FIU’s Thomas Owens can’t quantify how much faster he got over the summer.
“You’d have to ask my teammates,” the sophomore wide receiver said.
Or, you could ask the Indiana defensive backs who spent Saturday night chasing Owens’ No. 81 down the Memorial Stadium field, hoping for an underthrown or overthrown pass.
Last week, in FIU’s win against Central Florida, the 6-1, 196-pound Owens defined possession receiver with 11 catches for 78 yards. He added big plays to his repertoire during the 36-22 loss to Indiana with touchdowns of 21 and75 yards among 166 yards receiving, the fourth-highest single-game total in FIU’s 13-season, two-game history.
Owens created chances for more yardage in economy-size chunks. Those chances went unfulfilled when either starting sophomore quarterback Alex McGough or graduate transfer senior Trey Anderson, who took over after McGough left the game, couldn’t get the throw in Owens orbit, as on the 75-yard jump-catch-and-run.
“There was a little bit of basketball in that,” smiled Owens, who played some forward for Delray Beach Atlantic High.
McGough left the game after getting smashed to the ground by Marcus Oliver on a fourth-and- goal play from the Indiana 2-yard line that went awry, to put it mildly. With FIU down 29-22, McGough audibled to a rollout pass to the left. Initial inside pressure drove the right-handed McGough back as he rolled. Running out of time and space, McGough threw a desperate pass as Oliver planted him. Jameel Cook intercepted and ran it back 96 yards for the clinching touchdown.
“We didn’t execute very well,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “We had two plays called. He went to the second one. I think they checked after when we checked. We still had a chance on it. …[Indiana] got some penetration, [McGough] couldn’t get the ball off and just tried to make a play.”
McGough remained on the ground. After being helped up and to the sidelines, McGough sank to the ground again. His status for FIU’s home opener Saturday against North Carolina-Central remains unclear.
Before the opener, Turner called Anderson and freshman Christian Alexander equal backups. Forced to choose Saturday night, Turner put Anderson in the game. Anderson went three for 10 for 34 yards and scrambled for 33 yards.
The interception was the third of three turnovers that led to Indiana touchdowns.
“They did a better job than us. They made fewer mistakes than we did, so we didn’t deserve to win the game,” Turner said. “We’ve got a very good football team. I’m excited about it. I believe in this team and love this team. We just made too many mistakes. It’s about us.”
Defensively, FIU allowed Jordan Howard to run for 159 yards and 5.9 per carry. But Indiana’s four-longest scoring drives resulted only in 16 points, three field goals and a touchdown.
“Third downs, we [toughened] up when we had to,” sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint said. “They were down [in the red zone] a lot. Sometimes, they came away with no points. Sometimes, they came away with a field goal. That shows the character of our defense. I think we can go a long way with that.”