In Kiffin’s final game as the Owls’ coach, FAU pummeled UAB 49-6 to claim the Owls second Conference USA championship in three years.
“They’re champs again So that trophy’s back here for another year,” Kiffin said, referring to his players. “Pretty neat.”
Kiffin accepted a job offer at Mississippi on Friday and will likely be introduced by the Rebels on Sunday. FAU named defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer its interim coach. The Owls hope to have a new head coach in place by the end of the week.
After Kiffin received the championship trophy, fans who made their way to the field serenaded him with a chant of “Please Don’t Go!” drawing a smile from the coach.
“You don’t win two conference championships because you hire a head coach,” Kiffin said. “You’ve got to have a lot of things in place and a lot of people helping you. That’s what happened here.”
He’s taking strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love with him to Oxford, and some within the athletic department believe running backs coach Kevin Smith will also make the jump with Kiffin to the SEC.
Kiffin departs FAU with a 26-13 record, leaving as the second-winningest Owls coach behind only program founder Howard Schnellenberger.
If a week’s worth of rumors surrounding Lane Kiffin’s expected departure distracted the Owls, they didn’t show it.
The Owls scored 35 first-half points against a UAB defense that entered championship weekend ranked fifth nationally in defense.
“I think the reason why we came out today and played so well was that we solely had our minds set on the game,” said quarterback Chris Robison, who earned MVP honors by throwing for 267 yards and four touchdowns.
Kiffin only let off the gas slightly in the second half. Appropriately for a coach known for taking chances offensively, FAU scored the final touchdown of the Kiffin era on a 20-yard Robison-to-Chauncey Mason pass on a fourth-down-and-seven play.
FAU gashed UAB for 585 total yards, rushing for 289 of them. Meanwhile FAU’s defense completely shut down UAB’s offense, limiting the Blazers to 223 total yards, including 84 passing yards, and two field goals. UAB only penetrated FAU’s red zone once.
“The story really should be the defense, I think,” Kiffin said.
The Owls have won 10 of their last 11 games, with each victory coming by double digits.
“Obviously coach Kiffin, he’s changes this program in three years,” said tight end Harrison Bryant, who scored one touchdown on the day and eclipsed the 1,000 receiving yard mark on the season.
FAU will learn on Sunday its bowl destination.