Often times sports are a microcosm of life.
For the 2018 FIU football team, chapter two of their 12 game story was a lesson in resiliency. Early on though, it looked as if the Panthers weren’t going to be able to rise to the occasion.
Last week Indiana’s sizable receiver Donovan Hale burned the FIU secondary for two touchdown catches.
Saturday, Old Dominion’s big target in Jonathan Duhart looked like he would be the next kryptonite for the Panther defense.
He caught a goal-line jump ball in the first quarter and then took a slant pattern 83 yards to put the Monarchs up 14-0.
FIU’s quarterback situation looked as murky as the waters in the Florida Everglades after James Morgan started the ballgame 0-5 with an interception.
After three Christian Alexander drives didn’t net any points, Morgan threw to a wide open C.J. Worton for a 47-yard touchdown to bring FIU within 10.
ODU superstar defensive end Oshane Ximines looked unstoppable early on. He had two sacks, two forced fumbles and multiple QB pressures in the first half.
After a Nick Rice field goal put ODU up 20-7, the James Morgan who Panther fans have been salivating about all off-season arrived. He spearheaded a 75-yard drive that ended in a Tony Gaiter IV 11-yard TD catch.
Old Dominion took a one score lead into what turned into an extended halftime. Due to lightning strikes in the area, the game was delayed for 126 minutes. When play resumed at 11:19 P.M., the FIU offense didn’t miss a beat.
Morgan led a 19-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes on the clock and ended in a two-yard Shawndarrius Phillips touchdown.
It would be a group effort to replace Anthony Jones production in the run game. Phillips would get the start and finish with 94 yards on the night. Napoleon Maxwell would provide a physical presence, bullying his way to 64 yards.
The most important of those tough runs would come on a fourth down conversion in which it looked like he was stopped, but the second effort by Maxwell helped set up a Phillips TD.
Old Dominion’s dynamic quarterback Steven Williams had a phenomenal first-half. He went 8-11 for 119 yards and a touchdown, in addition to using his legs to extend multiple plays.
However, the 18-year old sophomore looked every bit of his age in the second half as he would only complete three more passes the rest of the night.
Duhart would go silent in the second half as Stantley Thomas-Oliver was switched onto the Monarchs receiver and blanketed him.
Morgan looked comfortable in the pocket and engineered a touchdown drive late in the third quarter ending in a 36-yard touchdown toss to Austin Maloney.
The Bowling Green transfer would finish with 251 yards passing and three TDs. Statistically this was his best game since a 311-yard passing day against South Dakota exactly 365 days ago.
FIU’s defense were able to contain the dangerous Jeremy Cox and backup quarterback Blake LaRussa in the second half.
Punter Stone Wilson showed why he’s such a valuable weapon, landing two punts inside the 20-yard line which made any type of ODU comeback have to start from deep in their own territory.
FIU’s defense would be tested one last time by a late drive that would come to a halt thanks to a Anthony Johnson sack. The Monarchs last gasp fell incomplete in the end zone on forth down.
This was a much needed win in conference play for Butch Davis’s group as they return home to face UMass.