MOBILE, Ala. -- FIU challenged two plays Saturday and, in a reversal of their challenge fortunes this season, actually went one for two. They went into the game zero for the season on challenges.
In the first quarter, FIU fifth-year senior linebacker Winston Fraser caught South Alabama quarterback Ross Metheny from behind and yanked Metheny down as the quarterback flung the ball desperately toward the sideline. FIU linebacker Jordan Hunt made a juggling interception and started to run a clear sideline path to the end zone. FIU challenged officials ruling that Metheny’s knee had been down before the throw.
That call got upheld, but a third-quarter play involving Fraser went FIU’s way. As South Alabama running back Demetre Baker turned upfield with a short pass, Fraser cracked Baker near the sideline. The ball came out and several FIU players jumped on it, though officials whistled the play dead.
As the punt teams took the field, FIU’s defenders bounded toward the sideline, flinging hands in the hair, miming the throwing of a challenge flag.
Upon further review, the play was ruled a fumble and junior cornerback Sam Miller got credit for the recovery at the Jaguars 33.
FIU senior wide receiver Wayne Times caught a second-quarter pass for 15 yards, extending his streak to 27 consecutive games with a reception.
Times, FIU’s leading receiver, was one of five Panthers with a single catch in the game. Senior wide receiver Jacob Younger and junior running back Kedrick Rhodes, each with two catches, were FIU’s only multiple reception men.
FIU senior Mitch McCluggage handled the long snapping duties for FIU with what had been his usual aplomb before this season.
Throughout the week and even into Saturday’s pregame warmups, McCluggage and senior Shae Smith dueled for the job. McCluggage had handled it perfectly until three bad punt snaps this season, two in the last two weeks leading to opposing touchdowns. Smith did it in the season opener, but high snaps played a role in a missed field goal and a blocked field goal.
In fact, this was the first week since the loss to Arkansas State on Oct. 4 that didn’t have a bad snap or missed extra point.
FIU got to its hotel almost five hours later than planned Friday night after problems with their charter flight, run by Allegiant Air, delayed them on the ground in Fort Lauderdale and delayed them in Mobile.
That kept them from their planned Friday-night activity — showing up to cheer FIU’s women’s soccer team at the Sun Belt Conference tournament hosted by South Alabama. FIU beat Middle Tennessee 2-1 in overtime, and will play North Texas Sunday afternoon for the Sun Belt championship.
Senior right tackle Rupert Bryan started the 41st game of his FIU career, tying him with Andy Leavine (2005-09) for the most starts by an FIU offensive tackle. Senior safety Johnathan Cyprien’s 43 starts give him the most safety starts at FIU.
Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Cody Horstman got into the first game of his FIU career and was credited with a quarterback hurry.
Former Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre was honored at halftime as 2012 inductee into the University of South Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. In Pierre’s one year at South Alabama, he was the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year and a Second Team All-America pick after leading the conference in hits, runs and stolen bases.