With the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts on their bye week, the best player in FIU’s 12-season football history attended his first Panthers game since leaving to run through NFL secondaries under Andrew Luck passes.
“I follow them every week, always check up on their scores,” said former FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, an honorary captain Saturday night. “Sometimes, I text the guys on the team, [redshirt junior quarterback Jake] Medlock, [redshirt sophomore wide receiver] T.J. Lowder, make sure [they’re] keeping their heads up and doing the right things.”
Hilton came to FIU out of Miami Springs High after the Panthers suffered through a 1-11 season in 2007. Though Hilton starred from the first time he touched the ball (a kickoff-return touchdown), it wasn’t until 2010 that FIU managed a .500 regular season.
“You’ve just got to stay the course,” Hilton said he tells his successors. “Don’t get too low. You don’t build a house in one day. It takes time. Just keep stacking your bricks, stacking your bricks. That day’s going to come when things turn around. But you’ve got to stay focused.”
Hilton’s offseason focus, assisted by his mother, Cora Hilton — “My momma made sure she stayed on me for that. ‘Make sure you go back, you’re going back this summer, right?’ ” — was getting the last class necessary for his FIU degree.
“Excited, happy. There’s nothing like when you get that degree. You don’t have to worry about no more school,” he laughed. “That’s the part that got me really hyped. No more papers, no more assignments. I didn’t have to worry about anything except playing the game I love.”
Fifth-year senior starting linebacker Markeith Russell was on crutches with his left leg in a splint after the game.
Freshman running back Silas Spearman’s start made him the 23rd FIU player to get his first career start this season, tying the record set in 2007.
That season, Mario Cristobal’s first as coach and under scholarship restrictions, FIU lost its first 11 games and won the season finale.
Though Louisiana Tech led 9-0 at halftime, Saturday became the first game since the regular-season finale at Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 26, 2011, that FIU held an opponent without a touchdown in the first half.
All in the family
After one half, No. 99 had two sacks to go with his team-high five tackles.
No surprise there.
The surprise was that the No. 99 wasn’t FIU senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane. Faciane did have four first-half tackles.
But it was his cousin, Louisiana Tech’s Malcom Pinchon, who had those two sacks and five tackles.
Redshirt junior safety Demarkus Perkins returned to the FIU starting lineup after missing the Alabama-Birmingham game with a knee injury.