The FIU Panthers have been chugging along for most of this season on their way to a 5-2 record. On the other side of Saturday’s game, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have been struggling to find themselves (and wins) from the start. Both trends continued as FIU beat WKU 38-17 to improve to 6-2 and reach bowl eligibility for the second straight year.
FIU scored first and on their first possession as James Morgan connected with Maurice Alexander for a six-yard touchdown. That came at the end of a nine minute, 16 play drive that ate up the majority of the first quarter.
Both offenses sputtered on the next two drives before WKU got close enough for a 22-yard field goal attempt, which Alex Rinella missed. Each defense then forced a three-and-out before FIU would get their second scoring drive that ended with another Morgan TD pass, this time to Bryce Singleton.
WKU were able to add a 23-yard field goal before the end of the first half. Those points came at the end of a drive where WKU had two-straight plays that could have been touchdowns, but the FIU defense made plays when they needed to.
The FIU offense came out swinging in the second half with a quick five-play, 69-yard drive that was helped along by a 52-yard pass from Morgan to Austin Maloney and ended with six-yard rushing score by D’Vonte Price.
Morgan would throw his third and final touchdown pass of the night two possessions later to Maloney at the end of yet another long, time consuming drive to extend the Panther lead.
James Morgan to Austin Maloney for the touchdown. FIU leads WKU 28-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter. pic.twitter.com/L9n8mnqx7z— Dominique Yates (@RealDYates) October 28, 2018
WKU began to show some fight on their next possession. The Tops drove deep into FIU territory when FIU’s Olin Cushion received a targeting penalty for a hit on Davis Shanley at the one-yard line. Cushion was ejected and Steven Duncan then came in for Shanley scoring a touchdown on a one-yard run. The Tops went for two, but couldn’t convert.
FIU added a 35-yard field goal from Jose Borregales on the next possession before WKU’s best drive of the night: 10 plays and 63 yards capped off by a D’Andre Ferby score from one yard out. Duncan was the quarterback on that drive and hit Kyle Fourtenbary for the two-point conversation.
Before the Tops could mount any kind of comeback, however, FIU added one more score that was the end result of a 58-yard run by Price. Stantley Thomas-Oliver III would intercept Duncan on the ensuing WKU possession to wrap this one up with a bow for the Panthers.
Despite the score difference, the two teams were relatively evenly matched in most stat categories on the night. FIU had 368 total yards to WKU’s 144. WKU’s big mistakes were once again failing to capitalize on red zone chances (3/4 compared to FIU being a perfect 5/5) and a lack of explosive plays. The Panthers were also helped along by big days from Morgan (171 passing yards, three TDS) and Price (119 rush yards, two TDs). The highlight for WKU was linebacker Ben Holt setting a career and WKU FBS era record with 19 total tackles on the night.
Moving along in the season, the Panthers now head home to prepare for next week’s Shula Bowl against FAU on Saturday, November 3rd. WKU heads to Murfreesboro for the 100 Miles of Hate game against Middle Tennessee on Friday, November 2nd.
Mike Gleason & @romberg66 have your @ConferenceUSA wrap from Bowling Green, Kentucky as @FIUFootball defeats @WKUFootball 38-17. FIU remains undefeated in C-USA play and gains bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. pic.twitter.com/GzhGO3QwYC— beIN COLLEGE SPORTS (@beINCOLLEGE) October 28, 2018