FIU football has offensive eruption, defeats North Texas 46-39

FIU's defense stopping North Texas. Photo courtesy of Parsa Sadjadi | PantherNOW.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer

The FIU football team showed their resilience, defeating North Texas Mean Green 46-39 on Saturday, Sep. 9, 2023 at the FIU Football Stadium in Miami, Florida. 

Prior to this matchup, the Panthers took home their first win of the season against Maine, improving their record to 1-1. 

After deciding to start freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins, the Panthers’ offense improved drastically, as they threw for 288 more yards in the second game than their first.

In a tightly contested 14-12 victory, FIU had a strong performance on both ends, not allowing the Bears to score any passing touchdowns for the entire game.

Having played one less game, the Mean Green hold a 0-1 record after taking a 58-12 loss to the California Golden Bears in their season-opener.

Struggling on both ends of the field, North Texas only rushed for 41 yards on 27 attempts while allowing 357 rushing yards and 312 passing yards on defense.

Last time both teams met was on Nov. 5 2022, where the Panthers suffered a 52-14 blowout loss to the Mean Green.

Now with both FIU and North Texas having new starting quarterbacks, the complexion of the game couldn’t have been any more different.

To start the game, the Mean Green came out of the gates ready to score, with junior wide receiver Trey Cleveland catching a 25-yard touchdown pass.

With North Texas claiming an early 7-0 lead, the Panthers didn’t let the score deter their confidence, responding on offense immediately after.

Answering back in only three plays, redshirt sophomore Shomari Lawrence capped off FIU’s drive with a 28-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 7-7. 

Two drives later, senior kicker Noah Rauschenberg converted on a 47-yard field goal and gave the Mean Green a 10-7 lead to end the first quarter.

Starting the second quarter, both teams had a turnover frenzy, with a fumble for each team and back-to-back interceptions.

As a result of the consecutive turnovers sophomore Hezekiah Masses returned his first career interception for a 40-yard touchdown and claimed a 14-10 lead for the Panthers.

FIU continued their stout defense, as they held North Texas to a six play offensive drive, resulting in a punt. 

Once they gained possession of the ball, the offense went back to work with a long drive. Junior kicker Chase Gabriel ended the drive with a field goal, giving the Panthers a 17-10 lead.

Following FIU’s touchdown, the Mean Green responded by pounding the running game, finishing their possession with a 15-yard touchdown run from junior running back Oscar Adaway III

To close the first half, North Texas marched down the field and looked to score, but senior linebacker Donovan Manuel recorded a crucial third down sack and forced a field goal.

Entering halftime, the Panthers trailed the Mean Green 20-17 and needed to respond in the third quarter.

Coming out for the second half ready to pounce, FIU’s offense drove down the field quickly.

Redshirt sophomore running back Kejon Owens provided the Panthers with a 21-yard touchdown run and gave them a 24-20 lead.

Countering quickly, North Texas responded with a touchdown of their own from sophomore wide receiver Ja’Mori Maclin, giving them back the lead. 

Both teams exchanged points until the final minutes of the game, where FIU trailed 39-38 in the fourth quarter.

Keyone Jenkins connecting with junior wide receiver Kris Mitchell for a touchdown. Video courtesy of Jaymz Cosme | PantherNOW.

Owens led the way for the Panthers once again, as he found his way into the endzone for his third rushing touchdown of the game, giving the Panthers a 44-39 lead.

To prevent any chance of a last-second win for the Mean Green, Jenkins ran into the endzone on a two-point conversion, making the score 46-39.

With the defense holding out for the remainder of the game, FIU defeated North Texas following an offensive shootout.

In a career performance, Owens rushed for 101 yards on ten attempts and scored three touchdowns against the Mean Green.

As the Panthers struggled to keep up with North Texas in 2022, this year’s matchup saw them excel offensively, totaling 514 offensive yards in the game.

“You compare last year’s game to this year, I think we have made good strides. Still have a long way to go but we’re making the right strides” said Coach MacIntyre.

“When you can run the ball it helps open up the pass game, they did a great job running the ball and the offensive line did a great job blocking” said Jenkins when asked about the success of the run game.

Looking to collect their third win in a row, the FIU football team is taking on the UConn Huskies on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023 at the Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut. 

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme 

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