After notching the program’s first FBS win in almost three calendar years, all eyes were on how Mike MacIntyre's youthful team would respond after an FBS victory — something that only 12 players on FIU’s roster had experienced before.
In front of a solid homecoming crowd, FIU (2-3, 0-1) weren’t outclassed by UConn (3-4) — but were clearly outperformed by Jim L. Mora’s Huskies in Saturday night’s 33-12 victory over the Panthers.
“Extremely disappointing night for us, they beat us but in a lot of ways we kind of gave them a chance to win, but give UConn credit because they made the plays that were there to be had,” said MacIntyre.
The Panthers opened the game quickly with sophomore quarterback Grayson James finding wideout Tyrese Chambers on back-to-back plays to open the game. Unfortunately, those would be the only two receptions for FIU’s start receiver as he suffered a lower-body injury and didn’t play the final three quarters.
“We don’t have an update yet on Tyrese, I’ll have to get with Dustin (West) and see what the situation is,” said MacIntyre.
The first miscue for MacIntyre’s team came on the 10th play of the game’s opening drive as the Panthers were inside the UConn 30-yard-line, but James fumbled the snap and it was recovered by UConn’s Jackson Mitchell.
Mora’s team earned their first score on the ensuing drive, embarking on an 11-play, 75-yard drive primarily on the ground — ending in a Victor Rosa five-yard touchdown rush. UConn starting running back Devontae Houston rushed for 50 of his game-high 135 yards on the scoring drive.
FIU’s following drive again saw the offense drive inside of the UConn 35-yard-line — only to come up with no points.
At the Huskies’ 34, MacIntyre initially sent on the punt team before calling timeout and sending his offense back on to try and convert a 4th-and-12 — with the result being a James interception as he attempted to put points on the board.
“Obviously it’s fourth down so just trying to make a play, it’s either you throw it away and there’s no result so just trying to make something happen,” said James.
The interception by UConn’s Tre Wortham was the first of two on the evening and was returned to the Huskies 36-yard-line. Connecticut’s offense found their second touchdown off of turnovers when quarterback Zion Turner threw for half of his 102 total passing yards in driving to the FIU 9.
After the Panthers’ defense held UConn to 3, the next miscue arose as Adrian Cole was flagged for a five-yard running into the kicker penalty, giving the Huskies a new set of downs. One play later, Rosa found the endzone from four yards out. On the evening, Rosa rushed for 89 yards and the two scores with UConn rushing for 295 yards as a whole.
FIU’s next two offensive drives would be nuked by penalties and negative plays as the half ended with UConn adding two Noe Ruelas chip-shot field goals to lead 20-0.
Running back Lexington Joseph opened the second-half scoring with his 47-yard touchdown rush — the longest run of the season for the Panthers — to make it 20-7, but UConn would respond on the next drive.
On third down at the FIU 5, Mora dialed up a trick play that the Panthers seemingly read well, but failed to finish the play.
Turner hauled in a touchdown catch on a double-reverse pass that saw UConn reserve quarterback Cale Millen hit the Miami native in the back of the endzone to make it 26-7.
UConn’s starter finished his night going 14-of-19 for 102 yards and the receiving touchdown.
“Our end came out...had him tackled and missed him and the backup threw it to the other quarterback, it’s one of those things where our two players didn’t make a play and their two players did,” said MacIntyre.
Offensively, FIU outgained UConn 409-402, but the miscues and turnovers sunk any chance of the team finding their first back-to-back victories since 2019.
The team’s would trade a pair of meaningless scores in the latter stages of the game with FIU getting a 26-yard Chase Gabriel field goal and a safety, followed by Millen scampering for a 49-yard touchdown in the contest’s closing minutes.
“We have to turn around and go back to work tomorrow because we’re on a short week and we’ve got a very good UTSA team coming to town, they’ve been one of the best in the league and we have to be prepared to play,” said MacIntyre.