Lane Kiffin and FAU top MTSU for 2nd win

Written by Derek Robbie
Boca Raton, FL –  Coming into Florida Atlantic’s C-USA matchup with Middle Tennessee, things were not going as planned for the Owls and head coach Lane Kiffin. However, the offense that many expected this season showed up and put on a show in Boca Raton beating the Blue Raiders 38-20.

FAU got their offense going in a hurry. After Middle Tennessee won the coin toss and chose to differ. The ball went into the end zone for a touchback. Surprisingly, Owls quarterback, Jason Driskel started FAU’s first drive. Florida Atlantic drove down the field well with Driskel at the helm. They eventually scored a 19-yard touchdown from running back Devin “Motor” Singletary who juked out a few defenders and found his way to the end zone.

On their first play the Blue Raiders’ quarterback, John Urzua, dropped back to pass to his receiver Ty Lee for a 21-yard completion. On the next several plays Urzua dropped back with some success, but the Owls eventually forced a 3rd down. Urzua went to pass to his right, and his tight end caught the ball for a first down. On Middle Tennessee’s next 3rd down, Urzua escaped pressure and threw downfield but was incomplete. MTSU was then forced to kick a field goal which, Canon Rooker kicked through the uprights to make it a 7-3 game with nine minutes left in the first quarter.

After the Middle Tennessee field goal, the Owls took the field for their next offensive drive. Florida Atlantic could not move the ball with an efficiency, and they were forced to go 3 and out.

On the following Blue Raiders drive, receiver Lee took a quick screen pass 15 yards for a first down. Unfortunately for Middle Tennessee, the Owls stopped them on the following 3rd down forcing them to punt the ball back to FAU.

On Florida Atlantic’s next drive, they were steadily marching their way down the field. The Owls were getting chunks of yards by running the ball consistently. Driskel threw to a wide-open receiver but his throw was inaccurate, and his receiver could not locate the ball. A few plays later, Singletary found space and ran the ball in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown and his second score of the game.  The TD gave the Owls a 14-3 lead with 3 minutes left in the first quarter.

Middle Tennessee’s subsequent drive lasted nine plays and went 46 yards. At the end of the drive, Rooker kicked a 46-yard field goal to make it a 14-6 game with less than a minute left in the first quarter.

The next Owls drive was an excellent ten play, 75-yard drive that ended with another touchdown run for the red-hot Singletary. The sophomore’s third of  touchdown of the first half was a one-yard rush,. The score was 21-6 in favor of the Owls.

Urzua took the field and drove the Blue Raiders down the field. Urzua found his favorite target Ty Lee for a 26-yard pass to bring them inside the red zone. Once inside the red zone, the Blue Raiders ran a couple of plays that were unsuccessful, with the main one being a pass to Patrick Smith in the end zone, but Owl’s  defensive back Zyon Gilbert made a good play to keep Smith from scoring. Rooker missed a 26-yard field goal attempt wide right to give the ball back to the Owls.

Florida Atlantic then pieced together a balanced drive with an even number of pass plays to rushing plays to get inside the 10-yard line. They tried to hand the ball to Singletary so he could get his 4th rushing touchdown of the half, but the Blue Raiders were stacking the box. Unfortunately, FAU had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to take a 24-6 lead.

The Blue Raiders were marching down the field towards the end of the half with one last chance to close the deficit before heading to the locker room. However, Owls’ strong safety, Jalen Young picked off a tipped pass inside the 10-yard line. After Young’s interception the Owls went 3 and out, but almost immediately stole off another pass this time by cornerback Shelton Lewis.

By halftime, it was clear Singletary was the star of the game with 91 yards and three touchdowns at the break. The Blue Raiders were surely trying to come up with plan to stop the speedster.

To open the second half, Urzua was leading the Blue Raiders down the field until the FAU defense stopped them on 3rd down on the 45-yard line. Middle Tennessee faked the punt and tried to run for the first down and got it by snapping the ball right to the blocker. After the fake punt, Urzua threw a 26-yard touchdown to his favorite target, Lee. The touchdown cut the lead to 24-13 in favor of the Owls with just over nine minutes in the quarter.

The Owls drove their way to mid-field, but when they went for it on 4th and short the Middle Tennessee defense stuffed the rush attempt by Singletary. The Blue Raiders took the ball over on downs on the 50-yard line and proceeded to drive down the field. Things looked promising until  Urzua got sacked by Hunter Snyder and Korel Smith for a 9-yard loss and to cause a 3rd and 15. The Blue Raiders could not convert the 3rd and long and had to punt the ball late in the third quarter.

Florida Atlantic worked their all the way down the field after the punt. They seemed to gain five yards at a time until they got inside the red zone. Driskel attempted to throw into the endzone, though the pass was incomplete but the receiver was able to draw a pass interference call. The penalty brought the Owls within the two-yard line, and after a couple of attempts Singletary smashed his way into the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the night. Singletary’s touchdown gave his team a 31-13 lead with just under 15 minutes left in the game. Singletary also tied the school record for the most rushing touchdowns in a single-game.

Middle Tennese opened their bag of tricks trying to get back into the game. The Blue Raiders ran a reverse to Patrick Smith who threw a screen pass back out  John Urzua who picked up 26 yards and the first down. MTSU continued to drive down the field with ease until they finally scored a four-yard touchdown pass to Jocquez Bruce, making it it a two-possession game 31-20. And, just over 11 minutes to go.

The Middle Tennessee defense kept FAU’s offense in check by forcing them to punt after six plays. The Blue Raiders were putting together a nice drive, but Urzua threw his third interception of the night. This time it was cornerback Raekwon Williams who picked Urzua off.

Williams’ interception gave the Owls fantastic field position late in the fourth quarter. After only three plays, FAU was in the red zone. The Owls capitalized on the field position once Driskel connected with tight end Harrison Bryant. The score gave FAU a 38-20 lead with five minutes remaining.

Inside two minutes, FAU really tightened up on defense, bringing more pressure than they had all game. Due to the pressure, the Owls forced Middle Tennessee to turn the ball over on downs.  After the turn over on downs, the Owls just ran out the clock to end to the game, 38-20.

This was FAU’s first win over Middle Tennessee in nine years, a point Kiffin brought up after the game.

“A very big win for us. We talked all week about this being a long nine years for all our fans, alumni, and football players. One of the things we talked about during the week is let’s play really well as a gift to everybody. This is one of the better teams in the conference, let’s go beat them!”

It will be intriguing to see if Kiffin and his coaching staff can carryover any of the good things from this game when they face Old Dominion next Saturday, October 7, at 6:00 p.m. ET at FAU Stadium.

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