Florida International U

FIU Panthers’ Alex McGough, Jonnu Smith are too much for Old Dominion to handle

FIU quaterback Alex McGough in action during the first half of a college football game between the Florida International Golden Panthers and Old Dominion University at Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium in Miami on Oct. 24, 2015.
FIU quaterback Alex McGough in action during the first half of a college football game between the Florida International Golden Panthers and Old Dominion University at Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium in Miami on Oct. 24, 2015. For the Miami Herald

Instead of trampling Old Dominion on Saturday night at FIU Stadium, as most of the Monarchs’ previous opponents did, FIU strafed them.

Of FIU’s 484 yards of offense, 390 on 31-of-39 passing came from sophomore quarterback Alex McGough’s arm in a 41-12 rout in which the Panthers scored the final 27 points.

McGough’s yardage was the second-most in FIU history behind Dr. Paul McCall’s 400 against FAU in 2008. His 31 completions tied Josh Padrick’s total against Troy in 2005 for second behind Wes Carroll’s 35 in 2010 against Maryland. His three touchdowns gave him 17 for the season, bumping Carroll’s 16 in 2010 to second place on that FIU list.

Ten of those completions for 183 yards and two touchdowns went to junior tight end Jonnu Smith. Another five completions for 52 yards went to fifth-year senior wide receiver Clinton Taylor, who scored on a beautiful 38-yard low, sizzling over-the-shoulder throw.

About three of McGough’s incompletions were drops, so it’s no surprise when asked what he thought he did best, McGough said, “Accuracy. I put the ball where it needed to be so they could make the plays.”

FIU coach Ron Turner said, “It was probably his best game since I’ve been here because of how he was seeing the field. When he had a shot downfield, he pulled the trigger quickly on time and took it. When he didn’t, he found his check down. He’s so much more comfortable with the offense. He always knows where everybody is. He knows why we’re calling something and how we’re trying to attack the coverage.”

Old Dominion came into FIU Stadium on Saturday with rush defense numbers – 222.5 yards per game – that suggested a defense of trampling submissives. That’s almost exactly what Old Dominion allowed last year when FIU ran for 256 yards on the Monarchs.

But FIU got stopped on fourth-and-goal on its second possession and needed four shots from in close before McGough’s successful quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead.

“We knew we were going to have to have some balance, mix the run and the pass,” Turner said. “One got going more than the other, and kind of go to it. That was our plan going in. Alex got hot. We just stayed with that a little more.”

The Panthers defense stoned Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry from the FIU 1 to end the first half with a 17-6 lead.

“[Senior defensive end Denzell] Perine tackled him from the back and I tried to stand my ground so he couldn’t gain any more yards,” FIU senior defensive end Michael Wakefield said.

Old Dominion wide receiver Zach Pascal, lining up as quarterback on the first play of the second half, raced up the middle 75 yards to cut the FIU lead to 17-12. A 41-yard pass to Smith set up Austin Taylor’s 37-yard field goal.

McGough’s gorgeous pass to Taylor flying up the right sideline pushed the advantage to 27-12. Alex Gardner opened the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run: 34-12. A fumble recovery and long runback by defensive tackle Leonard Washington set up Smith’s second touchdown catch of the game, this one from 13 yards, to finish the scoring.

Old Dominion quarterback David Washington, 13 of 24 for 125 yards and an interception, left the game with a bruised knee after that play.

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