In the battle between the top two scoring offenses in Conference USA it was Florida Atlantic Football who came out on top.
With a 41-17 victory over North Texas, FAU won the Conference USA championship for the first time in school history. No media members picked FAU to win the conference championship at the beginning of the season.
“In order to do the impossible you have to see the invisible,” FAU head football coach Lane Kiffin said. “…I just thought that we got a shot to do this thing again. After spending three years with Coach Saban the best in the world that I would be so much more prepared than I used to be so we could put this thing together.”
The Owls (10-3, 8-0 C-USA) have now won their ninth straight game, a program best as an FBS team, and best overall since a 10 game winning streak back in 2003. They have now won 10 games, which is the second most in program history since finishing 11-3 back in 2003.
Their 10 wins this season is more than the past three combined (9).
The offense has scored over 30 points for the 11th straight game, which is second most behind the UCF Knights, who have done it for 12 straight games.
With the loss the Mean Green’s (9-4, 7-1 C-USA) five game winning streak comes to an end. This is the second time this season that an over three game winning streak ends for the Mean Green at the hands of FAU.
North Texas’s offense, who came in averaging 37.5 points per game, only put up 17 points, their second lowest scoring game of the season. They had very few chances to score in the first half.
They failed to convert on a fake field goal attempt on their third drive of the game and they had only one drive in the first half in the red zone which ended with an interception. They failed to put any points on the board until a 26 yard field goal by placekicker Trevor Moore with 5:50 to go in the third quarter.
Senior wide receiver and game MVP Kalib Woods made up for lost time after not recording any catches in the first matchup against North Texas early in the season. He finished the game with six catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.
His season high of 208 receiving yards is also a FAU single game record, beating the previous mark of 202 set by William Dukes in 2012.
Sophomore running back Devin Singletary rushed for over 100 yards for his 11th straight game. He finished the game with 26 carries for 164 yards and 3 touchdowns.
He extends his FBS record for most rushing touchdowns with 29. He has now tied former UCF Knight and current running backs coach Kevin Smith for the Conference USA single season record of rushing touchdowns in a season (29) and total touchdowns (30) set back in 2007.
Redshirt junior quarterback Jason Driskel threw for 170 yards in the first half. He finished the game 15-of-27 for 269 yards and one touchdown. He has thrown for over 200 yards the past four games after only throwing for 200 yards or more once in his first nine games
“It’s been a long time coming for a lot of us,” Driskel said. “I have been here for a long time. I’ve had rough times. It is just a culmination of all of our work in season’s past and this past offseason. I am proud of all of our guys and just proud to be here.”
Senior wide receiver Kamrin Solomon had four catches for 78 yards, a season high. He also threw his second touchdown pass of the season, a 22 yarder to graduate student wide receiver John Franklin III. He is now 2-of-2 for 82 yards and two touchdowns on pass attempts this season.
Franklin III had his first receiving touchdown of the season. He had one catch for 22 yards and also added 75 yards on the ground.
Junior safety Jalen Young had two interceptions for the game to extend his Conference USA lead to seven. The team now has 20 interceptions overall, which is a single season program record.
“It is honestly amazing to even go out there and compete with my brothers out there,” Young said. “As a team we have done a great job with interceptions. It is from the guys that I work with in the defensive backfield. They push me and motivate me to go my hardest.”
Junior linebacker Azeez- Al Shaair had 11 tackles.
“It was really fun, I couldn’t even tell you everything. I was just lost.” Al Shaair said about the locker room atmosphere after the game. “I have never felt like that before. I have never won a championship before, so honestly it’s just a blessing.”
The defense finished the game with a season high nine sacks. It was also a Conference USA championship game record.
“I think the storyline outside of the team and all that is the defense,” Kiffin said. “I think I can attribute that to our defensive staff and the defensive players playing really well.”
The Mean Green offense was led by quarterback Mason Fine, who struggled to throw a touchdown until the second half. He was 28-of-44 for 356 yards and a touchdown.
He has thrown for a touchdown in all but one game this season.
Wide receiver Turner Smiley had four catches for 105 yards, his second most of the season, and a touchdown. He was at the receiving end of a 77-yard touchdown catch, the longest in Conference USA championship game history.
Running back Nic Smith ran for 50 yards on 14 carries.
Both teams must now wait to hear what bowl game they will be selected to play in on Sunday, Dec.3rd.
Matt Brown is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @mattyb407.