Fuck you, rain! You’re messing with my shit. I’m trying to cover a football game over here and the on-and-off trickle down in Miami is making this a tough game to cover and one fans had, apparently, no interest being in; although that might not be the reason they didn’t show up tonight. It’s been an interesting season thus far for your Florida International Panthers. A horrendous four game stretch to open up the season forced the hand of Athletic Director Pete Garcia to pull the chord on Head Coach Ron Turner. The mid-season coaching change is a much maligned one in college football, but, at least in this instance, it seemed to work. The Panthers responded well to Ron Cooper, the Defensive Coordinator who stepped in the interim and immediately led the team to three straight wins. The exciting Shula Bowl victory against the Florida Atlantic Owls is one thing, but the following two wins cannot be labeled as a mirage. However, FIU finally fell off their cloud last week and lost a conference game to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 44-24.
So, here’s what we have. A football team with four games remaining on the schedule coming off the possible adrenaline-filled high of an enthusiastic coaching change, FIU must first face a tough match-up at home against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, but secondly, and most importantly, they must show what they have in this squad as they wind down the season. The talent, the coaching, the fanbase, and the overall control of the organization. It’s all relevant here. Because this team must take a turn for the better. It’ll be imperative in the coaching search and for the overall improvement of this program.
Well, I’ll be damned if they didn’t start this shit just the way we drew it up. Giving up three touchdowns in less than six minutes right out of the gates. 3 TDs IN THE FIRST 6 MINUTES!! I mean, come on. Now, Middle Tennessee just had an impressive win last week against an SEC team in the Missouri Tigers, and they are a good football team that’s 5-2 on the season, but still. I’d like to think we can at least spread those three TDs throughout the first quarter, no? Well, the Panthers wasted no time. However, a comeback was in order, baby. QB Alex McGough wasn’t going to go out like this. A passing TD to TE standout Jonnu Smith and another one to WR Thomas Owens got the Panthers right back in it. A fumble by FIU led to another Middle Tennessee TD, but McGough would answer back and cap off the drive with a rushing TD. It was 28-21 when we went to break from a crazy first half with plenty of TDs and lots of rain; can’t forget about the stupid-ass rain.
Well, the aforementioned turnover issue would prove vital in this one. There’s no way to tell if FIU would’ve pulled out the W in this one otherwise, but the picks and fumbles sure as hell weren’t going to help. After a series of punts covered the third quarter, the fourth was lit. Trading blows, the Panthers and Blue Raiders scored on three straight drives that saw the home team tie the game twice. It was 35-35 going down the stretch when an old friend reared its ugly head. Hey, there pick 6. How many goddamn times do you have to keep making an appearance this season? This particular one happened to be with 1:22 left in the ballgame, so not an opportune time. Middle Tennessee was up by a TD and Florida International had one last chance to tie it. But – tell me if you saw this coming – the turnovers. The foreshadowing was not just a tease, this shit is real life. The game would essentially end on a last minute fumble by RB Alex Gardner.
There are losses and there are losses. The Panthers would lose this one 42-35, but, I have to say, it was a hell of a game. Middle Tennessee has a nice team with good wins on their resume. A lightning quick 21-0 deficit could have merely been the beginning of an embarrassing defeat for FIU, but it wasn’t. The defense continues to be plagued by their love of giving up the big plays. At least, on this night, their offense was capable of keeping them in it. The attitude and response after a loss I was looking for was definitely there. Shake it off, kids. It was a tough and wet one.