FAU to host C-USA title game after defeating Southern Mississippi 34-17

The Owls defense led the way with five turnovers.

The+FAU+running+attack+lead+by+BJ+Emmons+rushed+for+71+yards+and+a+touchdown+while+averaging+6.5+yards+per+carry.+Photo+by%3A+Alex+Liscio.+
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FAU to host C-USA title game after defeating Southern Mississippi 34-17

The FAU running attack lead by BJ Emmons rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Photo by: Alex Liscio.

The FAU running attack lead by BJ Emmons rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Photo by: Alex Liscio.

The FAU running attack lead by BJ Emmons rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Photo by: Alex Liscio.

The FAU running attack lead by BJ Emmons rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Photo by: Alex Liscio.

Jensen Jennings, Contributing Writer

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The Owls (9-3) defeated the University of Southern Mississippi (7-5), 34-17, Saturday night in the last regular season home game.

The victory gave FAU the C-USA East division crown, and they will host the University of Alabama at Birmingham Dec. 7 at FAU stadium for the C-USA championship.

Defense was the highlight for the Owls as they forced five turnovers, four interceptions and one fumble. The five turnovers pushed FAU’s season total to 18 for the season and enough to lead the country in takeaways.

“If you get five turnovers on defense, two more fourth down stops, you’re going to win a lot of games,” FAU head coach Lane Kiffin said during his post-game press conference. “I think we’re number one in the country in turnovers and number one in the country in turnover margin.”

Cornerback Meiko Dotson once again had a huge day for the Owls, securing his seventh and eighth interceptions on the season both occurring in the red zone.

Dotson stands alone atop the FAU record book for most interceptions in a season with eight. The previous record holders were Jalen Young (2017), D’Joun Smith (2013) and Tavious Polo (2007) with seven interceptions.

Linebacker Akileis Leroy had a pair of interceptions of his own and a fumble recovery.

On his first interception of the game, Leroy returned the ball 24 yards to the FAU three-yard line. Running back BJ Emmons scored on the very next play for the Owls. 

“Honestly I thought I was going to score,” linebacker Akileis Leroy said. “Running the ball down the field I’m thinking [I’m going to] get my second touchdown.”

The Owls defense was able to hold Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham in check all game long. Abraham completed 25 of 39 passes for 182 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions. Abraham did have a two-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter.

Southern Miss was only able to gain 60 rushing yards on the evening, as the Owls completely dominated the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball. Running back Steven Anderson led the way for Southern Miss on the ground, carrying the ball 11 times for 54 yards and one touchdown.

Senior tight end Harrison Bryant had an efficient day catching passes for the Owls; securing three receptions for 75 yards and three touchdowns. Bryant, the Mackey Award finalist, now has 61 catches for 965 yards and six touchdowns on the season.  

“You know [Harrison Bryant] is pretty big so I throw it to him, and he catches it,” FAU quarterback Chris Robison said.

Robison completed 8 of 19 passes for 156 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Running back BJ Emmons led the Owls rushing attack with 11 carries for 71 yards and one touchdown. This was Emmons first game at FAU stadium, after injuring his ankle in week one against Ohio State.

The Owls finished with 300 yards of offense for the eleventh time this season. The game against Ohio State was the only time they failed to meet that total, finishing with 228 yards.

Kicker Vladimir Rivas struggled, going one of three on his field goal attempts. Backup kicker Aaron Shahriari converted on his first field goal attempt of his career. The kicking position will be one to watch this week, as Kiffin will have to decide if he wants to stick with Rivas as his field goal kicker going forward.

The Owls will host the Conference USA title game next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against the defending C-USA champs, the UAB Blazers. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. 

Jensen Jennings is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jensen_Jennings.