“There is still plenty of stuff to play for,” Kiffin said. “Obviously the bowl game and that stuff, which a year-and-a-half ago before we started last season that was what everyone around here, not ours, but what everyone around here’s dream was – find a way somehow to get into a bowl game for the first time in years.”
Kiffin, however, doesn’t want his players talking or even thinking about bowl eligibility.
“Obviously that stuff’s still alive but it doesn’t do any good to think that way,” he said. “We’ve got to think about getting better each day and winning this week.”
Projected to repeat as Conference USA champions, FAU enters Friday night’s game against Louisiana Tech all but mathematically eliminated from achieving that goal. Saturday’s 31-7 loss at Marshall not only dropped FAU to 1-2 in C-USA play, it drove home the fact that this year’s Owls are far removed from last season’s juggernaut.
FAU players are sticking with Kiffin’s mantra of going 1-0 every week.
“If we’re not 1-0 each week then those goals aren’t in vision,” safety Jalen Young said. “Our goal is to focus on this week and become 1-0 so we can eventually start to talk about those things when we actually get to those numbers.”
To get to 1-0 this week, the Owls will have to defeat one of the favorites to take their crown. At 3-1 in conference play, La. Tech sits in second place behind UAB in C-USA’s West Division. With a win, the Bulldogs would become C-USA’s third bowl eligible team.
“They do a little bit of everything well,” defensive tackle Ray Ellis said. “I give them credit. They have a good quarterback. They have a lot of good weapons. Their whole offense is pretty good. We just have to stick to our keys and we’ll have a great game plan to stop them.”
That game plan, of course, does not include linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. C-USA’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year tore his ACL during practice last week.
Playing without Al-Shaair appeared to galvanize the remaining members of the Owls’ defense. Though the score didn’t indicate it, many Owls feel that as a whole, the defense played its best game of the season in the loss at Marshall.
“I feel like we really proved something to ourselves – that we can be a really good defense at times,” Young said. “That was probably the best defense we played this year, I would say.”
Kiffin hopes that performance, one which galvanized the Owls around their fallen leader, can carry through for the remainder of the season.
“It could and hopefully it does,” Kiffin said.