BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) – Lane Kiffin has won much bigger games. It has national championships, titles of the Southeast Conference, victories against more than 100,000 fans and millions of other viewers on television.
This was not like those.
It still mattered a lot.
Kiffin is a league champion once again, and Florida Atlantic is one for the first time. The first season of Kiffin in FAU granted a title to him of Conference USA, since the Owls defeated North Texas 41-17 by the crown of the league on Saturday. And Kiffin found himself savoring the moment more than many of the great victories of which he has been a part in the past.
"It's a great story," Kiffin said. "The Christmas gift you give to the child who has nothing, they will appreciate it compared to the child who receives them all the time, and then, that wardrobe, is quite clean."
Devin Singletary had 26 carries for 164 yards and three touchdowns for the Owls, who extended their unbeaten streak to nine games and finished undefeated against C-USA opponents this season. Jason Driskel completed 15 of 27 pbades for 269 yards and a touchdown for FAU, and Kalib Woods had a school record of 208 receiving yards.
"Words can not explain it," Singletary said. "It's one of the best feelings in history."
FAU (10-3) had 633 yards of offense, and the last play of Kiffin's day was one in which he ordered his brother, defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin, to throw a bucket of water at him. The FAU players got the head coach with one, and the celebration was under way.
"It's really special," said FAU linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair. "I have not been with someone like that in my time as a player."
The Owls, who beat North Texas 69-31 in the regular season, took a 34-0 lead in the first 33 minutes of Saturday. FAU had advances of 47, 49, 22, 44, 21 and 34 yards in the first quarter alone, and the leadership was never really threatened.
But make no mistake, the biggest FAU star does not wear a helmet: wear a visor.
"I have to give credit to Lane Kiffin too", linebacker E.J. of North Texas. Ejiya said. "He did his thing today."
Mason Fine completed 28 of 44 pbades for 367 yards for Mean Green (9-4), whose five-game winning streak was cut. Turner Smiley had a touchdown catch and Evan Johnson ran one for North Texas, which will be in the bowl for the second year in a row.
The 10-win season equals Kiffin's best as head coach. He went 10-2 to the USC in 2011.
"He has to give credit to coach Kiffin and FAU," said North Texas coach Seth Littrell. "They are incredible".
It took Kiffin less than a full year to change the fate of FAU. He inherited a program that came from three consecutive seasons of 3-9, and took over after three years as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator in Alabama.
FAU never considered the rental of Kiffin as a risk. Even if the owls did, it has officially paid off now.
"It has been taught by the best," said FAU athletic director Pat Chun. "He has had great successes, I think things are lost, he had a winning record as head coach and he learned from his failures, so you put everyone together … you thought that this could be a place where he achieved a level of success that I had achieved it before. "
North Texas : The Mean Green was outclbaded twice by FAU this season, but UNT only needs to win its bowl game to get the first season of 10 wins of the program since it reached 10-1 in 1977 under coach Hayden Fry.
Florida Atlantic : This is the eighth time in the past 14 Kiffin college seasons that it has been part of a conference championship, including the Southeastern Conference that crowns each of the last three years in Alabama . To put what he has done at FAU into an even broader perspective, the Owls have 10 wins in their last 11 games, having won 10 times in the previous 39 games.
Singletary, whose nickname is "Motor", has 29 touchdowns on the ground in season, 27 of them in the last 10 games of the Owls. The 29 scores are the best of all the FBS players this year, and make him the sixth player in the 2000s to have so many in one season. The FBS record is 37, established by Barry Sanders for Oklahoma State in 1988.
HE IS NO. 2
Kiffin has 10 wins now at Florida Atlantic, and oddly enough, he's already number 2 on the Owls' list of wins. Howard Schnellenberger won 58 games with the Owls, Kiffin has 10, Charlie Partridge won nine, Carl Pelini won five and Brian Wright had four victories as interim coach when Pelini was fired during the 2013 season.
Both teams will learn their bowling destinations on Sunday.