The 2017 bowl season saw Florida Atlantic cap the best season in school history by blowing out Akron in a home-game Boca Raton Bowl while SMU was blasted in its bowl game. The 2019 season saw history repeat itself on top of each other.
FAU closed a season in which it won its second Conference USA title by matching the 2017 team’s 11-3 record, running away from an overmatched SMU team in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, 52-28.
After five punts to begin the game, Florida Atlantic opened the scoring with a 13-play, 74-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard BJ Emmons plunge.
When Kevin Robledo missed a field goal for SMU (10-3), Florida Atlantic had a chance to take control of the game, but Owl receiver Brandon Robinson fumbled at his own 29 and the Ponies capitalized with a 1-yard Xavier Jones rush.
A pair of punts later, FAU nudged back in front with a 1-yard James Charles rush to cap a 57-yard drive, but SMU responded with a 55-yard drive where Jones again scored from a yard out, knotting the game at 14 with 2:12 left before the break.
That would be the peak for SMU.
Florida Atlantic answered that answer with an answer of its own: a 75-yard touchdown drive punctuated by Charles’s second touchdown rush of the day, this one a 15-yard burst with a minute left in the half. Then, Shane Buechele was picked on the next play from scrimmage off a tipped pass intended for James Proche but caught by Rashad Smith, who zigged and zagged and zigged some more for a 22-yard return back to the Mustang 13. Chris Robison found Robinson one play later, giving the Owls their second touchdown in three snaps.
The Owls then added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, an 18-yard toss from Robison to Chris Raine, then a return of a Ke’Mon Freeman fumble nine yards for a touchdown, staking the home team to a 42-14 lead at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter.
SMU added two fourth quarter touchdowns, but not until the game was well in hand. Both squads threw for around 300 yards, but Florida Atlantic out-rushed SMU by 102 yards and did not turn the ball over, while SMU’s two turnovers turned into 14 Owl points.
The loss dropped SMU to 0-2 in bowl games in the Sonny Dykes era, with both losses coming in decisive fashion.
Florida Atlantic has now won two straight, with the obvious difference from 2017 being that Lane Kiffin has cashed in the Owls’ success to take the Ole Miss job. The Willie Taggart era of FAU football begins now, and the new leader was on hand to watch the team on Saturday.