Perhaps the most prolific wide receiver duo in the nation will be in Miami this weekend.
They are fourth-year junior Carlos Henderson and senior Trent Taylor of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-3, 2-1), who visit the FIU Panthers (3-4, 3-0) in a Conference USA game on Saturday night.
FIU, which has won three games in a row, vaulting to the top of C-USA’s East Division, should get a severe test this week. The Bulldogs, who are in a four-way tie for the lead in the West Division, have also won three games in a row.
Henderson, who is thickly built at 5-11 and 191 pounds, had 12 catches for 326 yards and five touchdowns last week in a 56-28 win over a Massachusetts team that beat FIU earlier this season.
“That was amazing — he had great stats in that game,” said FIU cornerback Isaiah Brown, a freshman starter who will be among the Panthers players asked to cover Henderson on Saturday. “He runs crisp routes, and he blocks his butt off. Their receivers are really good as a whole, and their offensive line is good. They give their quarterback the opportunity to make plays.”
That quarterback is Ryan Higgins, a 6-2, 210-pound redshirt senior who is ranked second in the country in yards passing per game (392.2).
In the past two weeks, Higgins has led the Bulldogs to an average of 55.5 points. And in his past 17 quarters, he is completing 65 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards, 15 touchdowns and no interceptions, which is why he has been added to the Manning Award Watch List.
FIU quarterback Alex McGough, who is coming off an impressive comeback in a 27-26 road win at Charlotte last week, said he’s not jealous that Higgins gets to throw the ball so much.
“That’s just their style of offense — we have ours,” said McGough of his Panthers, who like to get running backs Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones going. “They’re a good team. They have a lot of good players.”
Another one of those really good Bulldogs players is Taylor, a 5-8, 178-pounder who had 99 catches for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
This season, Taylor has 75 catches for 987 yards and eight touchdowns.
Henderson, though, has stolen his headlines lately. Henderson’s 326 yards in receptions against UMass ranks eighth in NCAA history. He is also the first receiver in NCAA history to get at least 325 yards and five touchdowns in one game.
In a 55-52 win over Western Kentucky the previous week, he had 232 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Then, against UMass, he won Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors.
“[Henderson is] very fast, he’s an excellent route runner, and he is physical off the ball,” said sophomore Emmanuel Lubin, who is FIU’s other starting cornerback. “He’s the best receiver we’ve seen so far this year.”
As a freshman, Henderson had 569 yards in receptions and 1,395 all-purpose yards, including kickoff returns. As a sophomore, he had 774 yards in receptions and 1,291 all-purpose yards, matching his freshman-year output with five TDs.
This year, he is tied for the FBS lead with 10 touchdowns and leads the nation with 147.3 receiving yards per game.
“We just have to use our technique,” Lubin said, “stick to our game plan.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Linebacker Anthony Wint, a junior from Homestead High, earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honors after tying a career high with 13 tackles.
▪ Wide receiver Thomas Owens has two consecutive games with more than 125 yards receiving.