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Behind Devin Singletary's four touchdowns, FAU defeats Middle Tennessee State 38-20

There must be something about Florida Atlantic running back Devin “Motor’ Singletary and playing against Middle Tennessee State.

For a second straight year, Singletary had his way with the MTSU defense. He ran for 133 yards on 24 carries and tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns Saturday in a 38-20 victory at FAU Stadium. The win helped the Owls avenge a 77-56 loss in last year’s season finale.

“I think it’s been similar to him the whole season. This guy is going into his second year, playing really well. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got a big heart how he plays.”

Singletary, a sophomore from American Heritage-Delray, already has nine touchdowns this season. Last year he ran for 235 yards and three scores against the Blue Raiders in defeat. This time, his productivity had the assistance of a motivated FAU defense.

The Owls (2-3, 1-0 in Conference USA) made pact during the week they would not have a repeat showing against MTSU. In that nightmare of a game, the defense allowed 757 yards, including a Division I-A-record 495 yards on the ground.

“We used [last year’s game] a little bit,” Singletary said. “Obviously, they put 77 points on us. We definitely used that as some fuel.”

Strengthened by the return of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who missed last week’s game at Buffalo because of injury, the defense was much more effective. The Owls forced three turnovers and made stands when it counted. They stopped two MTSU first-half drives, forcing it to settle for field goals.

“I definitely took it personal,” Al-Shaair said of last year’s game. “… I’ll never forget walking off the field. I remember making that last play and I walked over to the sideline and I didn’t shake anybody’s hands. I just walked in the locker room and I told myself I didn’t want to feel like that again.”

That was more than enough for a rejuvenated offense. Quarterback Jason Driskel started his second consecutive game, replacing opening-week starter Daniel Parr. He completed 22 of 29 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown. While his numbers weren’t gaudy, he served as the perfect game manager for Singletary.

“We hadn’t beaten Middle Tennessee in like nine years,” Driskel said. “To come out here tonight and play like we did and get a win, it’s a good feeling.”

Singletary made it clear he is the Owls’ No. 1 threat at running back. Even with senior Gregory Howell returning after a one-game injury absence, Singletary recorded his third straight 100-yard game. He opened the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 with 12 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

After MTSU (2-3-, 0-1) responded with a 46-yard field by kicker Canon Rooker, the Owls once again turned to Singletary. He capped a 10-play, 57-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The Blue Raiders once again answered with a field goal, this time a 35-yarder from Rooker, but Singletary had another reply.

He scored on a 1-yard run, putting the Owls ahead 21-6 early in the second quarter. After taking an 18-point lead into halftime, the Owls flirted with wasting Singletary’s big night.

Middle Tennessee opened the third quarter with a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Urzua to receiver Ty Lee. The teams exchanged punts on the next three possessions before Singletary put the finishing touches on his sparkling performance. He scored on a 2-yard run to give the Owls a 31-13 lead.

The Blue Raiders made one final push when Urzua connected with receiver Jocquez Bruce for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 11:13 left in the game. With MTSU trying to trim the lead further, FAU cornerback Raekwon Williams stopped the drive with an interception. The Owls then put the game on Driskel’s 4-yard pass to tight end Harrison Bryant.

srichardson@sun-sentinel.com; On Twitter @shandelrich

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