Weathering The Storm: Panthers overcome weather delay to pull off comeback victory

Quarterback James Morgan prepares to pass the ball down field in the home opener against the Indiana Hoosiers at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (Gerard Albert III/PantherNow)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director



Despite a two-hour weather delay, FIU managed to rally from behind to defeat Old Dominion 28-20 Saturday night at Foreman Field in Norfolk, Va.

Panthers’ quarterback James Morgan fueled the comeback by throwing three touchdowns to erase a 17-point deficit.  

“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a delay even remotely as close to this,” said FIU head coach Butch Davis who has over 35 years of coaching experience.  

The victory marks the first win of the season for the Panthers (1-1, 1-0 Conference USA) along with their first conference win.

Old Dominion (0-2, 0-1 C-USA) got off to a hot start as they built an early 17-0 lead.

Sophomore quarterback Steven Williams got the Monarchs on the board on their first drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jonathan Duhart.  

The following quarter, Duhart hauled in his second touchdown of the game from junior quarterback Blake LaRussa on a quick slant which turned into an 83-yard sprint to the end zone.

LaRussa and Williams subbed in-and-out throughout the game.

The Panthers finally managed to put points on the board when Morgan connected with redshirt junior CJ Worton on a 47-yard touchdown pass.

On their next drive, just before halftime, Morgan found junior wide receiver Tony Gaiter IV on an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 20-14.

After the two-hour weather delay, the Panthers marched down the field on a 19-play, 86-yard drive to take the lead for the first time of the night. Junior running back Shawndarrius Phillips scored on a two-yard run.

FIU’s defense came up big the following drive when they forced the Monarchs to a three-and-out.  

Starting at their own one-yard line, the Panthers drove down the field to widen their lead, 28-20,  as Morgan connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Austin Maloney on a 36-yard touchdown.

Morgan finished the game throwing for 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“We talked about it at halftime. If we don’t turn the ball over and do what we’re supposed to do then we’ll be able to score points and move the football,” said Davis.

In the fourth quarter, the FIU defense held up strong as they restricted the Monarchs from finding the end zone for the rest of the night.

Redshirt junior linebacker Sage Lewis led the defense with ten tackles; recording double-digits stops for the second-straight game. Last week, Lewis finished with 18 tackles.

Texas transfer Edwin Freeman made his presence felt as well as he concluded the game with eight tackles.

Phillips and redshirt senior Napoleon Maxwell led the Panthers running game as the team ended the night with 189 rushing yards. Phillips ended the game with 97 yards and one touchdown, while Maxwell finished 65 yards.   

Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Singleton made his season debut and finished the night with four receptions for 62 yards.

Worton led the FIU receiving corps with three receptions for 79 yards and one touchdown.

Panther running back Anthony Jones was absent in the game due to being injured in a drive-by shooting earlier in the week on Thursday, Sept. 6. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mershawn Miller was injured in the incident.  

The Panthers will return to Riccardo Silva Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, for their next game as they host the UMass Minutemen. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.