Panthers’ Bye Week Adjustments Pay Off With Win Over UMass

James Morgan looking to complete a pass downfield. Indya Vassell/PantherNOW

With most of their starters returning and healthy, the Panthers shut out the University of Massachusetts Amherst Saturday Oct. 5, for their second win of the season.

James Morgan led the way on offense with 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. Morgan connected with senior wide receiver Tony Gaiter on multiple big plays on the night including a touchdown in the first quarter. This was the first of many touchdowns of the night during the 44-0 win.

“Tony is extremely reliable, extremely consistent and has always been a guy who’s just been grinding,” said Morgan.

Gaiter had 7 catches for 103 yards, both career highs for the senior, who has been a difference-maker for the Panthers the past few weeks. His pitch-back to linebacker Dimitry Prophet on his punt return against the University of New Hampshire was a big play for the Panthers and he has finally started to get rolling as of late. 

“It felt good, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the offensive line and the quarterback but  it’s a great accomplishment for me and I’m happy about it,” said Gaiter.

Gaiter’s roommate, wide receiver Maurice Alexander had a huge night on punt returns. He totaled 140 return yards which included a 90-yard return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter, the biggest play of the night for FIU. 

Alexander fielded a bouncing punt at the Panther’s 10-yard line and made five UMass defenders miss as he took it up the sideline for a touchdown. 

Linebacker Sage Lewis returned after leaving the last game against LA Tech with an injury. Lewis continued to be an anchor for FIU’s defense, coming away with his second interception on the year. 

FIU’s third-down efficiency was a big emphasis heading into their bye week and the adjustments seemed to work. Coming into the game the Panthers were 28% on third down, they nearly doubled that percentage against the Minutemen.

FIU dominated the game on both sides of the ball, outgaining Umass 541-115 yards on offense. The run game for the Panthers opened up the offense and allowed for Morgan to make some big plays downfield. Anthony Jones was the lead man in the backfield with 20 rushes for 115 yards and a touchdown while Napoleon Maxwell added 13 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. 

It was a solid night for the Panthers as they hope to be back on track. They now sit at 2-3 on the season as their homecoming matchup against conference opponent the University of North Carolina at Charlotte approaches. This is a must-win game for the Panthers if they want to remain competitive in C-USA. 

“I think everybody on this team still believes very highly in themselves and obviously tonight was a step in the right direction. I think for us it’s just a one game at a time mentality you know,” said Morgan.  “We can’t look forward, we can’t look behind, can’t look at our record,we just need to focus on the one game that Charlotte this weekend”

Up next the Panthers will play their homecoming game against the Charlotte 49ers, Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. 

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