No Morgan — for two-plus quarters — and no wins.
That’s the possible predicament the FIU Panthers find themselves in after Saturday night’s 20-14 loss to visiting Western Kentucky University.
Quarterback James Morgan, the reigning Conference USA Newcomer of the Year who led FIU to a program-best 9-4 record last season, left Saturday’s game with 8:53 left in the second period because of an apparent ankle injury.
Morgan, who completed 3-of-11 passes for 25 yards and no interceptions or touchdowns, was apparently injured when hit by WKU defensive tackle Jaylon George. Morgan then returned in the final quarter, missing on two passes in a row.
Redshirt sophomore Kaylan Wiggins, making his collegiate debut, replaced Morgan and completed 2-of-6 passes for 41 yards. He also ran 15 times for 25 yards.
Butch Davis, the most successful coach in FIU history with a 17-9 record and two bowl games in his first two years at what had been a losing program, is now in his biggest hole since taking this job. For the first time in his FIU tenure, the Panthers are 0-2 and, to add a degree of difficulty, he now has to ride with a rookie QB until Morgan can return.
FIU got off to a bad start on Saturday as WKU quarterback Steven Duncan showed great touch in lofting an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jahcour Pearson, who caught the ball in the back-right corner of the end zone.
But FIU tied the score less than three minutes later in the first quarter on Rishard Dames’ 80-yard interception return along the right sideline. Dames made a brilliant right-handed grab on the play and picked up numerous blocks, including an early one from his twin brother, Richard.
It was Dames’ first career touchdown.
However, WKU took a 14-7 lead with 3:53 left in the second quarter on Gaej Walker’s 2-yard run, and that’s how the score stood at halftime.
In the third quarter, FIU allowed a field goal but cut its deficit to 17-14 on Napoleon Maxwell’s 15-yard touchdown on a jet sweep to the right.
Trailing 20-14 with 6:01 left in the fourth quarter, Wiggins ran for a first down at the WKU 2-yard line. But a Wiggins’ sack/fumble pushed FIU back to the 16. Morgan then came in and threw two incomplete passes in a row, including one on fourth-and-16, ending FIU’s best chance at a win.
THIS AND THAT
▪ This was the opening league game in Conference USA this season. It was also FIU’s home opener.
▪ FIU safety Dorian Hall picked up his fourth career interception in the third quarter.
▪ FIU running back Anthony Jones, who had scored five touchdowns in his past three games, was kept out of the end zone on Saturday.