The last time North Texas met Florida Atlantic at FAU Stadium, the Owls pummeled the Mean Green for a program-record 69 points on Oct. 21. This time, another good start helped them beat the Mean Green again on their way to a 41-17 Conference USA championship victory Saturday.
North Texas was held scoreless until the 5:50 mark of the third quarter as FAU scored 34 unanswered points. The Mean Green had little answer for the Owls on offense or defense until the second half, as FAU held on to earn its first C-USA title ever.
FAU running back Devin Singletary scored twice during the first quarter the last time around, but he would not have that same start. He ran for a 47-yard rush during the Owls’ first drive, but was held scoreless early on after a holding call took away a scoring chance with 6:32 left in the first quarter.
Singletary would get his chance to score on a 3-yard run with 14:55 left in the second quarter and again with 4:43 left in the quarter. He would finish with 164 yards and three touchdowns, tying the C-USA record for rushing touchdowns in a season (29) set by current FAU running backs coach Kevin Smith in 2007.
Throughout the game, the Owls’ offense found itself making use of multiple option plays to keep North Texas on its heels.
On their first score of the game, wide receiver Kamrin Solomon threw a 22-yard pass to wide receiver John Franklin III. This came after another reverse play where Franklin passed to wide receiver Kalib Woods for a 49-yard gain.
The trio helped FAU put up 253 pass yards in the first half and score on two of its first three drives. They would finish with 352 passing yards, including 269 from quarterback Jason Driskel.
Woods would beat the FAU program record for receiving yards of 202 that William Dukes set in 2012 with 208 receiving yards. He also had a 54-yard receiving touchdown.
North Texas was held to 141 total offensive yards in the first half, but recovered to total 448 for the game. A major part of that inconsistency was the Owls’ pass rush, which put pressure on North Texas quarterback Mason Fine with a C-USA title game record nine sacks.
Cornerback Jalen Young had a 50-yard interception off Fine with 7:37 left in the second quarter on North Texas’ first drive in the second quarter. With the pick, the team tied a program record set in 2007 with 19 total interceptions.
Young had another interception in the fourth quarter to help set the program record at 20 and finish with two picks on the day.
The interception was FAU’s first since going the last three games without one, and would help set up Singletary’s second touchdown.
Fine finished with 367 passing yards and a touchdown, as his offense was held to their lowest scoring total since they scored 14 versus Iowa on Sept. 16. Despite those early struggles, they scored 17 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarter to make it as close as 34-17.
With the win, FAU has nearly capped off what is going to be considered one of their best seasons ever. Reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2008, finishing undefeated in conference play and winning their second ever conference championship mark off a list of achievements that first year head coach Lane Kiffin will have to hang his hat… err, visor on going into bowl play and next season.
For North Texas, the team still made an impressive run that few fans or media members could predict, including going 7-1 in conference and earning their first ever berth to the Conference USA championship game. Seth Littrell had his name brought up in several high profile job openings, but could see his team continue to succeed if he stays head coach in Denton.