FIU Panthers (1-1, 0-0 Conference USA) vs Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) vs
Date/Time: Saturday, September 18th, 7:00 PM EST
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN Plus (Play-By-Play: Mark Neely/Analyst: Brandon Jacobs)
Radio: WQBA 1140 AM Univision Radio South Florida (Play-By-Play: AJ Ricketts)/Texas Tech Radio Network (Play-By-Play: Brian Jensen /Analyst: John Harris/Sidelines: Chris Level)
Location: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
Betting Line: Texas Tech -20.5 O/U 54
All-Time Series Record: Texas Tech leads 1-0 (Texas Tech won last meeting 56-3 in 2005)
The Panthers hit the road for the first time in 2021 following a heartbreaking 23-17 loss to Texas State last Saturday. Penalties and uncharacteristic mistakes doomed FIU, with running back D’Vonte Price losing two fumbles and the team as a whole committing eight penalties for 90 yards.
“Give credit to Texas State, but I’m extremely disappointed in our team from the aspect of the penalties and turnovers, you can’t beat any team with those kinds of mistakes,” said Butch Davis postgame.
Quarterback Max Bortenschlager passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns, but also missed a couple of timely reads that left points on the field.
“There definitely were a few throws and a few reads that I wish I had back, that’s just something I have to improve on,” said Bortenschlager following the loss.
Despite the miscues, FIU led 17-10 entering the fourth quarter before surrendering 13 unanswered points. The turning point in the contest came on a strip-sack in overtime that left the Panthers without points — giving Texas State the opportunity to leave Miami with the victory.
As Bortenschlager and the rest of the offense look towards Texas Tech, the emergence of receiver Tyrese Chambers will serve crucial for the Panthers to have any chance in Lubbock. The former FCS All-American hauled in four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in last week’s contest. With Shemar Thornton’s status still questionable after having tonsillitis shortly before the season opener, Chambers and fellow wideout Bryce Singleton will be depended upon on Saturday.
Defensively, while the performance wasn’t perfect, FIU did more than enough to win last week and have shown signs of improvement from seasons prior. Middle linebacker Daniel Jackson led the team with two sacks and the unit as a whole produced four sacks on the evening — tying the most sacks from an FIU defense since the start of the 2018 season. Against the run, while the defense did allow 171 yards, Texas State’s rushing attack was kept in check for the majority of the contest. Defensive tackle Davon Strickland led the way with seven tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. If the Panthers can get a similar performance against Texas Tech and force their first turnovers of the season, they’ll be able to make Saturday’s contest interesting.
Texas Tech Preview
For Matt Wells’ Red Raiders, while it hasn’t gone as smoothly as Tech fans may have liked, his team is off to a 2-0 start. After beating Houston in week one, Texas Tech narrowly escaped being upset by FCS Stephen F. Austin at home. Running back Tahj Brooks led the way offensively with 11 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Brooks is averaging just shy of 10 yards per carry and has four scores.
Former Oregon signal-caller Tyler Shough will look to rebound following a less than stellar outing in last week’s six-point win. The 6-5, 220-pound junior went 11-of-21 passing for 163 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. As a whole, Tech is averaging less than 200 yards passing. While it’s only a two-game sample size, it’s a definitive shift away from the style of offensive football that Tech has been known for over the better part of two decades.
What has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Raiders has been the play of their defense, which has had their own struggles stopping the run in Wells’ two seasons at in Lubbock. The unit are allowing just 54 yards on the ground and come off last week’s game where they held Stephen F. Austin to 32 yards on 29 attempts. Linebacker Colin Schooler leads the way for the Red Raiders’ defense. The Arizona transfer was one of the top defensive players in the Pac-12 during his time in Tempe and leads Tech with 17 tackles and two tackles for loss through two games. Additionally, keep an eye on defensive lineman Jaylon Hutchings, who will play a factor in plugging the run and is capable of providing pressure as a pass rusher.
For FIU to have any chance at pulling off the upset, they’ll have to play a flawless game. Protecting the football and forcing turnovers will be paramount, as will be the play of Price, who’s looking for a bounceback performance after the Texas State game. While Tech hasn’t shown that they’re a premier Big 12 team, they have shown in their week one performance that they should be able to handle the test from FIU at home.
Final Score: Texas Tech 38, FIU 20