(Photo credit: Rob Foldy/Getty Images North America)
The FIU Panthers defeated the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday 42-35 to move one step closer to clinching the C-USA East.
It ended up being a lot closer than Panthers fans would have liked. The 49ers gave FIU a good challenge and plenty of things to work on heading into the final week. To start the game, the Panthers actually found themselves down 7-3 with the defense getting gashed for big runs. Panthers fans wouldn’t want me to bring it up, but it was reminiscent of the Shula Bowl.
Then the Panthers defense made a play, a big one with 5 minutes left in the first quarter. DT Teair Tart forced 49ers RB Finger to cough up the ball, then FIU linebacker Sage Lewis scooped up the ball and took it 61 yards for the TD. The play changed the momentum for the time being, as the offense was then able to get into a groove. FIU went into the half up 20-14. They were in good position to pull away with offense running smooth, the defense would just need to get stops.
FIU QB James Morgan was fantastic as usual, throwing for 268 yards and 2 TDs. He also got some help from his running game, as RB Napoleon Maxwell rushed for 102 yards on 7 carries. Maxwell also contributed 2 TDs of his own. On the receiving end of both of Morgans TDs was RB Anthony Jones who had made his return in the Shula Bowl from the shooting incident. Panthers WR Austin Maloney led the team in receiving yards with 107, he made some big catches to help prolong drives.
The FIU Golden panthers are one win away from clinching the C-USA East and a spot in the Championship game.
The win puts the Panthers at 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the conference. Charlotte falls to 4-7 overall and 3-4 in conference play, as they try to stay bowl eligible. FIU returns to Miami to play their final regular season game against the Marshall Thundering Herd on November 24th.