Boca Raton, Fla. – 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.”
Kill calls it quits
Jerry Kill, a longtime coach who spent last season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rutgers, has retired for health reasons, the school announced Tuesday.
Kill, 56, stepped down as Minnesota’s coach in 2015 because of epilepsy. He suffered a seizure and was hospitalized on Sept. 10, one day after getting knocked to the ground on the sidelines against Eastern Michigan.
After he was hit, Kill said he was lightheaded and “really discombobulated.” He had the seizure the next day.
Kill managed to make it through the season. The Scarlet Knights finished 4-8.
“I hope that through my 34 years of coaching that I was able to be a positive influence on young people because that is truly why I coach. I want to thank all the players for what they have done for me,” Kill said in a statement. “I don’t have any regrets and I’ve had a blessed career. I love this game and all the coaches that I’ve worked with.
“They have all made Jerry Kill a better man. I know that I did it the right way and I did it my way. I gave everything I had to the game, I just ran out of juice.”
A native of Cheyney, Kansas, Kill played football at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.
His head coaching career spanned 22 years at five schools: Saginaw Valley State (1994-98), Emporia State (1999-2000), Southern Illinois (2001-07), Northern Illinois (2008-10) and Minnesota (2011-15).
He took Northern Illinois and Minnesota to three bowl games each and posted a 152-99 career record.
He had kidney cancer in 2005, and his epilepsy started to affect him during his first season at Minnesota. He spent 2016 in an administrative role at Kansas State before joining coach Chris Ash’s staff at Rutgers.
SMU (7-5) vs. Louisiana Tech (6-6)
Kickoff: 8 Wednesday
Line: SMU by 4.5
What’s at stake
SMU plays its first bowl game in five seasons, with new coach Sonny Dykes leading the Mustangs about a week after being hired to replace Chad Morris, who left for Arkansas. And Dykes will be facing his former team. He coached Louisiana Tech for three years before going to Cal. The game will be played about 30 miles from the SMU campus, at the professional soccer stadium that is hosting its first bowl game and is also the site of the FCS championship game in January. Louisiana Tech won its last two regular-season games to get bowl eligible. The Bulldogs are in a bowl for the fourth straight season, and have won the last three.
Louisiana Tech’s secondary vs. SMU’s receivers. Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn are both 1,000-yard receivers with 12 TD catches each for the Mustangs. Quinn, a former LSU transfer, is the FBS leader with 8.8 catches per game. Louisiana Tech safety Secdrick Cooper was an All-Conference USA pick, and freshman CB Amik Robertson was a second-team pick with four interceptions. The Bulldogs held their last two opponents to 304 total passing yards.
Players to watch
SMU: DE Justin Lawler led the American Athletic Conference with 9.5 quarterback sacks, and was second in the league with 15 1/2 tackles for loss. Lawler has 74 tackles overall.
Louisiana Tech: WR Teddy Veal, a former Tulane transfer, has 69 catches for 832 yards and five touchdowns. He was named Conference USA’s co-newcomer of the year.