Panthers Edge Out Old Dominion on Senior Day

Richard Gibson/Staff Writer 

Coming off a tough loss in Middle Tennessee, FIU needed to secure a win against the Old Dominion Monarchs. They did, but it didn’t come easy.

   FIU defeated Old Dominion 24-17 on Senior Day, in which 17 seniors were recognized for their time at FIU. This includes Quarterback James Morgan, Linebacker Sage Lewis, and Wide Receiver Austin Maloney. 

   In addition, scouts from four NFL teams (Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs) were in attendance to look over the talent on the field. 

   FIU began the game slowly on offense and defense, and couldn’t march down the field effectively. After six minutes, Morgan was strip-sacked on FIU’s side of the field, which led to an Old Dominion touchdown.

   These would be the only points the Monarchs would score until the fourth quarter. About three minutes later, Kicker Jose Borregales nailed a 21-yard field goal. This came off a touchdown that was taken off the board for FIU after review. 

   In the second quarter, the defense bulked up, only allowing one red zone opportunity for Old Dominion. That ended with FIU blocking an Old Dominion field goal attempt. Morgan and the offense couldn’t do much when in Old Dominion’s side of the field, stalling on every drive. 

    Borregales would go on to nail two field goals in the second quarter, which gave FIU a 9-7 lead heading into halftime. Borregales finished the game with five field goal attempts, in which three were good. His longest kick of the day was 42 yards.

   Coming out of halftime, adjustments on both sides of the ball were noticeable. Morgan began to consistently make better throws, and the defense held their ground. The offense finally broke into the end zone after eight minutes, off of a 13-yard rushing touchdown from running back Napoleon Maxwell. 

   The defense didn’t allow a single point from Old Dominion in the third quarter. They forced a multitude of sacks, penalties, and fumbles. After a curved punt by punter Tommy Heatherly that put Old Dominion on FIU’s 30, the defense kept their cool. After a holding penalty and a sack, Old Dominion was forced to punt, wasting a golden opportunity to score points.

   In the fourth quarter, Old Dominion responded and scored a field goal after five minutes to bring the score down to 16-10. FIU would then respond by scoring their second touchdown of the day four minutes later, off of a one-yard rush by Morgan. After a successful two-point conversion, FIU stretched their lead to 14 points.

   Old Dominion wasn’t finished and scored a touchdown with only three minutes to go in the game. They would only need one more touchdown to tie the game and send it to overtime. On their last drive, FIU forced a turnover with only a minute left and sealed the deal. 

   Morgan finished the game throwing for 252 passing yards off of 20 catches from 33 attempts. He would also carry the ball into the endzone for a rushing touchdown. Wide receiver Shemar Thornton was his number one target, finishing the day with 6 catches for 125 yards. 

   “We’ve just been taking it step by step every day in practice,” said Thornton. “I was just waiting for my opportunity. I just wanted to do my part, the best that I could, by making big plays.”

   Maxwell finished the day with 16 carries for 83 yards total, and FIU’s only other touchdown. Maxwell, who has had some injury problems in his career at FIU, credits former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore for helping him with recovery. 

“A lot of people don’t know, but when I tore my ACL the second time, I talked to Marcus Lattimore, who also had a lot of injuries back in his day. I wrote to him, and he responded and gave me his contact information. He kept me in great spirits, and I just kept my head up high.”

Defensively, FIU forced three sacks, 45 total tackles, and a late interception that iced the game for the Panthers. They held Old Dominion to 233 total yards, as well as forced two fumbles, losing one of them to FIU. Head coach Butch Davis was pleased with how his defense stepped up but knows his offense needs to improve. 

   “Today wasn’t a great performance overall, but it was a great gutsy performance,” said Davis. “The guys gutted it out. We got a lot of guys getting nicked, getting injured, but we had a terrific performance defensively, only holding Old Dominion to 64 yards rushing.”

   FIU record is now 5-4, and they’re one win from bowl eligibility. Their next game is against FAU in Boca Raton on November 9th. After that, they’ll play UM in Marlins Park on November 23rd. To end the regular season, they’ll travel to Huntington, Virginia, to play Marshall on November 30th. 

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