FIU has Conference USA’s full attention now.
After an embarrassing 61-17 season-opening loss to Central Florida, FIU (3-1, 2-0) has won three consecutive games and sits atop the C-USA East after a stunning 30-29 comeback win over Charlotte late Saturday night.
FIU trailed by as many as 19 points on Saturday and was down 26-14 at halftime. But coach Butch Davis said there were no kicked chairs or ripped-up play sheets at halftime.
“A lot of fans think you start screaming and losing your mind when you trail at halftime,” Davis said. “But that’s movie fiction.
“In reality, you better tell the kids what you need to do to get back in the game. … We changed some things schematically, and our major message was that we couldn’t afford to swap scores with Charlotte. We had to start winning every possession. We knew it was going to take all 30 minutes to win the game.”
Davis said his co-MVPs for the game were a pair of seniors: quarterback Alex McGough and wide receiver Thomas Owens.
McGough completed 14-of-26 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted once and scored on two runs in the second half — from eight and 14 yards.
Owens caught seven passes for 101 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown. He also threw his first career touchdown pass on a trick play. He took an end-around handoff and shocked Charlotte by throwing a 35-yard score to wide receiver Julian Williams.
Davis said that was a play FIU has worked on for weeks.
“We kept polishing it,” said Davis, who knew that Owens had played quarterback in high school at Atlantic Community. “He threw the ball spectacularly well in practice.”
Davis said Owens’ performance was kind of like hitting a cycle in baseball. In other words, Owens did it all — catching, throwing and even blocking.
“The unspoken part of his performance was that he may have had his best game blocking,” Davis said. “He had a complete game.”
FIU had the last score of the first half — McGough’s TD throw to Owens. FIU then outscored Charlotte 7-3 in the third.
And the last part of the comeback came in the fourth quarter, when McGough scored his second touchdown, FIU missed a two-point conversion try but Jose Borregales won it with a 27-yard field goal with 3:16 left in the game.
FIU’s kicking game was outstanding once again, just as it had been in last week’s win at Rice. Stone Wilson punted five times for a 45.8-yard average. He pinned Charlotte inside its 20 twice, including once at the one-yard line. And he had two kicks of more than 50 yards.
Borregales was perfect on his extra points and his one field goal.
FIU’s next game is Saturday at Middle Tennessee, and Davis is clearly pleased with his team’s progress.
At halftime on Saturday night, he talked about one of his games as coach of the Miami Hurricanes. In that game, Miami trailed Boston College at halftime 28-0, Davis said, before rallying for a 31-28 win.
“I gave almost the identical halftime speech that I did against Charlotte,” Davis said. “But we are starting to have our own success at FIU. We had the goal-line stand last week to beat Rice. We had [the 19-point rally against] Charlotte. We’re starting to have our own stories.”