Florida International U

In convincing win, FIU football ties, sets school records. This is what’s next.

FIU’s Napoleon Maxwell (23) is one of the running backs asked to step up in the absence of Anthony Jones, who was shot in Opa-Locka on Thursday.
FIU’s Napoleon Maxwell (23) is one of the running backs asked to step up in the absence of Anthony Jones, who was shot in Opa-Locka on Thursday. Getty Images

FIU waited a long time for Saturday.

Now it waits for Sunday.

Freshman Bryce Singleton had been waiting all season for a game this good — tying the school record with three touchdown receptions.

Senior quarterback Alex McGough, a fourth-year starter, had been waiting his entire college career to see FIU’s offense run this smoothly as the Panthers set a program record with 674 yards.

The entire FIU program, which began in 2002, has waited nearly a generation for a game like this, setting the school single-game record for points.

And now, after a dominating 63-45 win against visiting Massachusetts (4-8) in the regular-season finale, FIU will wait some more … for the news to come from Bowl Selection on Sunday.

“Regardless of who takes us,” FIU coach Butch Davis said, “they will be getting an exciting football team. This offense has grown.”

No one can argue that point.

FIU has had some stinkers on offense, scoring 17 points or less four times this season. But in the past two weeks — victories over Western Kentucky and Massachusetts — FIU combined to score 104 points.

That firepower down the stretch allowed 8-4 FIU to tie the program record for wins in a season.

FIU also has one of the five best records in Conference USA, a league that has seven for-sure bowl ties, meaning the Panthers are a virtual lock to go bowling somewhere.

“I’m probably one of the most excited people in the building — but you can say that about every person on the team,” McGough said. “We’re pumped and ready to find which bowl we’re going to.

“It will be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for me since it’s my last year.”

McGough had an extremely efficient game, completing 20 of 25 passes for 295 yards with one interception and three touchdowns. He also ran for a career-high 108 yards and one touchdown.

It was just the third time in FIU history that a Panthers quarterback ran for more than 100 yards.

Other FIU stars on the day included Singleton, who caught six passes for 111 yards and those three scores; Alex Gardner, who ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns; and Napoleon Maxwell, who ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

FIU’s defense did not have a great day, but linebacker Anthony Wint recovered two fumbles, cornerback Brad Muhammad made a diving block of a field goal attempt, and safety Bryce Canady had an interception.

In the end, FIU accomplished a complete turnaround from last year’s 4-8 record under previous coach Ron Turner and his staff.

This is just the third winning record in FIU history and the first since 2011.

“It’s been a ride,” McGough said. “I’m so happy to be a part of it and to be considered a leader on this team.

“For the guys who are here who fought through the losing years, I love seeing the smiles on their faces.”

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