Florida Atlantic running back Malcolm Davidson scores career-high three touchdowns in rout over Panthers

BOCA RATON — The Shula Bowl Trophy is staying at Florida Atlantic University.

Running back Malcolm Davidson totaled three touchdowns in his return from a groin injury, graduate transfer Deangelo Antoine recorded 125 receiving yards and FAU won its third straight game — and a third straight Shula Bowl — in a 37-7 victory over FIU on Saturday night.

The win, FAU's seventh in eight games, moved the Owls into sole possession of first place in Conference USA's East Division.

"Proud of our players, happy for our fans," FAU head coach Lane Kiffin said. "Guys made a lot of significant plays in the game ... Good job by our staff, good job by our players."

Officially, linebacker/defensive back Quran Hafiz was the first to reach the Shula Bowl Trophy.

Five takeaways from FAU's win.

1. Return of the Stallion: A healthy Davidson has a place in FAU's long-term plans. The redshirt freshman broke off an early 31-yard scamper and, with his touchdown on the Owls' opening drive, extended his scoring streak to five straight games.

"Felt good to be back, felt good to come in and win with my team," Davidson said.

FAU surprisingly only gave Davidson two first-half touches after his five-carry, 52-yard performance on the Owls' opening drive. Davidson finished with 144 yards on 17 carries.

Malcolm Davidson puts @FAU_Football on top first in the Shula Bowl! pic.twitter.com/KfptbVchaB

— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 9, 2019

2. Robison plays wild: A strong FIU secondary forced Robison into making dangerously uncharacteristic throws. Robison finished 22-of-37 for 298 yards and a touchdown to tight end Harrison Bryant, although several of the receptions were the short jet sweep passes to Antoine.

Consecutive offsides penalties on FIU's defense allowed for Robison and the offense to get three straight third-down tries. Robison fired incomplete on all three passes, the last two of which were into heavy coverage.

3. Opportunistic defense continues turnover parade: FAU entered Saturday with a plus-11 turnover margin. That number was 13 after routing FIU.

FAU held onto its 13-7 lead when cornerback Meiko Dotson picked off a fake field goal late in the second quarter. Another cornerback, Chris Tooley, forced a fumble on FIU's opening drive in the second half. Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson pounced on the ball, setting up Davidson's second touchdown.

"It's another game in the way of what we're trying to accomplish," Dotson said. "We know it's a rivalry, we're excited for it, but we just try to do what we had to do."

4. FAU executes red-zone opportunities: FAU will correctly argue it left plenty of points on the field. Regardless, FAU — specifically kicker Vladi Rivas — deserve credit for not leaving the red zone without points. Rivas made two chip-shot field goals in the second quarter to ensure FAU entered halftime with a lead.

FAU made up for the missed opportunities in the second half. Bryant's touchdown and Davidson's second score, a 6-yard rush, both came inside FIU's red zone. Davidson's final touchdown was a 23-yard sprint early in the fourth quarter.

5. FAU wins Shula Bowl off-field: Poor weather throughout the day, including a downpour in the hour before kickoff, kept fans away. FAU announced an official attendance of 17,603 fans.

FAU loudly promoted the game and the Shula Bowl rivalry on social media, including a video of Kiffin urging students to come. FIU's online presence focused more on the Panthers’ Nov. 23 matchup with Miami at Marlins Park than the task at hand in FAU. It's hard to get people excited about an in-state, in-conference rivalry when only one team is doing its share.

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