Panthers’ 2015 Season Ends in Crushing Defeat

Jacob Spiwak

Asst. Sports Director

There were many ways FIU’s season finale could’ve gone. Very few of them would have resulted in FIU upsetting the highly favored Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers, but anything is possible, so FIU fans and players were optimistic nonetheless. Unfortunately for FIU, the season ended in the absolute worst, most depressing way imaginable for the Panthers.

After getting embarrassed by Marshall University 52-0 just a week prior, the Panthers’ loss margin actually increased against WKU. FIU (5-7, 3-5) got demolished by the Hilltoppers (9-2, 7-0) in a 63-7 blowout. This game was over before it started, as WKU came out firing and FIU’s underwhelming performance against Marshall clearly carried over into this one.

Not only did the Panthers lose, that much was expected by just about everyone who predicted the outcome of the game. But the overall atmosphere made the whole afternoon that much worse; hardly any fans in the seats, pouring rain that resulted in three lightning delays (and the game being called five minutes early), and the list continues to go on.

Right from the start, WKU was the better team. On their second play from scrimmage, the Hilltoppers aggressively called for a flea flicker, which resulted in a 73-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Doughty to Taywan Taylor since absolutely nobody on the FIU defense or coaching staff saw it coming. It’s those types of trick plays that I’ve wanted to see from FIU all season long, but instead they stuck with their same conservative playbook on both sides of the ball.

The FIU defense had no answer for the talented and aggressive Hilltoppers, as WKU put up 21 points in the first quarter and 35 in the first half. As well as WKU played on offense, FIU’s offensive corps played about as poorly as one could fathom. Their only score came from an Alex Gardner rushing touchdown in garbage time and committing three turnovers with only 168 yards of total offense pretty much tells the story.

Despite coming off one of the best seasons FIU has ever seen at the quarterback position (aside from his awful performances against Marshall and WKU), sophomore Alex McGough was visibly upset after the game. He discussed how he needs to improve individually first and foremost in order to help the team win games.

“I didn’t do enough to win the game,” McGough said. “Simple as that. When I turn the ball over three times, you’re not going to win a game against a good team like [WKU]. I have to focus on myself, get better and [turn the ball over less].”

It was clear as day how disappointed the players were after the game, especially the seniors who had played their final game at FIU. Cornerback Richard Leonard and defensive end Michael Wakefield each used phrases such as “not doing what they needed to do as a team” to sum up the end of their final season.

Head coach Ron Turner shared the feelings of his seniors and spoke about how disappointed he is that those guys won’t be able to partake in postseason play.

“I feel bad for the seniors,” Turner said. “We had a chance to go out and win one of the last two and go to a bowl game, and we didn’t get it done. They bought into everything we asked them to do, and provided good leadership, and I’m very disappointed in how the season ended.”

So what’s next for FIU football? First and foremost this team needs to take some time off and get healthy. Turner continued to bring up how many injuries the Panthers had to deal with in 2015 and with a lot of young players ready to shine FIU should be fine moving forward. However, that won’t make this loss any easier to take now that the long offseason is underway than the Panthers would’ve wanted.

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