BOCA RATON – FAU is headed to its first-ever Conference USA championship game following its 52-24 victory over FIU in Shula Bowl XVI.
It will be the Owls first appearance in a conference title game. The Owls only have one conference title in football, winning the Sun Belt in 2007.
FAU will host North Texas at Howard Schnellenberger Field for a noon kickoff on Dec. 2 in the battle for the C-USA crown.
“It feels amazing,” safety Jalen Young said. “It feels like all the hard work paid off.”
The Owls started quickly, capping the first possession of the game with a 13-yard Jason Driskel-to-Harrison Bryant touchdown pass. FAU pushed its lead to 14-0 when Devin Singletary ripped off another huge run, this one covering 70 yards. With the run, Singletary broke Alfred Morris’ single season yardage mark, becoming the first FAU back to rush for more than 1,400 yards in a season.
After FIU trimmed the lead to 14-10, the Owls gave themselves a little breathing room in the closing seconds of the half when Driskel rolled right and found tight end D’Anfernee McGriff for a six-yard score. The touchdown was the first of McGriff’s career.
“We’ve been practicing that play all week so when they called it I knew it was my time to shine,” McGriff said.
Driskel and the Owls broke the game open in the third quarter with two touchdown passes to Kalib Woods – the first covering 79 yards, the second seven.
The redshirt junior quarterback strung together back-to-back strong performances for the first time this season, throwing for 239 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-25 passing.
Senior Buddy Howell put the cherry on top of Senior Night with a three-yard touchdown run with under a minute to play.
“This is one of those games I get to talk about the rest of my life,” Howell said.
FAU extended its winning streak to seven games – longest such Owls’ streak during the FBS era – with the victory and avenged last year’s 33-31 loss in Miami.
As the final seconds ticked away, FAU players raced to the far corner of the south end zone to reclaim the Shula Bowl trophy.
Fans spilled onto the field, joining the celebration.
“That was fun,” said Singletary, who finished the night with 164 yards and two rushing touchdowns. “That was big. From the last seasons, they weren’t able to do that. For them to be able to do that, to celebrate with us, enjoy that feeling.”
FAU ends its regular season next weekend with a trip to C-USA cellar dweller Charlotte before heading to the post season.
“Twelve months ago, who would have thought that we’d be here, but we’re here,” Driskel said.