FAU wins conference opener behind running back’s four scores and local kicker’s boot.
By: Jason Stromberg Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
It was the Devin Singletary show. The Florida Atlantic University running back set the tone early and often for the Owls in their 38-20 win over Middle Tennessee Sept. 30. Singletary rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns, as Florida Atlantic University won its Conference USA opener on the Howard Schnellenberger Field.
“You’d be so locked in, you don’t even notice,” said Singletary, who tied the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a game with Alfred Morris (2011) and Doug Parker (2001). “We tried to make a statement.”
On the game’s opening drive, Singletary tip-toed down the left sideline, before scampering into the end zone from 19 yards out to give the Owls a 7-0 lead, following Greg Joseph’s extra point. Joseph, a graduate student on the FAU roster, and now a senior leader for the Owls, attended American Heritage in Delray Beach.
Singletary’s score capped a seven play, 75-yard scoring drive, which lasted 2:44. The Deerfield Beach native was only getting started. Singletary’s second touchdown scamper, this one from 13 yards out, made it 14-3 in favor of FAU with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter. Joseph’s second consecutive extra point try capped a 10 play, 57-yard, 3:09 drive. Middle Tennessee’s Canon Rooker squeezed a 46-yard field goal in between Singletary’s two scores to put the Blue Raiders on the board.
The Owls led 14-6 after one.
“I thought this game went as well as we wanted it to,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s a very big win for us. This is three games in a row where we’ve really gotten it going with the running game.”
Joseph added a 22-yard field goal of his own to cap an 11 play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 4:33 off the clock to give the Owls a 24-6 lead heading into the half. Jalen Young and Shelton Lewis each picked off John Urzua late in the first half to preserve the three-score advantage.
Darryl Randolph blocked a 56-yard field goal attempt by Joseph to keep the halftime score intact.
Singletary’s third score opened up the second quarter scoring. It came on a 1-yard touchdown run that made it 21-6, following Joseph’s extra point, to cap a 10 play, 75-yard scoring drive that lasted 3:08.
Florida Atlantic University (2-3, 1-0) rushed for 167 yards on 28 carries in the first half. Singletary was responsible for 91 of those yards on 15 carries. The Owls totaled 252 yards on 50 carries.
“Some of the stuff he does is ridiculous,” Harrison Bryant, FAU’s starting tight end, said of Singletary. “He prepares and works his butt off. He has the mentality that nobody is going to stop me.”
Urzua’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Ty Lee capped a 12 play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 5:18 off the third quarter clock. Lee’s touchdown reception cut FAU’s lead to 24-13, following Rooker’s extra point, with 9:42 remaining. Young led the Owls with eight tackles, while Azee Al-Shaair added seven, with Lewis and Quran Hafiz adding six.
Singletary’s 2-yard touchdown run, his fourth and final score, with 14:55 left in the fourth quarter, put the game out of reach for Middle Tennessee (2-3, 0-1). That made it 31-13, following Joseph’s extra point, to cap a 15-play, 89-yard scoring drive that took 5:19 off the clock.
Raekwon Williams’ interception at the Middle Tennessee 41-yard line led to a 4-yard touchdown reception by Bryant from Jason Driskel for the game’s final margin with 5:00 remaining.
“Anytime you get a conference win, it’s a good feeling,” Driskel said. “It’s easy to play quarterback when you have a backfield like this. The tempo was really good early on, so we’re going to try to continue to build on that. Don’t look back, look forward.”
FAU beat Old Dominion on the road on Oct. 7, 58-28 and beat North Texas 69-31.