Florida International U

FIU eyes a path back into league race following big victory over Charlotte

Florida International University running back Anthony Jones (2) runs 41 yards to score one of his three consecutive touchdown runs to open the second half of a football game against the Charlotte 49ers at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami, Florida on Saturday, October 12, 2019.
Florida International University running back Anthony Jones (2) runs 41 yards to score one of his three consecutive touchdown runs to open the second half of a football game against the Charlotte 49ers at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami, Florida on Saturday, October 12, 2019. dvarela@miamiherald.com

After a 48-23 win over Charlotte late Saturday night, the FIU Panthers football team is 3-3 overall, 1-2 in conference play. Saturday marked the Panthers’ best performance of the season, and it came at home in a league game.

Sound familiar?

Why, yes, that’s the same profile that applies to the Miami Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2 ACC), who knocked off the 20th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers on Friday in a league home game that was their best performance of the year.

FIU and Miami meet on Nov. 23 at Marlins Park in a night game (7 p.m.) in which the Panthers will have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In the meantime, however, the Panthers have four Conference USA games in the next four weeks, giving them an opportunity to crawl back into the league race.

FIU is in fifth place, with 3-0 Western Kentucky and 2-0 Florida Atlantic the teams to beat. Western Kentucky already defeated FIU, giving the Hilltoppers a tiebreaker if needed.

Here are four more takeaways regarding Saturday’s Panthers win:

1: Record-breaking night: Senior running back Anthony Jones ran 16 times for a season-high 117 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. His four scores tied a school record held by five others, including T.Y. Hilton (2010), for the most in FIU history.

The last time Jones scored four TDs was as a high school senior for Miami Central against Hallandale.

Jones now has two straight 100-yard games for the first time in his career. In the past two games, he has rushed for 232 yards and a 6.4 average.

“The guys up front got great push,” Jones said after Saturday’s game. “We stayed on our reads and executed the plays.”

2: Switch works: Dallas Connell started the season at center, but a hand injury forced him to move to left guard two games ago. Shane McGough, brother of former FIU standout and current NFL backup quarterback Alex McGough, moved from left guard to center.

Before the switch, FIU had no running back go for 100 yards in a game this season. But in these past two games, Jones has done it twice, and Napoleon Maxwell also did it against Charlotte, rushing 15 times for 114 yards and one touchdown.

FIU rushed for 350 yards on Saturday – the fourth-highest total in school history — and the offensive line deserves credit, including left tackle D’Antne Demery, rotating right guards Shaq Williams and Mershawn Miller and right tackle Devontay Taylor.

“I think this was our best performance of the season,” Maxwell said of the Panthers, who have a two-game win streak. “Each week, we’ve been getting better, and this is just the start of what we’re going to continue to do.”

3: Injury scare: Two key FIU defenders — middle linebacker Sage Lewis and cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III left the game on the same play. Thomas-Oliver returned, but Lewis — who has been dealing with a hamstring injury -- did not, in part due to the lopsided score.

4: Le-torched again: Charlotte senior running back Benny LeMay scored two touchdowns and had 234 yards from scrimmage against FIU. He ran 21 times for 144 yards, including a 48-yarder, and he caught four passes for 90 yards, including a 43-yard score.

The 5-9, 215-pounder also rushed for 159 yards against FIU last year and 178 yards as a sophomore.

“I’m glad he’s graduating,” FIU coach Butch Davis joked. “Hurry up. … He runs with power, and he’s got great vision.”

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