FIU Football wins first home game, defeats Maine 14-12

Freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins on the sideline. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer

The FIU football team bounced back, defeating the Maine Bears with a 14-12 score on Saturday, Sep. 2, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Coming into this matchup, the Panthers were coming off a 22-17 loss against the LA Tech Bulldogs. That game saw a diminished version of FIU’s offense, only totaling four passing yards for the evening.

As a response to their passing problem, the Panthers benched junior quarterback Grayson James for the game against the Bears. This decision came in favor of starting freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins, who made the most of the opportunity.

Starting Jenkins immediately proved to be a good decision, as FIU’s offense began scoring early in the first quarter.

In just the second drive of the game, Jenkins lofted a pass towards the corner of the end zone right into redshirt junior Kris Mitchell’s hands for a 19 yard TD. 

Opening up an early 7-0 lead, the Panthers didn’t remain complacent on offense. A one touchdown lead can disappear in an instant and FIU was aware of that.

Returning on offense, Maine needed to respond quickly and senior quarterback Derek Robertson completed two quick passes to get them within field goal range.

Unable to find their way into the endzone, graduate student kicker Cody Williams salvaged the drive, converting on a field goal. Cutting the Panthers’ lead down to 7-3, the offense was beginning to show signs of life.

Neither team was able to score until two minutes remained in the second quarter. In a very similar fashion to their first scoring drive, Maine settled for a field goal after a short offensive drive.

After Williams converted on his second field goal of the game, making the score 7-6, the Panthers’ only held a one point lead. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, FIU had to strike quickly if they wanted to open up their lead.

Answering back immediately, Jenkins made a pass towards the sideline, finding Mitchell who broke free for a 62 yard touchdown. 

Opening up a 14-6 lead going into halftime, Jenkins was showing off his abilities in his first career start, throwing two touchdowns before halftime.

Maine on offense. Jaymz Cosme | PantherNOW

Looking to strike back, Maine marched the ball down the field to open up the second half. A 13 play, 81-yard drive was rewarded with a five yard rushing touchdown from freshman running back Tristan Kenan

Attempting to tie the game, the Bears opted for a two-point conversion and failed, allowing FIU to maintain a 14-12 lead.

Trying to make a push in the final drive of the game, Maine made it down to FIU’s six yard line but the Panthers defense never broke. Stopping the Bears on their last-ditch fourth down attempt, FIU secured a 14-12 victory.

After a poor offensive performance in their first game, starting Jenkins proved to improve the Panthers offense, throwing the most passing yards for a freshman in school history.

“I haven’t let it soak in yet” said Jenkins after throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns. The record was previously held by quarterback Jamie Burke, who threw for 258 yards in 2002.

One of the leaders of the defense, Senior D’Verik Daniel, said “Coach Mac preached we over me, it doesn’t matter who makes a play. Whether I make a play, the corner makes a play, the linebackers make a play, the defensive ends make a play, as long as we make the play, get off the field and win the game, it’s the best feeling in the world.” 

Staying home for their third game, the FIU football team is facing the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday, Sep. 9, 2023, at the FIU Football Stadium in Miami, Florida. 

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme 

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