For the first time in coach Butch Davis’ highly successful three-year tenure at FIU, the Panthers are 0-2.
To make matters worse, standout quarterback James Morgan was injured during the second quarter of Saturday night’s 20-14 home-opening loss to underdog Western Kentucky University.
The good news for the Panthers is that Morgan, who missed two-plus quarters of the game because of an apparent ankle injury, was able to return for two plays in the fourth quarter. That signals his likely return for Saturday’s game against visiting New Hampshire.
“There was a little bit of concern,” Davis said when asked about Morgan’s injury. “The good news is that he will probably be healthy for next week [New Hampshire]. I’m not a doctor, but he wanted to come back in long before that last drive. Knowing that he wasn’t going to scramble around, he wasn’t going to take a hit … he missed the first throw, and the second throw was right on the numbers. It hit [the receiver] in the stomach.”
That last Morgan toss — intended for backup wide receiver Tony Gaiter — could’ve been a touchdown that would’ve given FIU a 21-20 lead with exactly four minutes left in the game … and a possible comeback victory.
Similarly, Kaylan Wiggins, the redshirt sophomore quarterback who made his collegiate debut while replacing Morgan, nearly had the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard run on that same drive. Wiggins ran around left end and was pushed out of bounds at the two-yard line.
Had Wiggins been able to take one more step and extend his arm with the ball, it likely would’ve been a touchdown.
Instead, FIU running back Anthony Jones —looking for his sixth touchdown in the past four games — was stuffed for no gain on the next play. Then, on second-and-goal from the 2, a bad shotgun snap led to a fumble and a 14-yard loss.
Morgan then entered for his two passes, and when they fell incomplete, WKU had effectively pulled off the upset after losing to the Panthers the past two years.
FIU should have more skill and speed than New Hampshire (0-1), which lost 13-10 to Holy Cross on Saturday. And Davis, who was not happy with his team’s effort in FIU’s season-opening 42-14 loss at Tulane, was more upbeat after the close call against WKU.
“I don’t think we competed against Tulane — there wasn’t any passion,” Davis said. “[Against WKU], it was a hard game to win. You lose your starting quarterback, it put a lot of pressure on our defense. I was very proud of our defense. I was proud of [all our] kids — they fought.”