It took nearly a decade, but FAU is finally in the win column against Middle Tennessee after a 38-20 victory Saturday night at Schnellenberger Field.
"Very big win for us, we talked all week about this being nine long years…for our fans for our alumni, for our former players", said Head Coach Lane Kiffin. "This game was played really well by our players."
The Owls, who will start off conference play at 1-0, showed a commanding presence early behind the ground game.
Devin Singletary notched three rushing scores in the first half with 91 yards to his credit, and would finish with 133 yards for the night.
The Owls defense held the Blue Raiders (2-3, 0-1 CUSA) to just a pair of field goals in the period before leading 24-6 at the break.
But MTSU scored on thier opening drive of the second for the first time this season to make it just a 24-13 advantage for FAU.
They then stopped the Owls' 4th-and-1 attempt on their ensuing possession while looking to steal momentum.
However, a sack by defensive end Hunter Snyder stymied the Blue Raiders' efforts and sparked the defense to end the drive by forcing a punt.
FAU (2-3, 1-0 CUSA) found true grit with two fourth down conversions on thier next drive, one from Buddy Howell (88 yards) and the other via quarterback Jason Driskel.
Singletary completed the effort when he tied former backs Doug Parker and Alfred Morris for a program record 4th touchdown to push the Owls ahead 31-13 to start the fourth quarter.
"He did what he's done all year long", Kiffin said. "This guy's going into his second year, not the biggest guy but got a big heart in how he plays."
The Blue Raiders marched 87 yards in the longest scoring drive allowed by FAU so far this year to answer, and looked to add more, until conerback Raekwon Williams hauled in the third interception for the Owls' secondary.
"We won the turnover battle three to nothing", said Kiffin. "For our guys to do that changed the game."
Tight end Harrison Bryant (photo), who led FAU receivers with 93 yards, scored his second career touchdown from four yards out while capping a 41 yard drive to put the game away.
After a failed fourth down conversion, MTSU handed the ball over to the Owls with 1:20 remaining for the eventual victory formation.
Driskel got his second straight start and despite missing on his first three attempts settled in for a 22-29 effort on the night with 187 yards and no interceptions.
The Blue Raiders suffered thier worst 2017 showing in rushing defense, surrendering 252 yards to Florida Atlantic, but the Owls returned favor by allowing 385 yards through the air, also a season high.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair made his return on Saturday, registering seven tackles, and was just behind Jalen Young's team high eight. Young added an interception to his tally along side Shelton Lewis.
"The guy really didn't practice for two weeks and then to go and play like that is unbelievable", said Kiffin of Al-Shaair's performance. "Just says who he is."
The Owls doubled-up the Blue Raiders 12-6 in first downs made, and punter Ryan Rickel boasted a 53 yard average in his three calls to service.
Florida Atlantic next travels to Old Dominion for a 6:00 PM kickoff on Saturday, October 7th. The Owls will look for thier first 2-0 start to C-USA play since joining the league in 2013.
POST GAME 2017: FAU vs MTSU - Lane Kiffin - FAU Owl's Nest