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BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Lane Kiffin used the line less than a minute into in his introductory speech when taking over as coach at Florida Atlantic, and has repeated the phrase often since. “For us to do the impossible, we have to see the invisible,” Kiffin said. The mantra that Kiffin put forth on Dec. 13, 2016 might have seemed like pablum at the time, but no more. Kiffin and FAU are playing host to the Conference USA championship game Saturday, when the Owls (9-3, 8-0 C-USA) take on North Texas (9-3, 7-1). The game is a rematch of a regular-season matchup from Oct. 21, when FAU won 69-31.
“This is really against all odds,” Kiffin said. “As much as I’d like to say I saw all of it, I don’t know that I saw the scores the way that they were. A lot of these games haven’t been close versus really good teams. I could see the record, but I don’t know that even I could have predicted the margin of victory in most of these games. A lot of these games, we’re playing our backups in the second half
Freshman wide receiver Willie Wright had nine catches for a touchdown and over 100 receiving yards against Charlotte for just the second time all season, and first since recording a season-high 141 receiving yards against North Texas. With that said, the Florida Atlantic Owls consider a victory against North Texas in Saturday’s Conference USA Championship Game a much more important feat. The season began with wanting to win a league title and nothing has changed.
“We can win six games, and that’s a bowl game,” running back Gregory Howell Jr. said. “The conference championship, that’s something that no people will forget. The conference won’t forget because we’ll be the defending champs next year. That’s something that these guys have been waiting for, for a long time.”
The Owls defense allowed just 12 points last week, their lowest since shutting out Bethune Cookman in the team’s first win on Sept. 16. They are ranked in the top three in the FBS with 18 interceptions for the season, but have not forced a turnover in the last three games.
Junior safety Jalen Young is tied for first in the conference with five interceptions while sophomore cornerback Chris Tooley and junior cornerback Shelton Lewis are tied for second with four apiece. “It’s going to be a good game. They are going to come and bring their best,” Young said of this week’s conference championship game. “We just have to prepare like we have been doing week to week. Our goal is to just be 1-0.”