Lane Train: Kiffin and FAU leave no doubt, beat Akron 50-3
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Lane Kiffin’s first bowl game at Florida Atlantic was the perfect microcosm of his first season with the Owls.
Slow start. Super finish.
And the future could be even better.
Devin Singletary ran for 124 yards and three touchdowns, Jason Driskel accounted for four scores and FAU rolled past Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night — finishing the season on a 10-game winning streak, and with Kiffin having agreed to terms on an extension that, in theory, would keep him at FAU for another 10 years.
That seems unlikely, of course. Then again, so did a program with nine wins in the last three years combined rolling through 2017 this way.
“Just an unbelievable day,” Kiffin said. “Can’t imagine it being better, 50-3. This is a special story. These are unique stories. They don’t happen. You don’t come to FAU after winning nine games in three years combined and win 11 games — and not even play close games. ... These guys just dominate everybody they play.”
The Owls were 1-3 in late September. They never lost again, the 10 wins coming by an average of 24.8 points and capped by a win in FAU’s first bowl appearance since 2008.
“A long time coming,” said FAU linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who announced he is returning for his senior season — amid some NFL speculation.
Singletary finished with 32 touchdowns this season for the Owls (11-3), who matched the school record for wins in a season — set during the team’s run to the Division I-AA semifinals in 2003.
Driskel threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns, plus ran for two more scores for FAU.
The Owls had a massive turnaround in Kiffin’s first year and may have an even brighter future. Earlier Tuesday, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that FAU and Kiffin have agreed to extend his contract six more years through 2027.
The days of being called out with an overhead projector as he was by Al Davis in Oakland, or fired on a tarmac like he was at USC, or facing weekly questions about his job security like he was at Alabama, are over.
He’s at FAU for as long as he wants to be. The new deal isn’t signed, but the sides will get there.
“It was a neat day,” Kiffin said. “It’s the university saying, ‘We’re excited about what’s going on, we believe in what you’re doing, we don’t mind that you make jokes on Twitter like other people do.’ It was just neat to see.”
Kato Nelson threw for 80 yards for Akron (7-7).
“We just got whipped,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “They didn’t punt until the very end. ... They just were better than us tonight, it was clear to see.”
And Kiffin held nothing back.
FAU got three touchdowns on fourth-down tries, unsuccessfully tried an onside kick in the first quarter, went for a 2-point conversion in the third quarter to make it 36-3 and even tried a halfback pass in the fourth quarter with a 47-point lead. The Owls didn’t punt on their first nine possessions, getting seven touchdowns and two missed field goals out of those.
Even on the last play of the game, FAU threw a pass — a 10-yard gain, one that gave the Owls a 582-146 edge in total yards. The Owls left no doubt: Only two bowl games since 2000 had a bigger margin of victory than FAU’s 47-point romp in this one.
“Lane was just playing football,” Bowden said. “I have no problem with it.”
Akron: The Zips finished the season 7-0 in games where they led at halftime and 0-7 when they trailed at the break. ... Akron is now 1-2 in bowl games since moving up to the FBS level, winning the 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and falling in the 2005 Motor City Bowl. ... Bowden made sure to laud his seniors in the locker room postgame. “We have made incredible strides,” he said.
FAU: The only players with more rushing touchdowns than Singletary in the last 50 years of major college football were Barry Sanders (37 in 1988) and Montee Ball (33 in 2011). He has 43 TDs in his first two seasons, and had only two in his first three games this year — before getting 30 more in the final 11 games.
Kiffin and Bowden are, of course, the sons of football coaching legends. Monte Kiffin and Bobby Bowden were both at the game and took part in the pregame coin toss.
Akron: Nebraska’s first game under Scott Frost will be at home against the Zips on Sept. 1.
FAU: The Owls take their 10-game winning streak into 2018, which starts Sept. 1 at Oklahoma.
This story has been updated to correct the name of FAU’s quarterback to Jason Driskel.