FIU made a lot of big plays in its 41-17 win over visiting Western Kentucky late Friday night but none was more fun than the fake field goal that went for a touchdown.
With 7:01 left in the fourth quarter and FIU already having staggered WKU with a 34-17 lead, FIU lined up as if it would have Jose Borregales kick a 41-yard field goal.
But then punter Stone Wilson applied the knockout punch, tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Pharoah McKever.
Wilson, who is also FIU’s holder, took a direct snap, rolled to his right before lobbing a pass — which seemed to hang in the air forever — all the way to the left.
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McKever caught it and raced down the end zone, barely reaching the left pylon before going out of bounds.
Wilson became the first punter in FIU history to throw a pass. Even the guy who normally handles such duties for FIU, quarterback Alex McGough, was impressed.
“It was a great call and great execution by Stone,” McGough said. “I had no idea we were faking [the field goal]. I was walking off the field talking to a coach, and the next thing I heard was everybody go crazy.
“I was like, ‘OK, he made the field goal. Good stuff.’ ”
It was really good stuff for FIU and coach Butch Davis, who said the timing had to be right to run that play.
Davis, after joking that Wilson “wants to start next week and put McGough on the bench,” said the idea for the trick play came from watching his punter throw the ball in practice.
“There are things that you work on all season long and you never know when you’ll get a chance to use it,” Davis said. “That was the perfect scenario. We had enough of a lead and the field position was right.
“You can’t do something like that when it’s a 56-yard field goal because [the opponent] is going to say, ‘Yeah, right, they’re not going to kick here.’ ”
FIU (7-4 overall, 5-3 in Conference USA) will close its regular season with a non-league game against Massachusetts (4-7) at noon Dec. 2. A win would tie FIU’s program record for single-season victories and add to its bowl-game chances.
Other highlights from Friday’s win, which snapped a two-game losing streak and clinched a winning record for FIU:
▪ FIU reserve running back Shawndarrius Phillips had 17 carries for a career-high 69 yards and two touchdowns. Phillips, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, had special motivation.
“I played like they took my Thanksgiving,” he said. “I didn’t get to go home and visit my family. I was born on Thanksgiving. This is my holiday. Me missing it. … I went out there with the mind-set that they took my Thanksgiving.”
▪ FIU, which had lost four straight games in its series against 2016 league champion WKU, took the lead for good in the third quarter on a 42-yard TD pass from McGough to Darrius Scott.
WKU blitzed on that third-and-10 play, but McGough spun to his left, escaped an attempted ankle tackle and fired toward the end zone, where Scott high-pointed the ball, beating double-coverage.
“I wasn’t even looking for [Scott] on that play,” McGough said. “But I saw pressure up the middle, and I saw [Scott] go deep, and I said, ‘Let’s make a play.’
“It’s third and long. If it gets picked off, it’s like a punt. But [Scott] made a great play.”
▪ WKU had its own trick play — but it backfired. Punter Jake Collins tried to run for a first down but tripped as he was being pursued by FIU defensive lineman Jordan Guest. Collins fumbled. And FIU freshman running back D’Vonte Price, playing special teams while he waits his turn at his position, scooped up the loose ball, running 38 yards for his first career touchdown.
“When D’Vonte touches the ball, good things happen,” Davis said. “With his athletic ability, I was not surprised he was able to scoop the ball, avoid contact and score.”