FIU Panthers (1-10, 0-7 Conference USA) vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles (2-9, 1-6 Conference USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 27, 2:00 PM CST
TV: ESPN3 (Play-By-Play: Jason Baker/Analyst: Dustin Almond)
ESPN 3 can be found here — https://go.web.plus.espn.com/oey0yn
Radio: WQBA 1140 Univision Miami (Play-By-Play: A.J. Ricketts)/Southern Miss IMG Radio Network WXRR 104.5 Hattiesburg (Play-By-Play: John Cox/Analyst: Lee Roberts/Sidelines: Dr. Bo Morgan)
Location: Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS
Betting Line: Southern Miss -10 O/U 45.5
All-Time Series Record: FIU leads 1-0 (Florida International won only matchup 24-23 in 2013)
This Saturday marks the grand finale for the 2021 FIU football season — and the Butch Davis era at FIU. Davis’ three-year stretch from 2017-2019 is undoubtedly the most successful period in the program’s 20-year history, as the Panthers had only reached postseason play twice in the 15 seasons prior. However, the final 17 games of the 70-year-old Davis’ tenure at the helm of the Panthers is arguably the lowest stretch for a program that’s seen its fair share of losing.
Last Saturday’s 49-7 loss to North Texas marked the eighth time in their last 13 outings that FIU has lost by three scores or more — including five losses by 30 points or more this season. The Panthers will look vastly different in 2022 both the coaching department and on the field, with 22 players choosing to partake in senior day ceremonies last week and an additional five players who have entered the transfer portal.
The Southern Miss game will give FIU fans a glimpse into the future as 10 underclassmen are in the starting lineup and eight seniors are making their final starts as Panthers. On offense, keep an eye on running backs Shaun Peterson Jr., Flex Joseph and E.J. Wilson Jr. along with freshmen offensive linemen Miles Fraizer and Jahmari Sylvester. Defensively, freshmen Andrew Volmar, Jamal Potts, Jeramy Passmore and sophomore Ty Danzy all will start at Southern Miss.
An underclassman who has already made a name for himself is wide receiver Tyrese Chambers. The FCS transfer enters the contest with 40 catches for 919 yards and eight touchdowns. Chambers stands 120 yards shy of breaking T.Y. Hilton’s single-season program-record 1,038 yards set in 2011. Chambers already has the mark for most receiving yards by a sophomore, breaking the record set by Jonnu Smith in 2014.
FIU quarterback Max Bortenschlager enters the contest 95 yards shy of breaking the program record for most passing yards in a season, set by Alex McGough in 2017.
Saturday’s contest will also be the final time that twins Richard and Rishard Dames take the field as Panthers. The two combined for 62 starts at FIU and Richard’s 277 career tackles rank third all-time by a Panther defensive back. He’s also nine tackles shy of 100 on the season.
Southern Miss Preview
For Will Hall, his debut season at the helm of Southern Miss has been a learning experience in many ways. Following a humbling season-opening loss to South Alabama, the Golden Eagles have gone through five quarterbacks, multiple peaks and valleys and after earning a win over Lousiana Tech without the use of a full-time signal-caller, are riding arguably their highest point in the 2021 campaign into the season finale.
In last week’s victory, Hall deployed the “superback” position, a role that stems from his Division II coaching days at West Alabama. Between the superback and running back Frank Gore Jr. playing wildcat quarterback, the Golden Eagles went an efficient 8-of-13 passing with three touchdown passes and one interception. Given FIU’s inability to stop the run, look for Gore Jr., along with fellow running backs Dajon Richard and Demarcus Jones to try and exploit the deficiency and match the 224 net rushing yards gained in the victory over Tech.
Wideout Jason Brownlee is still a dangerous player, despite the lack of a traditional quarterback. The former JUCO All-American hauled in five catches for 67 yards and two scores in the victory. An FIU secondary that’s reeling from the losses of veterans Dorian Hall and Josh Valentine-Turner will have to account for Brownlee.
Southern Miss’ defense forced two turnovers in the win, being led by a pair of talented underclassmen in safety Malik Shorts and linebacker Hayes Maples. Both notched eight tackles and Maples forced two fumbles, one of which was recovered by Shorts.
While FIU has shown big-play ability during the early and mid parts of the season, sheer lack of depth has caught up with the Panthers, as evidenced by the 144 combined points that the team has lost by in its last four outings. Especially without the services of running back D’Vonte Price and former starting guard Sione Finau, the team is severely depleted. Southern Miss’ superback offense plays right into the weakest point of the FIU defense, its ability to stop the run. Expect Gore and Willis to take advantage of the deficiencies and have big days on the ground — en route to a Golden Eagles victory.