Each week we look back on the previous day’s FAU game, assessing the positives and negatives. The Owls’ 42-28 victory over reigning Conference USA champion Western Kentucky kept FAU undefeated in C-USA play . Once again FAU produced some record-breaking performances – we see you, Devin Singletary – but the Owls were far from perfect. Here’s our analysis.
Chuck King: It’s not that coming from behind to post a crucial victory over a top-tier opponent is surprising because it was thought to be impossible. It’s surprising simply because the Owls hadn’t done it before. FAU appeared to take control of the game with a 17-0 first half run before WKU seized momentum, taking a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter. FAU outscored the Hilltoppers 22-0 over the final 15 minutes to start conference play 4-0 for the first time in program history. Those 30-point victories are fun to watch, but a tight, come-from-behind win like this one will pay greater dividends moving forward.
Matt Wilson: With cornerback Shelton Lewis having a rough game, nickel back Herb Miller stepped up his game. Miller, a convert from corner to nickel back prior to the start of the season, had his first interception and tied for second in tackles on the team with seven, including 1.5 for loss. Safety Andrew Soroh did a good job also, and had a key stop at the end of the game to set up FAU to gain the lead.
King: There’s no reason to overthink this one. Devin Singletary rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns. He broke Alfred Morris’ program record for career rushing touchdowns, and now has 30 scores in only 20 games as an Owl. His 18 touchdowns are three more than anyone else in the nation. With 1,053 yards, Singletary is the nation’s ninth-leading rusher. Defenses know he’s going to get the ball and they still can’t stop him. Kudos once again to Reggie Bain, Roman Fernandez, Antonyo Woods, Jakobi Smith and Brandon Walton up front. Safety Andrew Soroh recorded five tackles, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass.
Wilson: There is no question the player of the game is Devin Singletary. He once again had a monster day on the field for the Owls, running for 244 yards and four scores. This is his fifth straight game with multiple rushing scores and second four-touchdown game of the year. He has been the biggest impact on the team which earned him a helmet sticker, presented for outstanding play, on ESPN’s College Football Final. He was the key to the FAU victory over WKU, getting the game-tying touchdown and then setting up the game-winning score.
King: Kiffin elected to stick with Jason Driskel at quarterback despite the redshirt junior’s immense struggles. The Driskel-led Owls managed less than 50 passing yards in the first half and had only one completion for minus-two yards before Driskel found Willie Wright for a 49-yard touchdown that gave the Owls the lead for good. He did not complete another pass in the game. Kiffin could have turned to Daniel Parr, starter of the season’s first three games, for a spark. Instead he stuck with Driskel and it worked out. FAU won this one, but shoddy QB play like what the Owls saw Saturday will lose them more games than it will win.
Wilson: Leading 35-28 and facing a fourth-and-11 at the WKU 42, FAU called for a fake punt. Punter Ryan Rickel raced around right end for 22 yards. Five Singletary rushes later, FAU put the game away with a five-yard TD run. The fake was a gutsy call that ended up working but could have changed the whole game. Had FAU more likely than not, WKU would need to go 80-plus yards to tie the game. The fake punt worked, with Kiffin calling it the “knock-out” blow, but the final score could have been significantly different if the decision failed.
King: Lane Kiffin only needed eight games to become the third winningest coach in FAU history. Saturday’s victory over WKU improved the Owls’ record to 5-3, giving Kiffin one more victory than Carl Pelini and Brian Wright. Most observers figured this team would feature a high-powered aerial attack that, if successful, would soar past opponents. FAU tried that early this year, but to Kiffin’s credit he shifted the offense to a run-dominant scheme to better take advantage of his offensive personnel. The Owls’ 32 rushing touchdowns ties Arizona for the most nationally. Defensively, the Owls are playing aggressively, and their plus-12 turnover margin is tied for fourth nationally. Counting a potential Conference USA title game appearance and a potential bowl game, FAU could still play six more games this season. If FAU wins four of them, Kiffin would tie Charlie Partridge for second on the Owls’ career-wins list.
Wilson: On Friday against Marshall the Owls play one of their most important games since the 2013 season. They can become bowl eligible. The only difference is if they win this time, they will make a bowl game. Riding a four-game winning streak, the Owls are showing something most people have not seen in Boca Raton – a dominating football team. Kiffin brought a winning mentality to FAU in conference play, going 4-0 for the first time in school history. Singletary is in the midst of one of the best season’s ever for an FAU player. Through eight games he has more than 1,000 yards and 18 scores. FAU has a tough challenge against Marshall who lost last week to the team down south, 41-30. This could be the biggest game FAU plays all year, setting up a potential Shula Bowl battle for Conference USA’s East Division crown.