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Football: Preview vs. FIU

Owls look to take back the Shula Bowl trophy after 33-31 defeat last season.

FAU+head+coach+Lane+Kiffin+walks+off+the+team+bus+before+the+team%27s+Nov.+3+game+versus+Marshall.+Lauren+Sopourn+%7C+Staff+Photographer
FAU head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the team bus before the team's Nov. 3 game versus Marshall. Lauren Sopourn | Staff Photographer

FAU head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the team bus before the team's Nov. 3 game versus Marshall. Lauren Sopourn | Staff Photographer

FAU head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the team bus before the team's Nov. 3 game versus Marshall. Lauren Sopourn | Staff Photographer

Matt Brown, Contributing Writer

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After a 42-28 defeat of Louisiana Tech last week, FAU Football welcomes in-state rival FIU Panthers for the 16th annual Shula Bowl. The Owls currently lead the series 10-5, but the Panthers have won four of the last six including a 33-31 victory last year.

The Owls (7-3, 6-0 C-USA) are currently on a six-game win streak which is the most in school history as a FBS program. They have won seven of their last eight games and can clinch a spot in the Conference USA championship game against North Texas on Dec. 2 with either a win this week or next week at Charlotte.

The Panthers (6-3, 4-2 C-USA) were on a three-game win streak before losing last week to Old Dominion 37-30. After a 61-17 blowout loss to open the season against the no. 15 ranked UCF Knights, the Panthers have won six of their last eight.

For the Panthers to represent the East division in the conference title game for the first time in school history, they will need to win their next two games and have FAU lose next week at Charlotte.

The Owls own the top scoring offense in Conference USA at an average of 39.4 points per game. They are averaging over 47.5 points per game during their six-game winning streak.

The offense is led by sophomore running back Devin Singletary who is coming off his eighth straight game rushing for over 100 yards. He scored three rushing touchdowns last week, extending his nation-leading total to 22 for the season.

After only running the ball 23 times for 94 yards and a touchdown in the team’s two losses to open the season, Singletary believes things would have been different if he had more time to get used to the new up-tempo offense brought to the program by first year offensive coordinator Kendall Briles.

“As the season gets going you are always going to get better,” said Singletary. “The sky would have been the limit.”

Redshirt junior quarterback Jason Driskel is coming off of one of his best games of the season. He was 14-of-17 for a season high 82.4 completion percentage and 99.3 adjusted QBR. He threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a season high 77-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Kalib Woods.

The Owls defense allowed only 23 points, their lowest total since allowing 20 points against Middle Tennessee in the first win of the six-game win streak on Sept. 30. FAU did not force a turnover for the first time during the streak.

For the previous five games, they had 18 turnovers including 15 interceptions. The defense leads the country in interceptions (18) and is third in turnover margin at 1.5 turnovers per game.

Junior safety Jalen Young leads Conference USA with five interceptions in the season and is third in the country at 0.5 per game.

“On defense, we want to get the ball as much as we can,” said Young. “The mindset every time we go out on that field is not to stop them but to just get the ball to get turnovers.”

Junior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair leads Conference USA with 102 total tackles for the season and is fifth nationally with 11.3 tackles per game.

The Panthers offense is led by quarterback Alex McGough. He is coming off of a game in which he threw a season high 35 completions and 50 pass attempts. He threw for 323 yards, his highest since throwing 328 yards in week two against Alcorn State. He also didn’t throw an interception for just the third game all season.

McGough is also the team’s fourth leading rusher and has a team-high four rushing touchdowns.  

Leading wide receiver Thomas Owens is having quite possibly the best season of his career. He leads the team in all receiving statistics. He’s had a career high 59 receptions for 887 yards.

He also leads the team with six receiving touchdowns with the next highest receiver having two.

The Panthers defense allows an average of 15.5 points per game in their six wins. FAU has only been held under 15 points a game just once this season, a 31-14 loss in week two at Wisconsin.

The 16th annual Shula Bowl kicks off Nov. 18 at 7:00 P.M. at FAU Stadium.

Matt Brown is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email brownm2017@fau.edu or tweet him @mattyb407.

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