FIU’s 50-17 loss on Saturday at Middle Tennessee was the most points allowed by the Panthers since coach Butch Davis’ first season with the team in 2017.
In that season, FIU got beat 61-17 in its opener at UCF and then, nearly three months later, the Panthers were drilled 52-24 at rival FAU.
Taking stock of where FIU is at now, the Panthers — one year after setting a program wins record with nine — are 4-4 overall and 2-3 in Conference USA.
FIU’s hopes of winning C-USA’s East Division appear dashed as the Panthers trail Western Kentucky (4-1), FAU (3-1), Marshall (3-1) and Middle Tennessee (2-2). FIU has three league games left and needs to run the table to even have a prayer because they would not have the tiebreaker against WKU or Middle Tennessee.
WKU plays host to FAU this Saturday in a big league game.
Here are five takeaways regarding FIU athletics this week:
▪ 1: Road woes: FIU went 2-3 on the road in Davis’ first year and improved to 4-1 last season. This season, FIU is 0-3 on the road, and the Panthers have been outscored 135-62 in those three games.
FIU has not held any of those teams — Tulane, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee — to less than 42 points.
The Panthers have two road games left this season: at FAU and at Marshall.
▪ 2: Second-half meltdown: FIU, playing in rainy and windy conditions, led Middle Tennessee 17-14 at halftime, but the Panthers were outscored 36-0 after intermission.
In terms of the scoreboard, that was the worst half of football played in FIU’s Davis era.
▪ 3: Issues everywhere: The Panthers, who entered Saturday on a three-game win streak, allowed Middle Tennessee’s quarterback and two of its running backs to each rush for more than 100 yards.
The Blue Raiders ran for 471 yards, fourth-most in program history. The Blue Raiders entered Saturday having lost four of its past five games.
Another problem for FIU was turnovers. FIU lost four fumbles – one each by Napoleon Maxwell, James Morgan and Maurice Alexander. The fourth fumble was listed as “team” on a snap.
FIU also tried a fake punt that did not work.
Middle Tennessee did not turn the ball over.
▪ 4: Still unbeaten: FIU’s men’s soccer team – ranked 11th in the nation -- is still unbeaten at 9-0-5, having tied their two most recent games. Their most recent tie was 2-2 against South Florida, and FIU rallied in the final 15 minutes from a 2-0 deficit with goals from Andoni Garrogerricaechebarria and Nick O’Callaghan.
FIU’s next game is on Friday at South Carolina. The regular-season finale is at home on Nov. 8, and the Conference USA and NCAA playoffs are on the horizon.
▪ 5: FIU alumnus: Former Panthers tight end Jonnu Smith caught six passes for a career-high 78 yards and one touchdown on Sunday as his Tennessee Titans defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-23.
Smith, who caught those passes from former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, also tied a career high with his six receptions. Smith was Tennessee’s third-round pick in 2017 and now has six career TD receptions.