU following its first bye week of the season, the Owls started fast in the Alamo Dome. FAU needed only five plays to march 90 yards on its opening drive, with Malcolm Davidson bursting untouched up the middle for the final 16 yards.
Davidson followed his 144-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Owls’ Shula Bowl victory over FIU two weeks by averaging 7.6 yards on his seven carries.
Leading 10-3 in the second quarter, James Charles became the second Owl rusher to reach the end zone with a powerful, tackle-breaking run up the middle for a nine-yard touchdown that sent FAU into halftime leading 17-3.
After FAU opened a 27-3 lead midway through the third quarter, UTSA managed to pull within two touchdowns on a couple off occasions but drew no closer.