Panthers drop second straight at home against Louisville

By: Jorge Corrales/Staff Writer

The Panthers (1-3) kept it close early but were unable to keep it that way, falling 34-3 at home against the Louisville Cardinals (3-1). Far from last years 72-0 blowout in which they were only able to muster 27 total yards, the Panthers had 205 yards on Saturday.

The Panthers held the Cardinals to only seven points in the first quarter. Things got out of hand in the second quarter when the Cardinals scored 21 straight points before FIU kicker Austin Taylor notched a fieldgoal as time expired in the half. The Cardinals were helped by a pair of second quarter interceptions by Panthers freshman quarterback Alex McGough. McGough had gone his first three games without an interception before throwing two picks on two straight throws in the second quarter. McGough finished the game 5 of 13 with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Coach Ron Turner stayed true to his two-quarterback system. E.J. Hilliard played most of the second half after McGough struggled and appeared to get injured on a sack. Hilliard finished 8 of 12 with 70 yards through the air.

“[McGough] is fine,” said Turner. “He had a knee contusion but he could’ve gone back in. We thought E.J. was doing some good things so we left him in there.”

The Panthers weren’t able to muster much on the ground. Runningback Anton Samuel led the Panthers with only 38 rushing yards. He was followed by McGough who rushed for 27 yards. He had a total of 52 yards rushing but netted only 27 after being sacked 3 times.

Despite giving up 34 points, the defense was the brightest spot for the Panthers on Saturday. They were able to contain the run; allowing only 12 Louisville rushing yards. That’s a notable improvement on the 321 rushing yards they gave up to Pittsburgh last week.

They were also able to get good pressure in the backfield. The Panthers were able to sack the Louisville quarterback 4 times on the afternoon. Defensive end Michael Wakefield accounted for two of those, a new career high. He also forced a fumble when he sacked Louisville quarterback Will Gardner deep in FIU territory.

“We did a good job on the run game,” said Wakefield. “Just a couple of plays that they got us but we held the run game really well. We stayed in our gaps and came off the blocks. We have to keep being relentless and never stop rushing. Even when you think the play is over, it’s not. We gotta keep rushing.”

Gardner was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter after taking a shot to the knee. He led the Cardinals with 295 passing yards and two touchdowns despite exiting the game. His favorite target was wide receiver James Quick. Quick had 174 yards receiving and two touchdowns. A big chunk of his production came on a 74-yard touchdown reception late in the first half.

The Cardinals defense came into the game ranked 28th in the nation in points against. They improved that rank by allowing only three points. Cornerback Gerod Holliman had two interceptions on the afternoon, returning one of those picks back to the house for six. He now has five on the year– most in the country. Holliman attended South Ridge High School in Miami and is one of 16 players from Miami-Dade County on the Louisville roster.

The game was scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. but the announced attendance of 10,820 had to wait until 4:43 p.m. because of lightning in the area. This is the second straight game at Ocean Bank Field to be delayed due to rain.

“I haven’t been in South Florida very long,” said Turner. “Hopefully we won’t be scheduling many more September 3:30 games. The storms tend to come in the afternoon.”

The Panthers take their first road trip of the year next week when they head north to Birmingham Alabama to take on the UAB Blazers. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on the American Sports Network.


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