Panthers roll past Owls to win Shula Bowl X, gain bowl eligibility

Photo by Kristi Camara

Photo by Kristi Camara

By: Jackson Wolek / Staff Writer

When T.Y. Hilton chose to stay one more year at FIU, he made a promise. The senior made a pact between himself and head coach Mario Cristobal. He said that the promise would not be revealed until later in the year.

As the tenth annual Shula Bowl came to a close at Alfonso Field for Hilton’s last ever home game as a Panther, he shared what the secret was–win the Shula bowl.

The Shula Bowl trophy resides at FIU for the first official time in the rivalry between the Panthers and FAU Owls in the decisive 41-7 win, and also the last time Hilton will play a home game.

“I cried about four times. I cried before I walked in just looking at the stadium, when they were announcing my name I cried again and the fans mean so much to me I just love playing here and I wish I had another year,” Hilton said.

Despite being senior night, Cristobal decided to give the start to redshirt freshman Jake Medlock at quarterback over senior Wesley Carroll. Carroll had thrown an interception in each of his last four games.

“We hadn’t done real well offensively that last couple weeks, and the games that we hadn’t won is not any indication that out quarterback was responsible for those losses,” said Cristobal. “We just felt like we needed some kind of spark, particularly what he could do with his legs. You saw what he could do on those third down conversions to keep those sticks moving.”

Medlock threw 18-24, 135 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 47 yards and one touchdown. Carroll threw four interceptions in his last four starts.

“At first I was real shocked because I wasn’t expecting it,” said Medlock. “ I was expecting to get some playing time with Wes, and when he told me, Wes was a great leader, a great senior and a great friend and helped me the whole week. During the whole game, he told me what was going on and I really think this ‘W’ goes to him more than it does to me.”

FIU (6-4, 3-3 SBC) is now bowl eligible for the second time in school history, while the Owls (0-9, 0-6 SBC) remain winless.

After the Panthers jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, the last score of the half came from Hilton when he returned a punt 97 yards for a touchdown, the longest in program history and gave the Panthers a 31-0 lead at the half, the largest lead any team has had over FAU this season.

The return was sparked by a huge block from Wayne Times on Damian Parms that gave Hilton all the space he needed.

“I actually tried to tell him to turn around and get the kicker, but I looked back and he cracked him [Parms],” said Hilton

The Owls stalled the FIU offense in the third quarter, and got on the board with a touchdown drive early in the second half. The score came on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Graham Wilbert to Marcus Cunningham on the first drive of the second half.

It was the only score the Panthers defense surrendered all game, however, and ended the night with three interceptions, all from freshmen. One came from Richard Leonard and two from Justin Halley. Also, there was a total of 24 penalties in the game, 14 for 142 yards from FAU, and 10 for 97 yards from FIU.

In the last quarter, the Panthers began to run down the clock, and a 37-yard field goal from Griffin in the beginning of the fourth quarter plus a Darriet Perry rushing touchdown sealed the 41-7 victory, their first win against the Owls since the 52-6 win over the Owls in 2005 was vacated due to NCAA violations.

It was the last game on the sidelines for legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger of FAU, who apologized for his teams performance.

“I have to apologize to Paul Bryant and Blanton Collier and Don Shula and people that I learned how to play and coach football from,” said Schnellenberger. “ And I have to apologize to Florida Atlantic University for the first half of football that we played here today and live with it.”

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