Florida Atlantic wins first Conference USA title with 41-17 victory against North Texas
Boca Raton —
All week long the Florida Atlantic coaches and players harped on how there was no chance of a repeat.
No way would everything go their way for a second time against North Texas. No chance of lightning striking twice in the same place.
For a little more than a half, they were wrong.
The Owls played nearly flawless for 33 minutes before capturing a 41-17 victory against North Texas in the Conference USA Championship Game. It was their first league title since winning the Sun Belt in 2007.
“You’re creating a unique story,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said he told the players. “You turned the program on to the national stage and these kids did it.”
The Owls (10-3) have won nine game in a row and await their bowl-game opponent. Selections will be made Sunday evening.
FAU was once again led by running back Devin “Motor” Singletary. He carried the ball 26 times for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Singletary has 29 rushing touchdowns this season, which ties the Conference USA single-season record. He shares the mark with UCF’s Kevin Smith, who now is the FAU running backs coach.
“Words can explain it,” Singletary said. “This is one of the best feelings ever. We know that all of our hard work that we put in, it finally paid off.”
With Singletary handling things on the ground, quarterback Jason Driskel and receiver Kalib Woods led the passing game. Driskel completed 15-of-27 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. Woods finished with six catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.
“If you look back at the past nine games, we dominated,” Woods said. “Nobody can say that any win was a fluke. The only way somebody will respect you is if you go out there do what you do and that’s why we’re sitting up here.”
FAU sets school record for most interceptions in a season in victory against North Texas
When the Owls opened the game by scoring 34 consecutive points, it appeared they were headed toward a repeat of when the teams met in the regular season in October. FAU gained 804 yards that night on the way to a 69-31 victory.
The Owls served up more of the same by scoring the game’s first 34 points on Saturday. After kicker Greg Joseph opened the game with a 24-yard field goal, they broke things open with trickery. Receiver John Franklin III lined up at quarterback and pitched the ball back to receiver Kamrin Solomon.
Solomon then hit Franklin for a 22-yard touchdown pass that made it 10-0. A Singletary three-yard scoring run then put the Owls ahead 17-0 with 14 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first half.
The lead was extended to 34-0 when Woods caught a 54-yard pass from Driskel.
“They’ve dominated a lot,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “They’ve won a lot of football games. They haven’t been beaten in a long time. I just think they’re a really good team. They’ve got great players.”
The only negative for the Owls was they struggled in the second half for a second consecutive week. A week ago, they closed poorly against Charlotte. North Texas pulled to within 34-17 on Evan Johnson’s one-yard touchdown run with 10:32 remaining.
The Owls were able to put it away on the next possession. Normally a quick-strike team, they went 71 yards in 10 plays and a Singletary’s five-yard touchdown started the celebration.
“It was an absolute rush,” safety Jalen Young said. “From where we came and to where we are now. Just the feeling throughout that game. We’re actually doing what people said that we couldn’t do. Most people doubted us. At the end of the game, when the time was running down, I’m like, ‘Whoa, we’re here. We did it. We proved everybody wrong.’ ”