Lane Kiffin just got more ammunition for Twitter.
Before Saturday night’s game against bitter rival FIU, Florida Atlantic coach Kiffin – who teeters between confident and cocky – delighted in tweeting that his Owls had more 2017 wins than Florida State and Florida combined.
After Saturday night’s 52-24 win over the Panthers, Kiffin has more to brag about as his Owls clinched a berth in the Conference USA championship game.
FAU (8-3, 7-0) will host the C-USA title game against North Texas on December 2.
Kiffin’s counterpart, FIU coach Butch Davis, took the beating one day after his 66th birthday. Davis’ team was run over by what is known in Boca Raton as the “Lane Train”.
Indeed, it was a rough night for the Panthers (6-4, 4-3), who were eliminated from conference-championship contention while also losing the annual “Shula Bowl” game for the 11th time in 15 tries.
In addition, FIU lost star wide receiver Thomas Owens to a knee injury, which he suffered in practice earlier in the week. Owens, a senior who leads the conference with 100.0 yards per game, missed Saturday’s game and may not return this year.
If that is the case, the injury marks the end of a great FIU career for Owens, who is third in program history with 21 receiving touchdowns. The record of 24 by T.Y. Hilton had been within reach.
Owens, who has 887 receiving yards this season, was just 151 yards away from Hilton’s single-season record. And Owens is also fourth in career receiving yards.
Without Owens, FIU quarterback Alex McGough was hampered a bit. McGough still completed 20 of 31 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times and was named FIU’s MVP for the game.
FIU senior running back Alex Gardner rushed 10 times for 56 yards and one touchdown. He has 20 career touchdown runs, which is four short of Rashod Smith for second place on the FIU list.
Meanwhile, FAU junior quarterback Jason Driskel passed for a career-high four touchdowns. He also completed 18 of 25 passes for 239 yards.
Owls senior wide receiver Kalib Woods caught seven passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one two-point conversion, earning FAU’s MVP honors.
FAU sophomore running back Devin “Motor” Singletary carried 25 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He increased his school single-season record for rushing touchdowns to 24. And his 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was a career long.
Driskel put the game away with two third-quarter touchdown passes to Woods of 79 and seven yards. The 79-yarder was Woods’ career long.
On a night that featured early rain and also a lights failure, FAU led 14-0 after the first quarter. The Owls scored on their first possession, putting together an impressive10-play, 76-yard drive. That march was capped by a 13-yard pass from Driskel to tight end Harrison Bryant.
The Owls made it 14-0 on Singletary’s 70-yard through the middle. It was on that play that Singletary broke Alfred Morris’ single-season FAU rushing record.
Both teams scored in a wild second period.
FIU cut its deficit to 14-7 on McGough’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Scott. That capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive.
After Panthers senior cornerback Andrew Brown made his first career interception, setting up the Panthers at FAU’s 27, all FIU could muster was a 31-yard field goal by Jose Borregales.
FIU’s failure to get a touchdown in that spot was damaging to the Panthers because the Owls came right back with an impressive march just before halftime.
With just 27 seconds left in the half, Driskel hit D’Anfe McGriff on a six-yard pass that capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive, giving FAU a 21-10 lead.
The third quarter – other than a 14-yard touchdown run by Gardner – belonged to the Owls. Woods ran past Andrew Brown and caught a long throw for his 79-yarder, and FIU never truly recovered.
FAU got a 44-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to end the third-quarter scoring, giving the Owls what proved to be an insurmountable 37-17 lead.