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FIU Football: Five Takeaways from the Charlotte Game

Charlotte comes into FIU and picks up their first win over the Panthers in program history.

After going winless in five tries against FIU (1-5, 0-2), Will Healy and his Charlotte 49ers (4-2, 2-0) go into Miami and pick up a 45-33 victory over the Panthers. Charlotte was led by quarterback Chris Reynolds, who went 21-of-27 passing for 203 yards with four touchdowns. The Niners run defense, which was ranked 128th in FBS football entering the game were able to hold D’Vonte Price to just 89 yards and as a whole, FIU rushed for 72 yards.

“I told our team postgame that it’s hard to win games and I really want them to know that and we’ll enjoy it tonight, but it’s back to work on Sunday and Monday,” said Healy. Charlotte rushed for 179 yards, led by Shadrick Byrd with 80 yards and Calvin Camp with 66 yards.

For FIU, the team falls to 1-5. Postgame, both Butch Davis and Tyrese Chambers spoke about the need for the team to remain positive and take advantage of the talent in the locker room.

“Our guys remain optimistic, when I just spoke to them, we’re all focused on turning the page and getting back to work on Monday because we still want to go out there and win ballgames,” said Davis.

Chambers scored twice from 75 yards and 59 yards out en route to tying the program-record for receiving yards in a game. Quarterback Max Bortenschlager broke Paul McCall’s 13-year record for passing yards in a game, going 19-of-30 for 466 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

“We have too much talent on this team, sometimes I look around and see the talent at running back, receiver, all over the place and I know we have enough talent in this locker room to turn things around,” said Chambers.

Let’s take a look at five takeaways from the Charlotte game as the Panthers enter the bye week before welcoming Western Kentucky to FIU Stadium.

Red Zone Struggles

Entering the Charlotte game, the FIU offense hasn’t been able to consistently find points when reaching the red zone. The Panthers are tied for 125th in the nation in red zone scoring (.628). In the first half against Charlotte, FIU entered the red zone twice — both times driving inside the 49ers 10-yard line — but only managed to come away with three points. The most glaring disappointment was on the Panthers second drive of the game. Following a double-pass that resulted in Bortenschlager finding Tyrese Chambers for a 67-yard gain, FIU rushed three times for six yards and had a dropped pass that would have resulted in a touchdown. The goal-line stand was especially disappointing, given Charlotte’s run defense issues entering the game. Davis spoke about the red zone issues postgame.

“Every opportunity, when you get chances in the red zone to put points on the board, you have to take advantages of it and we didn’t do a good enough job of that to win the game,” said Davis.

Victor Tucker

Coming out of Miami’s Carol City High as a diminutive 5-10, 165-pound receiver, Charlotte’s Victor Tucker had just one FBS offer, coming from the Niners. Since arriving in Conference USA in 2018, Tucker has rewritten the program record books, currently ranking first or second in all major receiving categories. Against FIU in front of friends and family, Tucker hauled in eight catches for 92 yards and one touchdown. Postgame, Tucker spoke about enjoying his team’s first victory over the Panthers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Charlotte at Illinois
Victor Tucker enjoyed his homecoming in Miami.
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I’ll be honest, I really just was taking it all in on the sideline and enjoying the moment,” said Tucker.

He also addressed the back-and-forth on social media regarding his friendly rivalry with Rishard and Richard Dames, who are also Miami natives.

“It’s crazy because me Rishard and Richard, we all are really cool. We play video games together and of course we talk against each other, we’re all good friends and it’s good to pick up a win over them,” said Tucker.

Pass Defense

Over the previous three contests, the FIU pass defense had allowed 81 competitions out of 114 attempts (71%) — an uncharacteristically high mark for a defense that ranked among the top-four units in pass coverage among Conference USA teams since 2018. The poor play against the pass continued in Saturday’s loss, with Reynolds going 17-20 with three passing touchdowns through three quarters.

Tyrese Chambers

One of the lone bright spots for the Panthers through six games has been the play of FCS transfer Tyrese Chambers. Entering Friday’s game, Chambers was leading FBS football in yards per catch, averaging 27.7 yards per grab. Against Charlotte, the Baltimore native tied the FIU program record for receiving yards in a game with 201. He shares the mark with Panther great T.Y. Hilton, who also had 201 in 2011 against Lousiville.

“I didn’t even know that I tied the record until he (FIU Communications Staffer Tyler Brain) told me as I was walking in here, but he’s one of the reasons why I came to FIU, so it’s just incredible to make that impact,” said Chambers.

Kaylan Wiggins

Following a three-and-out that saw Bortenschlager sacked on third down, Davis surprisingly turned to fourth-string quarterback Kaylan Wiggins on the next FIU drive. The redshirt junior, who hadn’t seen time this season was able to lead the Panthers for seven plays and 50 yards down to the Charlotte 27-yard-line before Davis turned back to Bortenschlager. Wiggins used his legs rushing to gain 21 yards on two rushes.