Florida International U

Here’s how the FIU Panthers reacted when they heard about playing in the Bahamas Bowl

Coach Butch Davis his FIU Panthers (8-4) will play the Toledo Rockets (7-5), who finished second in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division, in the Bahamas Bowl.
Coach Butch Davis his FIU Panthers (8-4) will play the Toledo Rockets (7-5), who finished second in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division, in the Bahamas Bowl. Miami Herald

Butch Davis hit a button, and cheers erupted.

That’s basically what happened this past Sunday as FIU’s football coach met with his players. The meeting was supposed to be mundane — going over the needed corrections from the previous night’s 28-25 loss to Marshall.

Bowl announcements weren’t due for another week.

But then Davis hit that button, and the projector flashed the words “Bahama Bowl” on a large screen, and his players went nuts.

“Everybody was happy,” Davis said. “A lot of kids have never been there.”

FIU (8-4) will play the Toledo Rockets (7-5), who finished second in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division. Toledo won four of its five final games to earn the bowl berth.

Ironically, both FIU and Toledo lost to the Miami Hurricanes this year. Miami beat Toledo 49-24 on Sept. 15. Miami beat FIU 31-17 the following week. Miami never trailed in either game and led FIU 31-0 in the fourth quarter.

FIU’s players are taking finals this week, and the coaching staff is out recruiting. Practices will resume on Dec. 7, and Davis has yet to take a deep dive into a game plan to beat Toledo.

However, Davis did say the following on the Rockets: “They are explosive on offense. Year after year, they have one of the better programs in the MAC.”

The Rockets, one year removed from an 11-3 season, have some dangerous weapons, including three receivers who each have at least seven touchdown receptions this season and three running backs each with more than 500 yards rushing.

The quarterback is Eli Peters, a 6-2, 190-pound redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville. He didn’t play a down his first two years at Toledo, but he got an opportunity when Mitchell Guadagni went down with a shoulder injury.

Peters has started the past four games and is completing 54.6 percent of his passes and has 15 touchdown throws and seven interceptions.

The Rockets are averaging 41.1 points and 5.3 yards per rush while converting 38 percent on third down. But the Rockets’ defense is allowing 30.2 points and 4.6 yards per carry. Toledo’s defense allows 258 passing yards, which outgains its offensive air attack by 33 yards per game.

This game should be exciting news for FIU quarterback James Morgan, a graduate transfer from Bowling Green, also a MAC school.

As a redshirt freshman in 2016, Morgan completed 25-of-38 passes for 335 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in a 42-35 loss at Toledo.

Morgan threw four of his TD passes in the second half, including three in the fourth quarter.

But Toledo won it on a touchdown run with just 18 seconds left by Kareem Hunt, who is now a star running back for the Super Bowl-contending Kansas City Chiefs.

THIS AND THAT

Davis said FIU’s team will attend this Sunday’s Dolphins-Bills game. Davis said he views the bowl game as a “reward” for his players, but they are going to the Bahamas to win.

FIU will leave for the Bahamas on Dec. 17. They will practice Dec. 18 and 19 and have a walk-through in the stadium on Dec. 20. The game is set for Dec. 21 on a grass field that is normally used for soccer.

Davis credited athletic director Pete Garcia with sorting through bowl possibilities that included Boca Raton, Tampa, Hawaii, Dallas and Orlando.

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