O-line gets credit for running game’s success
BOCA RATON — The Florida Atlantic offensive line doesn’t have a statistical category to track its success.
The names of the starters won’t appear next to any national rankings. What they can do is look at how opponents are doing everything possible to stop the Owls’ running game. They can find satisfaction in being part of the reason for the rushing success.
“I think of it as a target on our back,” tackle Reggie Bain said. “They’re going to try to stop our run.”
While Devin “Motor” Singletary has grabbed the headlines, the offensive line has played a just as important role in the record-breaking season. Singletary is leading the nation in rushing touchdowns, while the run offense is ranked seventh in yards, fifth in yards per carry and eighth in yards per game.
“Honestly, it’s O-line,” backup running back Gregory Howell Jr. said. “They’ve got their stuff together to where they know what they’re doing each and every play. They’re calling out their keys. It’s the same guys. … It’s really up to them. If they don’t do their job, it’s not going to fit.”
The Owls’ offensive line has created holes all season despite the opposition knowing what is coming. Coach Lane Kiffin has made no secret of the offense playing toward its strength, especially since the passing game struggles with inconsistency.
“We’re all just communicating,” guard Roman Fernandez said. “We’re all just doing what we’ve got to. It’s good to see we’re having success in the run game. We really don’t have to pass the ball much. Just running and running, it’s building an identity for us.”
Singletary has run for at least 100 yards in eight consecutive games. He’s topped at least 200 twice during the Owls’ six-game winning streak. Singletary has gone untouched on several of his long scoring runs, so he always makes a point to thank the offensive line.
“The backs always have a big run and they come on the sidelines and they give us our praise,” Bain said. “They tell us to keep going and don’t be satisfied.”
The biggest reason for the production is continuity. The Owls have used the same offensive line in every game this season. Last year, that was hardly the case. Injuries forced them to use five different lineups through five games.
Last week’s opponent, Louisiana Tech, has already used five offensive line combinations this year. Two weeks ago, the Owls faced Marshall without that team’s starting guard.
“That’s a big stat,” Kiffin said. “We’ve been very fortunate, and hopefully we’ll keep being fortunate. It’s easier to plug in a skilled player when someone goes down because they can come do their own thing versus the offensive line that works together.”
The offensive line still has plenty of motivation for the remainder of the season. Singletary, at 1,360 yards, is closing in on the school’s single-season rushing record (1,392); Marshall’s Conference USA team mark of 3,807 set in 2014 could also fall. The Owls are just 1,057 yards shy, but potentially have four games left if they earn a berth in the league championship game. They are averaging 275 yards per game, so they are on pace to break the record in their bowl game.
“Up front, we just do what we’re told to do,” center Antonyo Woods said.
“I think of it as a target on our back,” tackle Reggie Bain (58) said. “They’re going to try to stop our run.”