North Texas Daily

FAU cruises past North Texas to claim C-USA title

FAU cruises past North Texas to claim C-USA title

December 02
14:31 2017

North Texas needed to play a perfect game to have a chance at pulling off an upset over Florida Atlantic in Saturday’s Conference USA Championship.

Instead, it was the Owls (10-3, 9-0) who played near perfect – at least in the first half – in front of their home crowd in Boca Raton. Florida Atlantic exploded out of the gate and dominated the Mean Green (9-4, 7-2) in the first two quarters en route to a 41-17 win, securing its first C-USA title since 2007.

After knocking off the Mean Green 69-31 on Oct. 21, the Owls wasted little time setting in motion a similar result with the C-USA title on the line.

FAU scored on five of its first seven possessions and led 27-0 at the break.

The Owls opened the game by driving 65 yards in nine plays and had little trouble moving the ball against the North Texas defense. Head coach Lane Kiffin’s innovative offensive mind was on display from the start, as FAU used a variety of formations and motion concepts to keep the Mean Green defense off balance.

The Owls scored their first touchdown on a 22-yard reverse pass from WR Kamrin Solomon to WR John Franklin III. That play came immediately after a 49-yard reverse pass from Kalib Woods to Franklin.

Meanwhile, despite entering the game with the No. 2 ranked offense in C-USA, the Mean Green were unable to get anything going offensively. The offensive line struggled to contain a stout front seven, which led to a non-existent running game and put a lot of pressure on sophomore quarterback Mason Fine.

Fine was sacked nine times while the Mean Green finished with just 81 rushing yards – 46 of which came in the second half after Florida Atlantic already held a 27-point lead at the break.

North Texas had a chance to put points on the board late in the first quarter when it drove into the into FAU territory, but the Mean Green opted to fake a field goal in an attempt to hit a home run. Backup quarterback Quinn Shanbour had sophomore tight end Caleb Chumley open down the field but overthrew him, leading to a turnover on downs.

The Mean Green started to turn things around in the second half, but it was too little too late. North Texas broke the ice on the scoreboard with a Trevor Moore field goal before getting into the end zone for the first time on a 77-yard pass from Fine to senior Turner Smiley.

The Mean Green later scored on a 1-yard run from Evan Johnson, pulling within 17 for a short time.

After struggling on both sides of the ball for the first 30 minutes, the Mean Green flipped a switch and played significantly better for the majority of the second half. The defense forced punts on four of FAU’s first five possessions, allowing Fine and the offense to build some momentum. The Owls hung on in the end, but the second-half showing was encouraging for North Texas heading into bowl season.

For now, all signs point toward the Mean Green playing in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. An official bowl announcement will be made around noon Sunday on ESPN’s College Football Playoff Selection Show.

Featured image: North Texas sophomore quarterback Mason Fine (6) runs against FAU in the Conference USA Championship Game. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Brady Keane

Brady Keane

Brady Keane is the Sports Editor of the North Texas Daily. He previously served as Deputy Sports Editor (Jan. 2017-May 2017) and as a Staff Writer (Aug. 2015-May 2016).

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