Boca Raton (Sun Sentinel) — For Florida Atlantic seniors, it hasn’t all gone as planned this season a year after dominating Conference USA for an 11-3 record, the conference title and a Boca Raton Bowl victory.
But even as losses mounted in a season that began filled with expectations for FAU (5-6, 3-4 C-USA), there’s a sense around the team that some wrongs can be righted if the Owls put forth a complete effort in a 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday against Charlotte at FAU Stadium.
There’s motivation to make sure it’s not the last game for those honored on Senior Night – or even junior running back Devin “Motor” Singletary, who as a draft prospect may leave early for the NFL. The Owls can become bowl eligible with a sixth win, although FAU can’t entirely secure a spot in a bowl game with a victory – they have to get selected with more bowl-eligible teams than bowl game spots available.
“That’s the main goal. Control what we can control. Getting to 6-6. That’s the goal right now,” said fifth-year senior left tackle Reggie Bain, who will make his 49th collegiate start on Saturday and could reach 50 with a bowl game berth. “Our first goal was to go to the conference [championship], but a bowl game is still a good accomplishment.”
As much as the extra game itself, players are motivated to extend the season just to keep the 2018 football team together for longer.
“At the end of the day, it’ll be wonderful to end it with a bowl game, because I love hanging around with these guys,” said right guard Antonio Riles, who came in this season as a grad transfer from Florida.
“I’ve been in college for a long time. I’ve seen it all. It’ll be great to end it [with a win]. The season didn’t go the way we wanted to. We know what kind of a team we are, but in some cases, we just found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Defensive back Ocie Rose expects it to be emotional on Saturday.
“The bond and the brotherhood I done built with the team and all the other guys that were here way before me, and to actually know you can [possibly] never again put on an FAU jersey after Saturday, it’s going to be real emotional,” he said.
The seniors who spent all their time at FAU understand the strides the program made, with a chance to reach back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2008. This after 3-9 had become the norm in Boca Raton – for three consecutive seasons from 2014 through 2016 under then coach Charlie Partridge.
“It felt great going from 3-9 to a whole coaching change. Then you just go eight games straight, a conference championship, bowl win, something you’ve never experienced. It’s been fun,” said defensive tackle Steven Leggett. “I feel no regrets. I feel like I left it all out there on the field with my teammates.”
Lane Kiffin, the coach leading the team through a second season after Partridge, appreciates the character of this senior group he has had and wants to send them out the right way.
“Basically no problems. Really good kids. We’re very fortunate. Do well in the classroom. No issues off the field,” Kiffin said. “These guys, send them out with a win. They’ve got 17 wins in two years – pretty good.”
FAU will pin its prolific rush offense against Charlotte’s stout run defense, which enters ranked seventh in the country, holding opponents to 98.2 rushing yards per game playing its 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Kiffin hopes to be able to open things up through the passing game and have greater success on third down. FAU is ranked 118th out of 130 FBS teams in third-down conversion rate (33.1 percent).