FIU could not overcome a wet and windy afternoon on the road, and the Panthers had their three-game winning streak snapped at Middle Tennessee with a 50-17 loss to the Blue Raiders.
“We played poorly on all three phases of the game and you cannot give the ball away inside the 15-yard line and expect a good outcome,” FIU Panthers head coach Butch Davis. “
The Panthers (4-4, 2-3 Conference USA) relied heavy on the passing game despite recent success on the ground. FIU relied on quarterback James Morgan early and capped its first scoring drive with an 18-yard connection with Tony Gaiter.
Middle Tennessee (3-5, 2-2) took advantage of an early FIU turnover inside its own red zone. The score came in the waning seconds of the first quarter and put Middle Tennessee ahead 14-7.
Morgan threw his second first-half touchdown to Maurice Alexander from 23 yards at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter. Morgan threw for 202 yards on 15-of-23 passing in the first half with two touchdowns.
Jose Borregales made a 33-yard field goal to give FIU 17-14 halftime lead.
“We dug through the first half and made adjustments and still gifted them the points they already had so it was a matter of just dealing with the weather in the second half which, clearly, did not play out,” Davis says.
MTSU wasted no time in the second half regaining a lead with consecutive scores on offense, one of which coming off FIU’s second turnover within its own red zone. Crews Holt made a 30-yard field goal to put the Blue Raiders ahead by a touchdown, 24-17, at 10:30 of the third quarter.
FIU’s second-half woes continued later in the third quarter as mother nature reared her ugly head. The Panthers fumbled a punt snap inside their own 5, giving prime field position for the Blue Raiders to score in the three plays. MTSU scored on its first five possessions of the second half and bulit its lead to 43-17 at 13:02 of the fourth quarter
“We gave them cheap opportunities,” Davis said. “When we did not turn the ball over, we were going three-and-out and just did not have rhythm. We never forced them into passing situations and their quarterback is so dynamic he found ways to move the ball.”
It was not until the 6:30 mark of the fourth quarter that FIU earned its only first down of the half. The Blue Raiders defense was too much to overcome and held Morgan and company to just 31 yards of offense.
Anthony Jones’ three-game streak of 100-plus yards rushing games came to a close Saturday. But the senior was the lone bright spot all afternoon with 87 yards on 21 carries.