Panthers’ three-game winning streak snapped on Homecoming night

Peter Holland, Jr. // Asst. Sports Director

FIU’s three game winning streak came to an end on homecoming night after losing to Louisiana Tech University 44-24.

FIU’s only lead of the night was in their opening drive when they settled for a 24-yard field goal by kicker Austin Taylor, which gave them a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. The Panthers would play catch up the rest of game, trailing by double digits throughout.

“We weren’t consistent and I believe that’s what set us back,” said tight end Jonnu Smith. “We lacked consistency and we need to improve in those things week in and week out.”

Though the offense struggled to keep up with LA Tech, quarterback Alex McGough threw 3 touchdowns and broke the school record for all-time career leader in touchdown passes with

43 passes. His second-quarter pass to Smith set McGough over the previous record held by Josh Padrick (2002-2006).

The pass was one of five catches for Smith, who extended his 40-game streak with at least one reception. The John Mackey award watch list recipient finished the night with five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown.

The Panther’s defense was challenged against a LA Tech team that averages 41.5 points per game. Though they tried contain to contain the Bulldog’s passing game led by their quarterback Ryan Higgins, Higgins finished the night 22-30 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. His primary target was their starting slot receiver Trent Taylor.

The secondary couldn’t find answers to cover Taylor as the senior finished the game with 11 catches for 156 yards and one touchdown. Their longest passing drive was when Taylor caught a pass from Higgins up the middle going out and ran for 49 yards, which set up their first touchdown lead late in the first quarter.

The Panthers couldn’t stop the bleeding after McGough threw an interception that almost became a pick six in the third quarter; LA Tech would score another touchdown after the interception, giving them a 34-17 cushion.

McGough was taken out of the game after walking awkwardly to the sidelines after throwing the interception. Redshirt freshman Maurice Alexander filled in while McGough was being treated for a left ankle injury. The Tampa native returned with a taped ankle and tried to finish the game.

“He got his ankle banged up a little bit,” said interim Head Coach Ron Cooper. “He let it settle down, taped it up and went back in and played well.”

After McGough threw his third touchdown of the night to receiver Thomas Owens, trailing 37-24 late in the fourth quarter, La Tech’s receiver and kickoff return specialist Carlos Henderson responded back with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to extend their lead and close out the game with six minutes left.

“I’m proud of our team, the guys kept fighting,” Cooper said. “All we can do now is go back at it, start all over next week and do it again and get better.”

With the three-game winning streak snapped, FIU now drops to 3-5 (3-1 Conference USA). The Panthers will now face Middle Tennessee State University at home on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

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