By Brett Shweky/Sports Director
Quarterback James Morgan fueled yet another victory for the FIU Panthers as he scored three total touchdowns on route to a 36-17 win over Rice.
Morgan threw for two touchdowns to be the catalyst for the offense and also recorded another score on the ground on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Riccardo Silva Stadium.
“We have a lot of confidence with James [Morgan],” said head coach Butch Davis. “This kid has an arm. There’s not a throw on the field he can’t make.”
With the win, the Panthers (5-2, 3-0 Conference USA) remain in the driver seat for the C-USA East division. While Rice (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) drops their seventh consecutive game of the season.
The Owls were the first to strike in the matchup as quarterback Evan Marshman scored on a seven-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter.
FIU managed to respond to Rice’s opening score with 16 straight points in the second quarter.
Following Jose Borregales’ 32-yard field goal, wide receiver Maurice Alexander jump-started the Panthers offense as he took a 51-yard run to the house to give FIU the advantage.
Later in the second, Morgan connected with wide receiver Austin Maloney on a 33-yard touchdown pass to increase the Panthers’ lead to 16-7.
Maloney’s score was a result of linebacker Edwin Freeman’s interception who recorded his first pick since transferring to the FIU program.
Along with Freeman’s momentum-changing pick, fellow linebacker Sage Lewis was the defensive anchor for the unit with him leading the squad in total tackles.
Lewis ended the game with ten total tackles bringing him to 80 on the season. He currently ranks first in the conference in total tackles.
Near the end of the third quarter, Morgan extended the lead for FIU, 26-10, with a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Shemar Thornton.
Thornton recorded his second touchdown of the season since coming back to the playing field. The sophomore receiver missed time due to lingering injuries at the start of the year.
Marshman followed up his rushing touchdown in the first with another in the third to keep the Owls in striking distance.
The redshirt freshman found paint turf for the second time on a 22-yard rush.
Marshman finished the game completing 11 of his 15 passes for 107 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. He also totaled 76 yards rushing.
On the flip side, Morgan scored the first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career on a four-yard run in the fourth.
The redshirt junior concluded the game throwing for 229 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
With time expiring in the fourth quarter, cornerbacks Rishard Dames and Isaiah Brown picked off Owls’ backup quarterback Wiley Greene to seal the game for the Panthers.
Greene came into the game during the fourth and finished with only one passing completion.
Heading into the contest, FIU led the C-USA East division with a perfect 2-0 league record.
The Marshall Thundering Herd (5-2, 3-1 C-USA) marginally trail the Panthers in the division race. Marshall defeated the FAU Owls 31-7 this week to stay within reaching distance.
“I think Coach Davis does a great job of stressing to us that all we’re worried about is one game at a time and improving every week,” said Morgan “Our focus right now is Western Kentucky, and that’s all there is.”
Next, up for the Panthers, the team will travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 27 to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.