Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic runs wild vs. Akron

By Bill Whitehead, The Sports Xchange – UPI

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The Florida Atlantic University football team adhered to an adage often heard around the school’s campus and surrounding area.

It’s better in Boca.

The homestanding Owls, playing at FAU Stadium on the school’s campus, capped off a historical season with a 50-3 win over Akron in the fourth annual Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night.

FAU quarterback Jason Driskel accounted for four touchdowns, and running back Devin Singletary broke a conference rushing-touchdown record as the Owls cruised past the Zips.

“Just an unbelievable day. I can’t imagine being better. 50-3. This is a special story, a unique story,” said FAU head coach Lane Kiffin.

“You don’t come to FAU after winning nine games in three years combined, then winning 11 games…We’ve just dominated whoever we’ve played. A lot of times the games are over by the fourth quarter.”

Driskel, a junior, was 19 of 25 for 270 yards and two passing touchdowns. He added 67 yards rushing and two more scores on 13 carries.

“This is my fourth year. (The first three we) had nine total (wins). We ended with 11. That’s not ordinary, but we have a group of extraordinary guys,” Driskel said.

Singletary, the nation’s leader in rushing touchdowns, already was named Conference USA’s MVP and a third-team All-American as a sophomore. He ran 26 times for 124 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 32 rushing scores this season.

“This many touchdowns? I don’t think I saw that coming,” said Singletary, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in each of the final 12 games to end the season.

After taking a 21-3 lead into halftime, Florida Atlantic (11-3) stopped Akron (7-7) on downs at midfield to start the second half.

Singletary scored his second touchdown on fourth down at 9:13 of the third quarter on a 2-yard run.

Driskel tossed his second touchdown to wide receiver Willie Wright on a 3-yard pass for a 36-3 lead on the next series.

Driskel’s second score on the ground was on a 7-yard run on a keeper up the middle just 25 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Singletary’s final touchdown run was from 26 yards out with 10:47 left.

FAU outgained Akron 582-146 in total yards — a stat that impressed the Owls’ signal-caller.

“When you punt once and don’t turn the ball over at all, it’s hard to complain about what you’re doing on offense,” Driskel said.

In the first meeting between the schools, Florida Atlantic and Akron both missed field goals on their first series of the game before the Owls converted a second fourth-down conversion for the first score.

Driskel rolled out and tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Wright for a 7-0 lead, capping a 79-yard drive late in the first quarter.

Akron responded with a 19-yard field goal from kicker Nick Gasser early in the second quarter.

Driskel led the Owls to another fourth-down score on the next series, running in from 3 yards out for a 14-3 lead to end a 75-yard drive.

Florida Atlantic scored on four plays, going 87 yards in 58 seconds to close the first half’s scoring. Singletary’s 6-yard run gave the Owls a 21-3 lead. Singletary broke the C-USA mark of 29 rushing touchdowns held by former Central Florida back Kevin Smith, now Florida Atlantic’s running backs coach.

“We just got whipped. We couldn’t stop them. They just were better than us, it was clear to see,” said Akron head coach Terry Bowden.

This season, the first under Kiffin, was FAU’s first campaign in history marking double-figure wins. The 11 victories are the most in the 13 years the school has been competing at the FBS level.

The win was FAU’s 10th straight and was the 12th straight game FAU has scored at least 30 points in a contest, which began with a 45-0 win over Bethune-Cookman the week before losing at Buffalo.

Only undefeated University of Central Florida (12-0) has a longer streak, having scored a minimum of 31 points in all 12 of its games. The Knights had two games canceled due to Hurricane Irma.

NOTES: The game marked just Akron’s third bowl appearance since moving to Division 1-A (FBS) in 1987. The Zips lost the 2005 Motor City Bowl against Memphis, but the 2015 squad posted Akron’s first bowl victory — a 23-21 decision over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. … The Zips claimed their third MAC East title and first since 2005. … Akron has 29 players from Florida, including 12 from South Florida. … Florida Atlantic has no players on its roster from Ohio. … The Owls were victorious in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl over Memphis and the 2008 Motor City Bowl against Central Michigan. … FAU first-year head coach Lane Kiffin signed a 10-year contract extension before the game. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Only Mark Richt, in his second year at Miami, is a longer-tenured coach in Florida than Kiffin.