PHOTO GALLERY: Postgame Celebration
BOCA RATON – The Lane Train pulled into Conference USA championship station and picked up a trophy.
FAU blew out North Texas 41-17 to claim its first C-USA title in program history.
It’s FAU’s second Conference USA title – the first coming in 2007 while a member of the Sun Belt.
“It’s a long time coming for a lot of us,” linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair said.
Lane Kiffin, defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin and strength coach Wilson Love were among the coaches on the sideline who received water cooler baths.
Once the final seconds ticked off the clock, FAU players raced across the field to put on the C-USA championship shirts and hats. Fans spilled onto the field, as players hugged, posed for pictures and bounced around, giving the field the feel of rock festival mosh pit.
“I never felt that way before,” said linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.
FAU’s 24-point winning margin is the largest ever for a C-USA title game, but the game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
The Owls scored on all but two first half possessions en route to a 27-0 halftime lead. Devin Singletary pushed his nation-leading touchdown total to 28 by halftime with two scores.
Singletary’s third touchdown of the game, a five yard scamper around left end that reduced an unblocked defensive back to grabbing for air behind the line of scrimmage, gave him 29 on the season, tying the Conference USA record for rushing touchdowns set by his position coach, Kevin Smith.
FAU started quickly and never looked back. The Owls followed Greg Joseph’s 24-yard field goal on the opening drive with a little razzle dazzle for their first touchdown. Wide receiver Karmin Solomon’s 22-yard touchdown pass to John Franklin, who had taken the snap at quarterback to begin the play, extended the lead to 10-0.
Meanwhile, arguably the best defensive performances in program history rendered North Texas, the second-best C-USA offense behind FAU, impotent in the first half, limiting the Mean Green to 141 yards of offense and battering Mason Fine, sacking him five times.
FAU added four more second half sacks, the last one coming courtesy of little used Anthony Bennett on the final play of the game.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a game that had nine sacks,” Al-Shaair said. “Anthony Bennett, who’s a walk-on, got a sack. That’s special.”
The Owls didn’t let up after halftime, scoring on a 54-yard Jason Driskel-to-Kalib Woods hookup. Woods caught six passes for an FAU-record 208 yards and that score, earning Conference USA Championship Game MVP honors.
The score could have been even worse. In the closing minutes, John Franklin took the snap and raced around right end 67 yards to the end zone. Problem was, the end zone was 68 yards from scrimmage. A replay review determined that Franklin dropped the ball in celebration before crossing the goal line, and that North Texas made a clear recovery, negating the touchdown and giving the ball to the Mean Green.
Aside from perhaps some embarrassment, it didn’t matter.
FAU out-rushed North Texas 281-81. Singletary led the way with 164 yards.
“We always talk about running the ball and shutting down the run,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “You are going to win a lot of games if you do that.”
The victory completes a perfect 9-0 run through Conference USA play for FAU.
“That’s about as good as you can do, if you win the conference championship going 9-0,” Kiffin said.
FAU will learn on Sunday which bowl they’ll be playing in.