FIU feasted on fumbles in winning the last two weeks. Saturday, the Panthers threw up just enough fumbles to feed a win to slumping Texas-San Antonio.
Fifth-year senior Glenn Coleman’s kickoff return fumble set up Sean Ianno’s 39-yard field goal with 50 seconds left that gave the Roadrunners a 16-13 win at The Alamodome. FIU is now 3-4, 2-1 in Conference USA. UTSA (2-4, 1-1) ends a four-game losing streak.
Coleman’s fumble was the sixth of the game for FIU and the third lost fumble. The second of the three lost fumbles, by freshman running back Alex Gardner, came with FIU 1 yard from the UTSA end zone in the third quarter.
FIU led 13-10 before, given a short field at the Panthers 47, redshirt freshman Austin Robinson drove the Roadrunners to the FIU 3, running the last 14 yards himself. The FIU defense held and Ianno came on for a 27-yard field goal that tied the game with 1:54 remaining.
Most of the game looked like one offense headed by a freshman quarterback in a noise tunnel and another offense headed by a freshman quarterback in his first start, then a redshirt freshman quarterback.
Which is what it was.
FIU freshman quarterback Alex McGough fumbled twice in the first half, once when he kept on an option run (lost that one) and once when popped in the pocket (left tackle Aaron Nielsen recovered that one). The other freshman Alex, running back Gardner, fumbled deep in FIU territory but managed to recover at the FIU 4 despite three Roadrunner defensive linemen also throwing bodies on the ground for it. In the third quarter, with the score 10-10 in the third quarter, Gardner, sliding and scrambling off the right side to reach the end zone, got the ball punched away by UTSA’s Tristan Wade, who recovered the loot at the 3-yard line.
A shoulder injury to UTSA senior quarterback Tucker Carter pushed freshman Blake Bogenschutz into the starter’s role. Bogenschutz completed four of nine for 31 yards before he got blasted by FIU redshirt junior cornerback Richard Leonard on a blitz. Bogenschutz got the pass off – batted down by sophomore linebacker Josh Glanton – but either on the follow through, the hit or the landing, hurt his right hand.
Enter redshirt freshman Austin Robinson. FIU senior defensive end Giovanni Francois welcomed him to the action with a smashing hit that freed the ball. The other defensive end, Denzell Perine picked up the fumble and brought it back to the UTSA 21. A sack, a loss and an incompletion brought on Austin Taylor for a 43-yard field goal and 3-0 FIU lead.
The kids seemed unable to get a handle things so FIU junior running back Anthon Samuel grabbed the game. Five Samuel runs and a face mask penalty on the Roadrunners took the Panthers to the UTSA 49. They moved backward to the FIU 36 before punting.
The wobbler was both Jose Laphitzando’s worst punt of the day and his best. The one-winged pigeon fluttered down, grazed UTSA’s Justin Chavez and was fallen on by FIU’s Niko Gonzalez at the UTSA 28. Four plays later, sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith took a short pass, shed Wade’s tackle attempt and strode into the end zone.
The 10-0 lead seemed gargantuan, considering FIU shackled the Roadrunners to only 22 yards of offense in the first 26:36 of the game. But Robinson conjured his first big moment, driving the Roadrunners 74 yards to Jarveon Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run. He ran for 48 of the yards himself, including a 37-yard scramble to the FIU 14.