First, watching this game was a problem. ESPN3 suffered severe technical difficulties. At first, there was video but no audio. Audio would come temporarily but eventually the whole broadcast just fell apart and ESPN3 apparently gave up. Fortunately, Tech’s radio crew was able to broadcast, but I wasn’t able to physically see most of the action.
FIU had started conference play 3-0 after firing their head coach. Winning this game would have proven they were a contender now, but after inching out wins against bottom feeders, knocking off the Bulldogs seemed unlikely. Losing this game was expected.
Still, FIU was able to make some good plays and there’s some good signs for the Panthers.
Bulldog quarterback Ryan Higgins threw 22/30 for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Trent Taylor had 11 catches for 156 yards and 1 touchdown, while Carlos Henderson had 6 catches for 68 yards, as well as a kickoff return touchdown. Kam McKnight, a wide receiver who had 6 rushing touchdowns, got his first receiving touchdown. McKnight and Higgins each had a rushing score. It was a quieter day for the Bulldog’s potent passing attack, but it was enough.
FIU’s quarterback Alex McGough threw 25/44 for 281 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He was roughed up during the interception and Maurice Alexander stepped in, going 4/5 for 50 yards. McGough would return later.
La Tech’s defense and special teams played a little better and are showing signs of improvement, but there are still things to work on as Tech gave up 159 yards on kick returns and 398 on defense.
The thing Skip Holtz will be the most unhappy about is the 8 penalties for 60 yards. Tech at one point was inside the 5, but a false start and a pass interference forced the Bulldogs to settle for a field goal. Those shouldn’t be too hard to clean up.
FIU’s defense did a little better than some others had, holding Tech to 4/10 on 3rd down and under 300 passing yards.
But this game could have been closer. Alex McGough threw an interception to Xavier Woods that was returned to the FIU 2 which led to a La Tech touchdown. FIU failed a 4th down conversion, which Tech then turned into a field goal. After cutting the deficit to 24-37, FIU gave up a 92 yard kickoff return touchdown from Carlos Henderson. Change those three plays, and that takes away 17 Bulldog points. Tech won by 20. Add in an FIU score or two on the two plays that were turnovers and FIU could’ve potentially won. So FIU has some good things they can take away from this and build on.
Still, La Tech won comfortably and has now won 4 straight games and 2 on the road. Tech has outscored opponents 183-111 in that stretch. 3 more winnable games until Tech finally reaches its bye week. A win next week against Rice would clinch bowl eligibility for a school record third year in a row.
FIU now drops to 3-1 in C-USA and things will not get any easier with MTSU coming to town next week fresh off its upset of the SEC’s Missouri. The Panthers will then travel to WKU before finally getting a bye week. A bowl game isn’t looking likely for the Panthers, as they would have to win 3 of their remaining 4 games.
Fortunately for Tech, a bowl game looks to be a lock.