FAU Football Wins Fifth Straight to Become Bowl Eligible
Florida Atlantic (6-3, 5-0 C-USA) established a program best 5-0 start in conference play on Friday night at Schnellenberger field as the Owls defeated Marshall 30-25 to become bowl eligible.
The win was also the first against the Herd, who downed them 27-21 last year in Huntington, and enjoyed a 33-17 victory in Boca Raton in 2015.
"Credit to Coach (Charlie) Partridge for getting some really good kids here, and itís really neat to see", said Head Coach Lane Kiffin. "We didn't play good football today - we played sloppy - but we beat Marshall for the first time, and I am happy for the team."
Florida Atlantic raced to a 13-0 lead until Marshall connected for a field goal in thier second try.
Jason Driskel (11-17, 104 YD Pass) rushed from two yards out and Willie Wright scampered for 19 in consecutive rushing touchdown efforts.
Greg Joseph missed just his second extra point after Wright's score.
For the first time in a while it looked as if the Owls wouldn't post any points for a quarter, but Shelton Lewis intercepted Herd quarterback Chase Litton for FAU's second takeaway.
Devin Singletary had been relatively quiet as of late before ending that notion by rumbling for 66 yards to set up a 31 yard field goal by Joseph and a 16-3 lead for FAU at the break.
The Herd (6-3, 3-2 C-USA) posted back-to-back scoring possessions to begin the 2nd half, however returned favor to the Owls by missing an extra point which would have given them the lead.
Tied at 16-16 and having surrendered 13 straight points, Florida Atlantic got creative midway through the third with back-to-back trick plays that ended with a 60 yard connection from wide receiver Kamrin Solomon to Devin Singletary.
"The players executed it really well, two great throws, and a great catch on the play", Kiffin said. "That's exactly what we needed there because it (momentum) was going the other way."
The score gave the Owls a 23-16 edge and capped a 94 yard drive which was the longest allowed by Marshall all season.
Litton (20-29, 253 YD, 2TD, 4 INT) was intercepted for the second time by Jalen Young, and the third time on the night, in a clear momentum swing as Singletary (203 YD Rush, 72 YD Rec) carried the ball on third down for 19 yards in his second touchdown effort.
Down 30-16 the Herd found favor with an onside kick, initiating a drive that was later aided by two questionable penalties.
They moved to within a touchdown with 5:16 to play after a fade route score to tight end Ryan Yurachek.
The Owls stayed with the ground game but created drama for themselves by using little clock as Marshall set up to receive a punt with 3:28 to go on the contest.
Fortunately, Young snagged his third pick from Litton to end the Herd's efforts - effectively handing Florida Atlantic their first win against the eastern conference foe.
The Owls moved to 18 interceptions on the year, good for the best in NCAA presently, and Young tied the program single game record (3) in the process.
With FAU unable to close the game clock out the Herd received a squib kick from Joseph with eight seconds remaining and successfully completed a few laterals in what was a scare for a few moments before an illegal forward pass concluded the game.
Azeez Al-Shaair was once again was the teamís top tackler, with 13, while fellow linebacker Rashad Smith had nine and Hunter Snyder matched his career best with eight. Ernest Bagner had the teamís only sack.
Marshall ran 80 plays to FAU's 63 in thier loss, breaking a recent trend of dominance for the Owls in that category.
"It feel's great, but we're not finished we've got to keep going", said Singletary of being bowl eligible.
Coach Kiffin echoed his sentiments, staking a claim on higher marks for the team.
"Our goal is not to go to a bowl…that's just an expectation", Kiffin said. "Our goal is to win the division and win the conference, so let's go do that."
Seeking to keep their undefeated status in Conference USA action and move towards that mark, the Owls will travel to Ruston, LA to take on Louisiana Tech next Saturday at 3:30 PM in what will be the first meetings between the two programs.