FIU came in worrying about The Alamodome noise. Their first possession showed why.
The emptiness of the 65,000-seat stadium’s entire upper deck didn’t matter as much as the height of the seating and the low ceiling. Once the crowd, announced at 25,318, got going on a third-and-6 from the FIU 45, the Panthers’ silent count failed. Half the line jumped about a half second before the snap.
OK, third-and-11 from the 40. Volume rise. Left tackle Aaron Nielsen jumps early.
Nielsen later would recover the second fumble by freshman quarterback Alex McGough. But the biggest fumble recovery of the half came by freshman running back Alex Gardner.
Just after Gardner took an option handoff, UTSA junior defensive lineman Jason Neill grabbed Gardner and slung him into a fumble. Junior defensive tackle Brian Price arrived, but to pick up the ball as Gardner gamely scrambled along the ground. Then, Gardner somehow outmaneuvered and outfought Price and two of his teammates to recover the ball at the FIU 4.
Following FAU’s lead, UTSA avoided Panthers redshirt junior cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard on kickoffs.
The opening kickoff of the game got sent deep, but to the right. Fifth-year senior Glenn Coleman fielded it at the 1-yard line and ran it back to the FIU 21. The second kickoff, after the Roadrunners’ touchdown with 39 seconds left in the half, was squibbed up the middle to Cory White. Squibs aren’t uncommon in that situation, but in a field-position heavy game that already featured five fumbles, UTSA still didn’t feel the odds of an FIU turnovers were as high as the odds of a big runback.
Saturday’s game began with the first scoreless first quarter in an FIU game since the season opening loss to Bethune-Cookman.
Actually, the Roadrunners scored on a screen pass when sophomore running back Jarveon Williams took a screen pass, skipped past an attempted tackle and raced 55 yards up the right sideline to a touchdown. But senior offensive tackle Josh Walker lined up a step too far off the line, earning a flag for an illegal formation penalty.
The first Roadrunners sack on McGough came from senior linebacker Robert Singletary. Singletary wears No. 50 and is from Kingwood, Texas.
So, any relation to linebacker Mike Singletary, a Texas native who went to Baylor before his Hall of Fame career while wearing No. 50 with the Chicago Bears? Nope.
FIU’s captains for the game were fifth-year senior center Donald Senat, junior running back Lamarq Caldwell, junior defensive end Michael Wakefield and Leonard. FIU lost the toss, but got the ball first when UTSA deferred until the second half.