Florida International U

Unpredictable Panthers brace for showdown with FAU

FIU Quarterback Alex McGough had his fourth career 300-yard game Saturday in a loss against Old Dominion.
FIU Quarterback Alex McGough had his fourth career 300-yard game Saturday in a loss against Old Dominion. Getty Images

The FIU Panthers football team has become predictably unpredictable.

FIU (6-3 overall, 4-2 Conference USA) has won three of its past four games. But the underdog prevailed in each of those contests, including Old Dominion (4-6, 1-4), which upset host FIU 37-30 late Saturday night.

“I’m disappointed — we came out flat with not a lot of energy,” FIU coach Butch Davis said after the Panthers’ three-game win streak was snapped. “But I’m proud that we didn’t quit.”

FIU, which would have won C-USA’s East Division had it taken its final three league games, would be eliminated from the race if it were to lose on Saturday night at host Florida Atlantic (7-3, 6-0), which leads the conference and has a magic number of one.

Panthers middle linebacker Anthony Wint said his squad — which on Saturday allowed its most points since a 37-17 loss at Middle Tennessee on Oct. 7 — has much work to do before FAU.

“We need to refocus and work on the basics — like tackling,” he said.

Some of the broken tackles came against senior running back Ray Lawry, the Old Dominion career touchdowns leader with 46. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry against FIU. Overall, he ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

“Ray is starting to get healthy,” ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. “This is the healthiest he’s been all year.

“He had two explosive runs [against FIU — 65 and 40 yards]. FIU was in man pressure and they blitzed. If Ray gets a crease and there is no middle safety left, he’s going to go.”

FIU lost the turnover battle 2-0, which was kind of surprising given the experience edge favored the Panthers at quarterback with senior Alex McGough against ODU true freshman Steven Williams.

McGough completed a career-high 35 passes, out of 50 attempts, for 323 yards. He also passed for 20 first downs.

It was his fourth career 300-yard game, and he is completing 72 percent of his throws over the past four games.

But McGough and wide receiver Thomas Owens each lost a fumble in the fourth quarter, just as the Panthers were trying to rally.

Still, ODU’s coach heaped praise on McGough.

“I think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in our league,” Wilder said. “Not only is he efficient throwing the ball, but he checks everything (changing plays at the line of scrimmage). He saw every blitz we had coming, and he picked it up.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ Two FIU freshmen stood out: Wide receiver Sherman Thornton caught his first career touchdown pass, and cornerback Richard Dames led the defense with a career-high six tackles.

▪ Owens matched a season high with 11 catches. He has at least six catches in six consecutive games

▪ Austin Maloney, FIU’s sophomore receiver, set a career high with 58 yards receiving.

▪ FIU junior defensive tackle Anthony Johnson had a career-high two sacks.

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