Jeff Driskell completed 18 of his 22 passes for 245 yards and two scores, tailback Devin Singletary had 108 yards and two more touchdowns, and the FAU Owls used a dominant first half to spoil Charlotte’s Senior Day, 31-12. The Owls moved to 9-3 after the win, including a 8-0 mark in conference play, to clinch the division and will play for the Conference USA Championship next week against North Texas.
Hasaan Klugh finished 10-21 for 171 yards, one passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown to lead the 49ers, while TL Ford II had two receptions for 50 yards in his last collegiate game. The 49ers (1-11, 1-7 C-USA) managed only 119 yards on the ground, which had been their bread and butter coming into the contest. Safety Ben DeLuca was the bright spot on defense, as the true sophomore had 16 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Jeff Gemmell had 13 tackles, and it was the sixth straight time he finished with at least 10.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get drives moving. In the first half, defensively, we couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “We came out the second half and played a lot better on third and fourth down on defense. … We gave up too many big plays on defense… they had 563 yards. … Give FAU credit. They’ve got a good football team.”
FAU got on the board first when Singletary punched in his first run at the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. The Owls extended the lead to 10-0 after a field goal with four minutes remaining, but the Charlotte special teams unit struggled. After a long drive, kicker Kyle Corbett missed a field goal from 45 yards out. He would also later miss an extra point attempt, and the Niners turned the ball over on downs after a fake punt-pass play fell incomplete.
In the second quarter, the Owls scored again, this time on a 20-yard pitch-and-catch pass play from Driskell to Kamrin Solomon. Charlotte finally got on the board when Klugh found running back Benny LeMay downfield for a 28-yard touchdown. LeMay, who finished with 45 yards rushing, had his second touchdown reception of the season. The Charlotte defense couldn’t get off the field, however, and Driskell found Willie Wright downfield for a 41-yard touchdown reception with a minute remaining until halftime. Wright, who tallied 103 receiving yards, helped push the FAU lead to 24-6 at the half.
The Owls scored their final touchdown early in the third period, when Singletary punched in a score from a yard out at the 10 minute mark. The Charlotte defense took a stand, as DeLuca forced his second fumble, and the 49ers were able to turn it into points. DeLuca’s fumble led to Klugh’s touchdown scamper with two minutes left in the third quarter, but the two point conversion try failed. Klugh’s score at the end of the third quarter marked the final margin, and the Niners fell 31-12.
“I told the seniors thank you. This is a group that came here, believed when no one else did when we started, and they put in a ton of work here. We really appreciate them and all that they’ve done,” Lambert said. “It’s not the record we wanted. We had some opportunities to win some other games. It’s obviously not where we want to be. ….We have to move forward, get better and win games.”
The Niners’ calendar will flip to 2018, as the coaching staff will hit the road to start recruiting for next year’s class and will look to replace the 12 seniors. Departing from the team include seniors Karrington King, Chris Montgomery, Trent Bostick, TL Ford II and Uriah Lemay. Despite the record, Charlotte hopes to come back stronger than ever in 2018 and will look to showcase their progress during the annual Spring Game in April.