“The only thing I told them, I told them that last week, if going to a bowl game motivates you and getting a per diem, bowl gifts, and traveling somewhere, if that motivates you then use that,” Kiffin said.
FAU’s 49-14 annihilation of FIU represented a major leap forward for the Owls’ bowl chances.
The Owls’ path to bowl eligibility is relatively simple. Win two of their final games and the Owls are assured of the necessary six victories on the season required for a bowl bid.
That quest begins on Saturday when Western Kentucky comes to Howard Schnellenberger Field.
“Yes, last week was a rivalry game but then again now we have some momentum to build off of going into this week’s game,” quarterback De’Andre Johnson said.
Johnson’s play went a long way toward providing that momentum. He came off the bench to lead FAU to five touchdowns in his six possessions behind center, including the first two touchdown passes of his career.
Starter Chris Robison and Johnson split repetitions during practice this week and Kiffin has yet to announce a decision on his starting QB.
“We’re a really good team when we want to be,” Robison said, noting what he took away from the Shula Bowl win. “That’s really about it. We played a full four quarters I would say – almost. We still have the little things we can work on.”
Robison wasn’t the only Owl whose spirit was elevated by FAU’s positive play in last week’s Shula Bowl. For the first time all season FAU resembled the team that plowed through Conference USA last season without losing a game.
“I think it’s just a confidence,” Kiffin said. “They saw it. They had fun. They saw [themselves] playing really well. They saw when you win the turnover battle, when you run the ball and stop the run you win games pretty handily like we used to do.”
A win over WKU on Sunday would mean that FAU would only need to win one of its final two games. The first one, a Thursday night contest at North Texas next week, could prove to be a tall task. North Texas’ current 7-2 record includes non-conference victories over Arkansas and SMU.
Should the Owls defeat WKU but falter at North Texas, FAU will have to beat Charlotte at home in the season finale to become bowl eligible. At 4-5, Charlotte’s best win of the season came over 4-4 Southern Miss.
“We’ve got three opportunities left,” linebacker Andrew Soroh said. “It’s all about how you want to go out. We’ve still got something that we can make of this season so we’re not giving up just year.”
Two wins in those three opportunities would earn a fourth game – a bowl game.
“Going to a bowl game would be nice,” said center Junior Diaz, who transferred to FAU from Tulane as a graduate student during the summer. “I’ve never been to one. It would be a unique experience – just how the Shula Bowl was.”