Rarely in sports or life for that matter does one get a second chance to right an error.
For the 2018 FIU Panthers, they let their second chance to prove that they’re not the “Old FIU” slip away losing to Marshall by a final score of 28-25.
While the team greatly exceeded pre-season prognostications, Conference USA heavyweight Marshall proved that the Panthers still have a little further to go in establishing themselves in the league.
It wasn’t for lack of chances.
“When you miss field goals, special teams miscues, it should have been a rout. You love the fact that our kids never quit, but our kids will have to learn to deal with adversity and I know everybody’s sick of losing,” said Davis.
In three redzone appearances in the first-half, FIU had to settle for two field-goal tries. The normally reliable Jose Borregales mad his first chip-shot attempt from 22 yards out. But he missed an equally short try which would have made the game a one-point deficit going into the half.
Coming into the contest it was no secret that containing the Herd’s Tyre Brady would be key to an FIU victory.
The former Miami Hurricane wasted no time in his return to South Florida. He scored his eighth touchdown of the season on an under thrown fade pattern that Brady had to reach over the back of an FIU defender to secure.
“They threw those fade routes a ton and it’s difficult when those guys are fighting and pushing and the officials allowed them to have a lot of contact. But when Brady is 6’3-6’4 its difficult,” said Davis.
James Morgan has looked stellar throughout the season since winning the quarterback job in the off-season.
The Bowling Green transfer’s elite level of play made his first-quarter interception all the more rare. Marshall’s Omari Cobb took the errant pass to the endzone for a 25-yard pick-six.
FIU would respond on the ensuing drive with a 10-play, 56-yard drive that concluded with Anthony Jones scoring from one-yard out to make it a bring FIU within four 14-10.
While the Panther defense has been somewhat of a mixed bag this year, one thing have they done well is force turnovers. Their conference leading 16th interception came on Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green’s first pass of the second-half. Richard Dames would come down with his first of two interceptions on the afternoon.
“That guy just continues to make plays. I hate to compare players, but he reminds me an awful lot of Ed Reed,” said Davis.
FIU would again miss on a scoring opportunity.
Borregales had his next try from inside the 25-yard line blocked which left the game at 14-10.
“Borregales is about as dependable as any of the kickers I’ve coached. He’s going to kick in the NFL, I’m not worried about him, but it just wasn’t his day,” said Davis.
Morgan’s off-day would continue as he was hit while throwing and the deflected pass was intercepted by Marshall linebacker Donyae Moody.
The Panther special teams would continue to struggle. After Marshall’s third-ranked defense in Conference USA forced a three-and-out inside the FIU 10-yard line, Stone Wilson’s punt would be blocked and recovered in the endzone to put the Herd ahead 21-10.
“We went 25 straight games without a blocked punt
On the deflected pass, Morgan suffered a triceps injury and FIU head coach Butch Davis inserted Christian Alexander.
“James needed a drive because the hit caused him to lose some feeling in the area,” said Davis.
The Lakeland, Florida native would respond in his final home game after spending most of the season on the sidelines.
He led the offense on a nine-play, 71-yard drive that ended when Alexander used his legs to score an eight-yard touchdown. For the second time in two weeks, offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky dialed up wide receiver pass as FIU went for two and Maurice Alexander connected with Christian Alexander to cut the Marshall lead to three.
However, FIU would again squander an opportunity.
The defense forced a third and 10 on the ensuing drive only to see Marshall’s fourth-string running back Brenden Knox pick up 11 and keep the Herd drive going.
Doc Holliday’s team has been besieged by injures at the position and Knox filled in admirably, finishing the contest with 19 carries for 109 yards.
Marshall would make the most of the opportunity and Brady made his second visit to the endzone on a three-yard hookup with Green.
“It’s a challenge with a guy his size to get in good position and play defense against him,” said Emmanuel Lubin post-game.
Morgan would re-enter the game and lead the team on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that made the score 28-25, but the Panther defense was unable to hold Marshall one last time.
The loss eliminates FIU from conference championship contention. However, the young Panthers will look forward to finishing the season in a to be determined bowl game.
“The difference between the old FIU and now is we would stay down. We wouldn’t know how to respond. Talking with some of the seniors we thought we would never be here. But I know we’ve built a culture here,” said Napoleon Maxwell.