FAU completed a dream turnaround by crushing Akron 50-3 in Boca Raton Bowl, giving the Owls 10 consecutive wins and their first 11-win season at the FBS level.
“Really just an unbelievable day,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “I can’t imagine being better. This is a special story. These stories don’t happen often. You don’t just come to the FAU and win 11 games. These kids aren’t even playing close games. It’s one thing to play a close game, go to triple-overtime but these kids just dominate everyone they play. By the fourth quarter, the game is usually over. To win ten-straight games is incredible. You don’t win bowl games 50-3. Sitting here one year and one week ago, no one would believe this other than maybe me. It is just awesome to see. I am proud of these players.”
The Owls past three games in Boca Raton ended with first-year coach Kiffin and his players hosting the Shula Bowl trophy after beating FIU, the Conference USA trophy and now the Boca Raton Bowl hardware.
In all three games the destination of those prizes had been determined long before the final whistle.
With the win the Owls remained perfect at 4-0 in postseason games at the FBS level – three bowl wins and this year’s Conference USA championship. The bowl victory is their first since 2008.
Quarterback Jason Driskel threw for 270 yards on 19-25 passing and four total touchdowns, earning offensive MVP honors. With two passing touchdowns Driskel moved into fifth in the all-time passing touchdown list with 27.
“Driskel threw the ball really well today,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said.
Running Back Devin Singletary also added to his record season with three more touchdown runs, giving him 32 on the season. His first score, a six-yard run seconds before the close of the second quarter, broke a tie with position coach Kevin Smith for most rushing TDs in a Conference USA season.
“This many touchdowns, I don’t know if I saw that coming,” Singletary said.
Singletary finished with 124 yards, 80 shy of 2,000 on the season, and now has more rushing touchdowns than 114 FBS teams.
But that’s about the only area the Owls came up short.
Six times FAU ran a fourth down play. Twice they converted those plays into first downs. Three times the Owls scored touchdowns. Only once, the final fourth down conversion attempt of the night, did FAU fail to convert.
“That is all planned out,” Kiffin said. “That isn’t an emotional decision. That is the [Bill] Belichick formula with analytics that tell you when to do it and when not to. I told the players before the game that we believed in them. I think our players responded.”
Driskel starting the scoring by finding freshman Willie Wright for a four-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal in the first quarter.
A failed onside kick and two FAU penalties allowed Akron to post it’s only points of the game on the following possession – a 19-yard field goal by Nick Gasser to make it 7-3.
FAU’s defense locked Akron down from there, holding the Zips to 146 total yards – and only 42 in the second half.
The Owls outscored the Zips 29-0 over the final 30 minutes.
“That was the best half we have ever played and they dominated,” Kiffin played
Boca Raton Bowl Defensive MVP Azeez Al-Shaair led the Owls with 13 tackles, including a sack. Al-Shaair passed Frantz Joseph as FAU’s career tackling leader with 354. In the locker room following the game the junior told his teammates he’d forego a chance at the NFL to return for a senior season.
FAU completes the season at 11-3, tying a program record for most wins. The 2003 team that reached the FCS semifinal game also won 11.
FAU will now have to wait until after the college football playoff to learn whether they will end the season ranked in the Top 25 in either the AP or the coaches’ poll.
The Owls had been receiving votes in both the final polls before bowl season.
“I’m a voter,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “I’d vote for them.”