BOCA RATON – Each week we review the previous day’s game, examining for the positives and negatives. As has been the case pretty much for the last half of the year, there weren’t many negatives to be found in the Owls’ Boca Raton Bowl performance. FAU dismantled Akron 50-3 to finish the season 11-3, the most wins ever for the Owls at the FBS level. The Owls head into the offseason with hopes of a Top 25 national ranking.
Chuck King: Akron gained 52 yards on its first possession, which culminated in a missed field goal. The Zips managed less than 100 yards the remainder of the way. The Owls didn’t force any turnovers, but they didn’t need to, either. Five sacks contributed to 11 tackles for loss. Akron managed only one first down in the second half, and that came via an FAU face make penalty on the first play of the third quarter. It’s no longer surprising when FAU’s defense plays well. This kind of domination, however, is special.
Matt Wilson: FAU’s defense dominated the Zips, not even allowing 200 total yards of offense. The only reasons the Zips scored at the beginning of the game were a failed onside kick to start them off at the FAU 44 yard line and FAU penalties worth 22 yards on the drive. Azeez Al-Shaair, Hunter Snyder and crew pressured Akron QB Kato Nelson negating his ability to run or throw. Akron, basically, didn’t have an offense on Tuesday.
King: So many choices. Jason Driskel threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, earning Boca Bowl Offensive MVP honors. Wide receiver Willie Wright caught seven balls in his first two-touchdown game. Devin Singletary kept rolling with three more touchdowns. Al-Shaair recorded 13 tackles, including a sack, to become the Owls’ all-time tackler and earn Boca Bowl Defensive MVP honors. Rashad Smith had a sack as part of his 10 tackles. Snyder was credited with 1.5 sacks, tying him with Smith for the season sack title with six. But let’s go with coach Lane Kiffin and his staff for turning a team coming off three consecutive 3-9 seasons into Conference USA and Boca Raton Bowl champions. During the 10-game winning streak to close the season, FAU players were better prepared than their opponents every time.
Wilson: Jason Driskel has been one of the main essential pieces of the 10 game winning streak, showing that he more than simply a game manager. He can also make plays. Having a hand in four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and throwing for 270 yards, Driskel earned Boca Bowl Offensive MVP honors. He had a heck of a bowl performance and should come in as the favorite for the starting job among a crowded field next year.
King: Leading 34-3 in the third quarter, Kiffin called for a two-point conversion, which Willie Wright converted. After the game Kiffin explained why he elected to go for two, saying, “I told you, that was to their assistant athletic director George Van Dick, or something his name was. He talked yesterday at that luncheon, talked trash. So, his bad.”. Kiffin was probably referring to Akron assistant athletic director George Van Horne. Haven’t yet been able to find any incendiary public comments from Van Horne on either Monday or Tuesday – mostly traditional pep rally-type hype. Kiffin may find he wants that decision, and the statement explaining that decision, back.
Wilson: Kiffin kept most of his starters on the field until the end of the game. It is a bowl game and I understand he wants to make a statement on national television, but he should have had the second stringers come in at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It should be a fun game and all players should be able to play.
King: FAU fell to 1-3 with a 34-31 loss at Buffalo on Sept. 23 – a game Kiffin called “an embarrassment.” Three months later, FAU heads enters the offseason with a viable chance of being ranked in the Top 25 when final polls are released. What an accomplishment that would be. Perhaps more importantly, FAU is positioned to be ranked in the Top 25 to begin next season. Ask UCF how important that would be. The undefeated Knights didn’t enter the Top 25 until the sixth week of the season. Had they started the season as a ranked team, there’s a good chance they’d be a playoff team now, not heading to the Peach Bowl.
Wilson: FAU ended the season on the best note possible despite playing in a bowl that a bunch of people weren’t sure why they were in. As Akron coach Terry Bowden said, “we got whooped”. The Lane Train and FAU made a statement, saying they are legit. With a good chunk of the team returning next year, the Sept. 1 game against Oklahoma will have some hype behind it. Devin Singletary capped a historic season with three more touchdowns. Dating back to 1956, only Wisconsin’s Monte Ball Oklahoma St. great Barry Sanders rushed for more in one season.