Florida International U

Panthers have luxury of personnel moves

A game such as Saturday’s gave FIU a chance to do some different personnel deployments.

Redshirt junior safety Jordan Davis returned to the lineup after being academically ineligible for two games. He made his second career interception on a third-quarter pass in the end zone as he smothered a fly pattern.

The nearby official, momentarily confused, raised his arms to indicate a touchdown. Two colleagues corrected him with the touchback signal.

Freshman Tyree Johnson, a Miami Carol City graduate, played significant snaps at safety, as did redshirt sophomore Xavier Hines.

Edens Sineace started at left tackle in place of Dieugot Joseph. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas graduate and redshirt freshman Kai Absheer got his first start, replacing Aaron Neilsen at left guard.


FIU’s return game, expected to be electrifying again with Richard Leonard back for his senior year, has been Return Unplugged.

Leonard’s still the same player who averaged 18.95 yards per punt return for a career, 23.76 for a season last year, both FIU records, and 26.63 per kickoff return. But the blocking in front of him isn’t the same.

Which is why Leonard averaged 5.0 yards on his first seven punt returns, 18.63 on his first eight kickoff returns and FIU got tagged twice with penalties just Saturday night on returns.


Junior tight end Jonnu Smith’s 13-yard catch of a bubble screen on FIU’s second drive gave him a catch in all 27 FIU games the last three seasons.


Junior kicker Austin Taylor had a strange night.

His kickoffs rarely reach the end zone, whether or not he’s requested to kick away, yet he blasted four touchbacks Saturday. He had six for the entire 2014 season.

Taylor also missed only two extra points in 42 attempts his first two seasons. He missed two extra points Saturday.


FIU paid $1.24 million for its four home games against FCS opponents over the last three seasons.

Bethune got $700,000 for its two games. Wagner received $265,000. North Carolina Central got $275,000 for coming down this weekend.


FIU’s captains for the game were redshirt sophomore linebacker Vontarius West, sophomore quarterback Alex McGough, junior tight end Jonnu Smith and senior defensive end Michael Wakefield.


FIU won the opening coin toss and, in a rarity these days, took the ball.