Despite personnel changes days before the game, the Florida Atlantic University Owls were able to overcome adversity to take home the win at home during the Sixth Annual Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl.
On their home turf at Florida Atlantic University Stadium, the Owls dominated their opponents the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.
The final score: 52-28.
The Owls were led by interim head coach Glenn Spencer, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator under head coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin announced his departure from FAU to Ole Miss right after the team clinched the Conference USA championship. Kiffin didn’t coach in the bowl game and neither did newly named head coach Willie Taggart. But despite the coaching change up, the team was able to clobber their opponents.
The scoring began early in the game. Florida Atlantic scored twice in the final minute of the first half to take a 28-14 lead that it never relinquished.
After SMU (10-3) tied the game at 14 points on Xavier Jones’ one-yard run with 2:12 remaining in the half, FAU moved 75 yards in seven plays, which was capped off by a James Charles 15-yard touchdown run. Then, on the first play after the kickoff, Shane Buechele’s pass was intercepted by defensive MVP Rashad Smith (11 tackles, and a fumble recovery to go with the interception) at the SMU 35 and returned to the 13-yard line. Offensive MVP Chris Robison’s 13-yard pass to Brandon Robinson on the next play gave the Owls the two-score lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
FAU added two touchdowns in the third quarter, and held SMU scoreless as the fourth quarter began.
Robison set a Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl record with 27 completions (in 37 attempts) for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Charles added two scores on the ground. FAU tied the bowl record with its 52 points and the combined 80 points scored were the second most in the bowl’s history. FAU punter Matt Hayball, the game’s special teams MVP, set a bowl record with a 48-yard average on five punts.
SMU quarterback Shane Buechele also completed 27 passes and threw for over 300 yards (27-47 for 303) while wide receiver James Proche caught nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
The Owls finished the season 11-3, matching the best record in school history, achieved previously in 2017 when they also ended the season with a Boca Raton Bowl victory.