FIU Panthers coach Butch Davis has made a living at football for more than four decades, and yet he’s never seen anything like this:
The Panthers might have the most prolific brother-to-brother connection in the nation, handing the ball off to one another 60, 70 or even 80 times per game.
That connection starts with redshirt freshman center Shane McGough, and it ends a split second later with his pass back to senior quarterback Alex McGough.
“No, never — it’s the first time,” Davis said when asked if he had seen a brother QB-center duo in either the college or pro ranks. “It’s unique … but it’s kind of cool.”
What is even cooler for the McGough family is that the boys are coming home to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, which is where FIU (8-4) will play the Temple Owls (6-6) in the Dec. 21 Gasparilla Bowl.
Both of them played at Tampa Gaither High, but the center-exchange thing didn’t happen back then because Shane played left tackle.
It didn’t happen last year, either, because Shane sat out the season as a redshirt.
Shane didn’t become an FIU starter until recently. Starting center Neal Mars suffered a season-ending knee injury against Western Kentucky on Nov. 24. And while that was a tough blow for Mars, it allowed Shane to jump into the lineup.
“I was going into every game like I was going to get reps just in case anything happened,” Shane said. “As everyone knows, it did.
“Battlefield promotions are a big deal, and it was cool to have older guys next to me and Alex behind me.”
Before this season, the last time Alex was behind Shane for the center snap was in Pop Warner ball, playing for the South Pasco Predators.
This time, though, the stakes will be much higher. If the Panthers can beat Temple, they would set the program record for single-season wins.
And if that’s not enough drama, this McGough Homecoming and FIU record chase will happen during Alex’s final college game.
He already holds FIU’s career record for touchdown passes, but the Temple game will have special meaning to him because of all the friends and family members who will be in the stands at Tropicana Field.
“I’m going to be a little nervous,” Alex said. “To be playing in front of my peers, my buddies, my friends … but it will pass, and I’ll get focused and get ready to go.”
Shane said a lot of his friends who go to different colleges throughout the country will be home for Christmas break and have promised to attend.
Hopefully for their sake, the McGough brothers won’t have any center-snap snafus. Shane said there was one such miscue against Massachusetts on Dec. 2, when he made his debut as a starting center.
“I got overexcited, and I jumped it a little bit,” Shane said. “Alex told me: ‘Don’t worry about it. Worry about the next play.’ He didn’t want it to stay in my head.”
Alex has always looked out for Shane. And now Shane would love nothing more than to help send Alex out as a winner in his last college game.
“Alex has done great things here,” Shane said. “He’s set records here. I don’t know how many, but I know he’s got a lot.
“Because of him, I’ve always had that person to look up to throughout my career.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Temple coach Geoff Collins served as FIU’s defensive coordinator in 2010. FIU earned its only bowl win that year, beating Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza game.
▪ Temple and FIU had two common opponents this season. Both lost to UCF. Both beat Massachusetts.
▪ FIU leads the nation in red-zone offense, scoring 39 times in 40 trips.