With 2:41 remaining in Saturday’s game against Alabama-Birmingham, FIU had their best moment at home this season.
But the game is 60 minutes, and FIU fell 27-24 to UAB in the waning seconds, falling to 1-5 on the season.
After quarterback Jake Medlock tied the score with a 13-yard touchdown pass, UAB’s Austin Brown led a methodical 10-play drive that led to a Ty Long 28-yard field goal that put the Blazers in the lead with just seconds to play.
With the exception of FIU’s opening drive, UAB shut down the Panthers running game. It became apparent by the second quarter that FIU would thrive or whither by the right arm of Medlock, who delivered moments of brilliance and incompetence in equal measure.
The redshirt junior had completions of 48, 44 and 40 yards in the first half, plus a touchdown, but he also threw an end zone interception, resulting in a 14-point swing.
Medlock’s gaze darted to the floor when asked about the costly interception.
“I should have run it and trusted my legs,” he said. Instead he released a ball to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Jimmy Jean.
Medlock was rendered useless in the third quarter. FIU gained just 12 yards of total offense in the quarter, and Medlock was 0 for 3 and was sacked three times.
But when the game was on the line, the redshirt junior once again left his mark on the game. Down 24-17 with 7:25 to go, Medlock led the Panthers to a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. He completed all three of his passes on the drive, ran for 13 yards and tied the score with a 13-yard scoring toss to Lamarq Caldwell.
The drive was the first time the Panthers’ running game was effective since the first quarter.
Freshman running back Silas Spearman, looking to follow up his 136 rushing yards against Southern Mississippi, was featured early in FIU’s offense.
After UAB punted on the game’s opening possession, and the Panthers took over on their own 12-yard line, FIU coach Ron Turner immediately went to Spearman, calling a run on first down and giving him the ball in space on second down in the form of a quick swing pass. In all, Spearman touched the ball five times on the drive, which was capped off with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Medlock to Ya’keem Griner.
FIU’s defense held UAB to just six second-half points, but they allowed the decisive field goal after failing to stop UAB’s running game.
The Blazers took possession with 2:41 left in the game, and the FIU defense forced two incompletions to start the drive. But cornerback Randy Harvey committed his third pass interference penalty of the night to spark the UAB drive, and the rest was history.
Turner said that he was pleased with the improvement his team has shown the past two weeks, but he said the locker room was devastated after the narrow loss.
“There’s no such thing as a moral victory,” said head coach Ron Turner. “I don’t believe in those — never have, never will.”