Getting even isn’t easy for FAU.
An inept passing game and continued futility on third down led to a 34-31 loss to Buffalo that kept FAU from evening their season record on the season, dropping the Owls, instead, to 1-3 under Lane Kiffin.
“That’s embarrassing to our fans, to our university to lose that game,” Kiffin told the ESPN West Palm postgame show.
The comment marked the second time in four games Kiffin stated his embarrassment after a loss.
In the days leading up to FAU’s trip to Buffalo, Owls’ coach Lane Kiffin voiced his concern that Bulls’ quarterback Tyree Jackson could explode for a big game.
Jackson pummeled FAU in the first half, but it was his backup, Drew Anderson who tossed the deciding touchdown pass.
Anderson entered the game having only played one snap in his college career. FAU’s defense knew the run was coming in the second half. The Owls simply couldn’t do much to stop it.
Buffalo pounded the ball at an FAU defense that wore down late. Theo Anderson’s seven-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes of the third quarter gave Buffalo the lead for good at 24-17.
After Buffalo stopped FAU on a fourth-and-three at the Owls’ own 20 with a little more than two minutes remaining, Drew Anderson found Anthony Johnson in the end zone on third down for a 20-yard touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach.
Heading into Saturday’s game Buffalo had only totaled three points in the second halves of its first three games. On Saturday, using their backup quarterback, the Bulls outscored FAU 17-14 over the final 30 minutes.
Even without running back Buddy Howell, who rushed for 175 yards the week prior against Bethune-Cookman but missed Saturday’s game because of an undisclosed injury, FAU still ran the ball with ease.
The Owls darted and dodged their way to 262 yards on the night with Devin Singletary picking up 156 of those yards and scoring three times.
Yet unlike the Bethune-Cookman victory where FAU continued to pound the ball, the Owls abandoned the run frequently, opting instead for a vertically challenged passing game.
Tired of the lack of production from Daniel Parr, Kiffin gave quarterback Jason Driskel his first start of the year.
“When I really looked at last week’s film, even though the score looked good, the yards looked good, just felt like we weren’t doing enough to win versus better teams in the passing game,” said Kiffin, explaining the quarterback change.
Driskel wasn’t the answer, completing 17 of 29 passes for 150 yards. Buffalo intercepted one pass and could have nabbed several more. Fifty of Driskel’s passing yards came on the final drive, which culminated in a Singletary one-yard run with 1:13 remaining that cut Buffalo’s lead to a field goal.
FAU followed with an unsuccessful onside kick and Buffalo ran out the remaining time.
With Driskel at the helm, FAU converted only three of its 10 third down opportunities into first downs.
The loss was the second in as many meetings with the Bulls, who also downed the Owls in 2015.
Trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, FAU took to the ground and started chewing up yardage. Kerrith Whyte’s 37-yard touchdown run capped a 10-play drive and pulled the Owls within a touchdown.
FAU tied the score on its next possession. This time it was Singletary finishing the drive with a long run. Singletary burst untouched around the left side of FAU’s offensive line for a 34-yard score.
Greg Joseph’s 35-yard field goal gave FAU a brief 17-14 lead until Adam Mitcheson’s field goal on the final play of the half sent the teams into the break tied.
“We had a really good run there – I guess a 17-0 run, whatever it was – and then just didn’t finish the game,” Kiffin said. “There’s no excuse for that. We should win this game.”