The only lightning involved with FIU football the first two seasons under Ron Turner halted games at FIU Stadium. On Saturday night, lightning from the Panthers powered a 39-14 win against North Carolina Central.
A 64-yard bomb to sophomore wide receiver Dennis Turner built FIU’s lead to 12-0. Two touchdowns in 21 seconds, the second a 26-yard run by freshman Anthony Jones, blew out FIU’s lead to 26-7. Another third-and-long conversion, this one via a 20-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Thomas Owens, fueled the touchdown drive to a 32-14 bulge.
Along with completing 22 of 36 for 242 yards and three touchdowns, sophomore quarterback Alex McGough ran for 77 yards on eight carries, including runs of 29 and 27 yards.
“That’s one thing we’re doing through the first three games that we haven’t had here is some big-play capability,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “And the good news is we’ve got a lot of guys doing it.”
FIU moved to 2-1, only the second time the Panthers have been above .500 after three games since moving to the FBS level in 2005. The other time, in 2011, the Panthers won eight games and went to their second consecutive bowl game.
The Panthers rolled up 490 yards of offense while holding North Carolina Central to 209. Starting quarterback Malcolm Bell completed only 3 of 7 passes for 22 yards before getting yanked after Niko Gonzalez’s second-quarter interception, the first of three by FIU.
“We were thinking they would run a lot of screens,” FIU senior defensive end Michael Wakefield said. “As the game went on, they really didn’t run as much. They ran a couple, but the defensive line did a good job on the retrace and making tackles. So, I guess they got away from it.”
FIU junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil got taken away in a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue ambulance in the third quarter, arms strapped to the stretcher after he collided with a teammate on a North Carolina Central bubble screen. Turner said after the game Myrtil sustained a concussion but possessed movement in his limbs.
Saturday’s FCS victim kept FIU within range, 6-0, in the first quarter until McGough found Turner deep for a second consecutive week, this time on a post pattern. Turner flew behind the Eagles’ defense on a post for a 64-yard touchdown and a 12-0 lead.
“We’ve been practicing it all week and we’ve been hitting it all week,” Dennis Turner said. “We’re growing up as an offense.”
After N.C. Central’s Jaquell Taylor picked off a quick slant and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown, the Panthers ground out an 88-yard drive. McGough converted a third-and-6 with a 6-yard run, a third-and-12 with a 16-yard pass to Ya’kim Griner and got the touchdown with a 10-yard pass to tight end Jonnu Smith on third-and-goal from the 10.
“We didn’t play perfect by any stretch,” McGough said. “But we got the job done when we needed to.”
Sophomore safety Gonzalez’ diving interception on the first play of the ensuing Eagles drive gave FIU the ball on the 26. Jones needed one play to blow through the right side for a 26-yard touchdown and a 26-7 lead.
“I saw the cutback. The O-line did a good job of kicking the guys out,” Jones said.