FIU quarterback Alex McGough tried to give the safe answer.
McGough was asked what it would mean if his 5-2 Panthers could defeat visiting Texas-San Antonio on Saturday night, a win that would make FIU bowl-eligible.
“We just have to win the game,” McGough began. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
But then McGough cracked.
The senior let his true feelings flow, and his enthusiasm for what FIU could accomplish on Saturday was on full display.
“That would be awesome,” McGough said of the potential sixth win. “There are no words that will describe it. I don’t know how I’m going to react if we win. I don’t know what I’m going to do.
“I might do 10 back flips on the field right after the win. I don’t know.”
FIU, which has a 3-1 record in Conference USA, is tied for second place in the East Division, trailing 4-0 Florida Atlantic. The Panthers have a two-game win streak, and both of those victories came against opponents who were double-digit favorites.
On Saturday, FIU will have to prove the experts wrong again as the UTSA Roadrunners (5-2, 2-2) are four-point favorites.
UTSA, which also has a two-game win streak, is led by senior quarterback Dalton Sturm, who has a 13-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leads the league in passing efficiency.
But it’s the Roadrunners defense that has put up the most impressive numbers. San Antonio ranks 11th in the nation in total defense (294.5 yards) and 12th in scoring (17.4). They rank 17th with 7.6 tackles for losses per game, and 22 different players have come up with stops behind the line of scrimmage.
In addition, they lead the conference in rush yards and pass yards allowed as they have accumulated 25 pass break-ups, 19 QB pressures, 18 sacks and nine interceptions.
“They like to bring a lot of pressure,” FIU coach Butch Davis said. “They have a couple of [defensive lineman] who are NFL-quality players.”
UTSA won the only matchup in series history as visiting FIU blew a 10-0 lead and lost 16-13 in 2014. McGough played in that game as FIU’s freshman starting quarterback.
A lot has changed since then, however. Former Miami coach Larry Coker, who started the UTSA program in 2009, was directing the Roadrunners at that time but resigned in January of 2016.
Davis, who of course is another former Miami coach, now directs FIU, and he has the Panthers playing well.
After winning just four games last season under the previous coaching staff, FIU is on the verge of reaching a bowl, which would be just the third time the Panthers have reached the postseason.
“Heart, determination, focus, grit,” McGough said when asked about the difference between this year’s team and last year’s club. “It’s not that we didn’t have it last year. It’s just that we are coming together and playing for each other and not for ourselves.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Senior cornerback Brad Muhammad was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week after FIU’s first two-interception game since defensive back Richard Leonard did it in 2014.
Muhammad also had a career-high 10 tackles and returned one of his picks for a touchdown. He is tied for the league lead with four interceptions this season.
▪ Freshman Jose Borregales has made 10 consecutive field goals, one short of FIU’s program record.
▪ FIU senior wide receiver Thomas Owens leads the league with 104.0 reception yards per game.
Saturday: UTSA at FIU
Kickoff: 7 p.m.; Riccardo Silva Stadium.
TV/radio: WSFL; WAXY 790.
Favorite: UTSA by 4.
Records: FIU 5-2 (3-1 C-USA); UTSA 5-2 (2-2 C-USA).
Series: UTSA leads 1-0.
FIU injuries: Out — RB Anthony Jones (knee).
UTSA injuries: Questionable — RB Halen Steward (undisclosed); LB Josiah Tauaefa (undisclosed). Out — G Kyle McKinney (knee); DE Solomon Wise (knee).