By Brett Shweky/Sports Director
Butch Davis’ FIU coaching debut goes sour as the UCF Knights dismantle the Panthers 61-17 in the season opener in Orlando, Florida on Thursday night.
UCF managed to score 26 unanswered points in the first half to make the deficit too much to handle for the Panthers. Knights sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton lead the air raid on the FIU defense with four passing touchdowns and 360 passing yards.
Milton put the Knights out to an early lead in the first quarter when he slung a 22-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Jordan Akins. The Knights followed up the opening touchdown with an unorthodox decision to attempt a two-point conversions instead of the easy extra point. UCF punter Mac Loudermilk successfully completed the two-point conversion, throwing a short pass to senior tight end Jordan Franks to put UCF up 8-0 against the Panthers.
Milton finished the game completing 16-of-21 passes, throwing for 360-yards, and also four passing touchdowns.
FIU responded back with senior quarterback Alex McGough connecting with senior wide receiver Thomas Owens on a 75-yard touchdown pass. The 75-yard play tied Owens’ career-high, who had a similar accomplishment against Indiana in 2015.
The Knights bounced back when Milton threw his second touchdown of the game putting UCF in the lead 14-7. The sophomore quarterback was able to locate wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith for the 50-yard touchdown.
FIU redshirt freshman kicker Jose Borregales scored the last points of the half for the Panthers, knocking in a 39-yard field goal with 12:49 left to play in the second quarter. Borregales’ field goal was the first one he made of his short FIU career.
The UCF offense finished out the first half by obliterating the Panthers’ defense, scoring 26 unanswered points off of three touchdowns, a safety, and a 44-yard field goal. At the conclusion of the first half the Knights lead the Panthers 40-10.
In the third quarter, FIU running back Napoleon Maxwell rushed for 51-yards to score his first touchdown in almost two full seasons. The junior running back returned from a knee injury that sidelined him the last two seasons.
McGough finished going 18 for 29 for 201 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Maxwell led the Panthers in rushing with 61 yards and a touchdown, while Owens led FIU in receiving with four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers will play their home opener next Saturday, September 9, as the team will host Alcorn State from Riccardo Silva Stadium. Kickoff for the game is set for 7:30 p.m.