BOCA RATON – FAU completed an undefeated run through Conference USA play on Saturday by defeating Charlotte 31-12. Each week we review the previous day’s games, searching for the positives and negatives. Against the 49ers, the Owls won but didn’t play their best game. Still, FAU will play a postseason game – actually two postseason games – this season. Next up: Saturday’s Conference USA Championship game against North Texas at Howard Schnellenberger Field. After that? A yet-to-be-determined bowl game.
Chuck King: FAU didn’t play particularly well in any phase of the game against Charlotte. Devin Singletary got his 100 yards and two more scores, but he also fumbled once. Jason Driskel threw for nearly 250 yards but only completed five passes in the second half. The defense looked sluggish. Yet FAU still managed to win the game by more than two touchdowns – a testament to how different this team is from years past. FAU now wins games even when it doesn’t play well.
Matt Wilson: Willie Wright had nine receptions for 103 yards and a score. In his last two games combined he totaled eight receptions for 48 yards. I was expecting more catches from him next week as he eight receptions for 141 yards and a score in the first meeting with North Texas. It’s nice to see that Driskel has many different targets he can throw to and it helps expand the passing offense, which has gotten better.
King: FAU made a concerted effort to get freshman wide receiver Willie Wright into the game and he delivered. Wright caught nine passes 103 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown. He was also credited with three runs for 37 yards. FAU coach Lane Kiffn and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles are finding more ways to get Wright involved in the offense, which has to be disconcerting, especially to a North Texas team he torched earlier in the season.
Wilson: Once again the player of the game is quarterback Jason Driskel. He had a solid game, going 18-for-22 for 245 yards and two scores. He was also able to add 40 yards rushing, too. Since the Buffalo game, Driskel has shown that he can be more than a game manager.
King: FAU’s running backs lost two fumbles on Saturday, but Buddy Howell’s turnover shouldn’t have been one. Replays showed Howell was down before losing the ball, but even after a review the replay official couldn’t make the proper ruling. Charlotte converted the turnover into six points. Fortunately for FAU, Charlotte wouldn’t get any closer.
Wilson: FAU elected to try to convert four fourth down plays into first downs – twice late in the game. With a 31-12 lead there is no need to do that. Kicking the ball would have been the accepted play. It is obvious that Kiffin does not like to punt, but if you are punting in the first half, which FAU did once, kicking is probably the correct choice in the second half.
King: FAU ended the regular season with a 9-3 record, same as Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Boise St., and LSU. The Owls have a better regular-season record than Florida St. Florida. Syracuse, Texas, Oklahoma St., Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Mississippi St., Texas A&M and Arkansas. Central Florida and Wisconsin, both of which are undefeated on the season, are the only teams other than FAU to post unblemished conference records. Mighty lofty territory for Florida Atlantic.
Wilson: This was not the best performance for the Owls this year against what may be the worst team in FBS football. FAU seemed like it was looking forward to the C-USA championship game. The Owls need to bring back the FAU defense that destroyed North Texas earlier in the year. But a positive from the game is Kiffin is now tied for second in career wins at FAU with nine.