BOCA RATON – Taken at face value, a 45-0 blowout victory over an FCS opponent isn’t really all that much to celebrate.
When that victory comes to a team like FAU that hasn’t won more than three games in any season since 2013 and has demonstrated an inability to convincingly win games they’re supposed to? Go ahead and get rowdy, guys.
The jubilation arising from a thrashing of Bethune-Cookman was well earned.
“It was good to see guys have fun,” Kiffin said. “It was like we won the Super Bowl in there. I joked with them. I said, ‘Guess y’all haven’t won for a while.’”
The first victory of the Kiffin era was also the most complete victory the Owls have posted in quite some time and capped what Kiffin called “a crappy couple weeks” that included a week in Wisconsin as refugees from Hurricane Irma.
FAU dominated all three phases of the game.
- The shutout was the first since FAU blanked FIU 31-0 in 2006.
- The 439 rushing yards set a program record.
- The Owls tallied 619 total yards while limiting Bethune-Cookman – a team that scored 13 points two weeks ago against Miami – to only 117 yards.
Perhaps as importantly, the Owls put the Wildcats down and never let them back into the game. The last two times FAU faced FCS opponents those games were decided by one possession, with FAU defeating Wagner 7-3 in 2012 and Southern Illinois 38-30 last season.
On Saturday the Owls showed a killer instinct missing in past seasons. Rather than getting too fancy on offense, FAU pounded the ball with Devin Singletary and Greg Howell. After carrying the ball only four times over the first two games, Howell burst through massive holes for 175 yards on only 13 carries.
“I just felt it was going to be a good game for him,” said Kiffin, who made Howell one of the game captains. “I felt that he would have a lot of carries in the game, that we would be run-heavy because of some match-up things. Just really thought that these guys would struggle with his bigger body, bringing him down.”
Starting running back Devin Singletary only needed 11 carries to rack up 109 yards.
Both backs scored one touchdown apiece.
“I felt that we needed to run the ball,” Kiffin said. “We need to have a personality on this team and our personality is not going to be that we don’t run the ball.”
The Owls started fast before making one of their few mistakes, taking the opening kickoff and marching into the red zone before Singletary fumbled into the end zone, where B-CU’s Trenton Bridges recovered.
Parr has no such problems on the Owls’ second drive. On first and goal from the 9, Parr looked to pass, then spotted an opening to the right side. He tucked the ball under his right arm and run untouched into the end zone giving the Owls a 7-0 lead.
“It was just kind of an instinct thing,” Parr said. “I just kind of took off and tried to find space and make a play. Luckily I did.”
Then FAU pulled a surprise, catching the Wildcats off guard with a successful onside kick that Ray Wilson recovered. Nine plays later Parr found tight end Harrison Bryant for a 5-yard touchdown, and with less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter the blowout was on.
“To be able to go out there and do what we did today against a good team like Bethune that played Miami well and won last week, that was exciting for us to see,” Parr said. “Our defense did a great job pitching a shutout, holding them to (115) total yards. When the defense does stuff like that, getting turnovers and scoop and scores, it’s going to make our jobs a lot easier.”
Having gone sackless in its first two games, FAU responded with four on Saturday, and concluded the scoring when cornerback Chris Tooley scooped up Tupac Isme’s fumble and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown.
“I told them today in pregame that it’s kind of ironic that the program’s first win with coach Schnellenberger in the history of the program was Bethune,” Kiffin said. “Let’s start a run of something special here and get the first one before we go get the second one.”
GameBrowser: FAU (1-2, 0-0 C-USA) 45, Bethune-Cookman (1-2, 0-0 MEAC) 0
Turning Point: Having moments prior taken a 7-0 lead, FAU called for and recovered a first-quarter on-side kick. FAU took the ensuing possession into the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Bethune-Cookman never recovered.
- After being suspended for the first two games for his role in an off-campus fight, wide receiver Kamrin Solomon returned to the field. Drawing the start in the slot, Solomon was credited with four catches covering 36 yards. FAU did not make Solomon available to the media following the game.
- Solomon wasn’t the only wide receiver to get his first start of the season. Auburn transfer John Franklin was split wide on the Owls’ first series. The former quarterback caught two passes for 12 yards on the night and also lined up once behind center, rushing for 18 yards.
- FAU inserted its second team offense into the game in the third quarter. Back-up quarterback Jason Driskel drew his first action of the season, completing four of six passes for 15 yards. He also rushed five times for 26 yards. Tarrick Thomas, a guard last season, saw his first snaps at center.
- Reserve defensive tackle Will Davis made a strong case for moving into the starting lineup. He recorded FAU’s first sack of the season and spent much of the evening in the Wildcats backfield.
- Cornerback Chris Tooley nabbed his second interception of the season to go with a fumble return for a touchdown. He, too, is making a bid for a starting spot and is showing a nose for the ball early.
- FAU wasn’t expecting a large crowd, but the announced attendance of 16,743 didn’t embarrass. It didn’t seem as though Hurricane Irma did much to suppress turnout.
1 – Victory in his career as a starting quarterback for Daniel Parr.
4 – Third down conversions on 13 attempts. It’s an improvement from the two conversions against Wisconsin, but not much of one.
8 – Penalties committed by FAU, covering 83 yards.
13.5 – Yards per rush for Buddy Howell on his 13 carries. He entered the game averaging 7.8 on four previous carries.
32 – First downs for FAU’s offense. The Owls’ defense only surrendered seven.
61 – Yards rushing on the night for Bethune-Cookman. Heading into the night, FAU was allowing an FBS-worst 386.5 rushing yards per game.
100 – Consecutive extra points attempts made by FAU kicker Greg Joseph.
165 – Passing yards for Daniel Parr, who completed 15-of-26 and while tossing a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for two scores.
370 – Previous FAU program rushing record, set against Siena in 2003.
Up Next: FAU travels north to face Buffalo on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.