FIU football dominates first half, take 24-17 win against UConn

Sophomore defensive back Hezekiah Masses celebrating with his team. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU football team carved out a massive first half lead and took home a 24-17 win against the UConn Huskies on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023 at the Pratt and Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Coming off two wins in a row, the Panthers entered this matchup holding a 2-1 record.

In their previous game against the North Texas Mean Green, FIU earned a 46-39 victory after a late game offensive shootout on Sep. 9, 2023.

Having a slower start to their season, the Huskies came into this game holding an 0-2 record.

After senior quarterback Joe Fagnano suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, redshirt junior quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson was named the new starter for the Huskies.

Taking a 35-14 loss to the Georgia State Panthers on Sep. 9, 2023, UConn struggled to find defensive consistency as they allowed 250 total rushing yards in the game.

Starting the first quarter, FIU looked to be aggressive from the first snap and control the tempo of the game.

Freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins came in laser focused and completed both of his passes, helping the Panthers make it into the redzone.

With the offense on the 1-yard line, Jenkins finished off the drive with a rush up the middle and scored on the opening drive.

Claiming an early 7-0 lead, FIU started their game with more speed on offense than UConn could handle.

Looking to answer back, the Huskies methodically marched down the field and reached the Panthers’ 8-yard line.

Following an incomplete pass from Roberson on third and eight, redshirt sophomore kicker Joe McFadden converted on a field goal and made the score 7-3.

Before the quarter ended, FIU wanted to push the ball as far down the field as possible and were able to do exactly that.

Taking a shot downfield, Jenkins connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Eric Rivers for a 49-yard catch.

Unable to find the endzone, junior kicker Chase Gabriel salvaged the drive with a field goal, extending the Panthers’ lead to 10-3.

Beginning to take control of the game, FIU held the Huskies to a three and out on the next drive.

Immediately, Jenkins made another deep pass, resulting in a 45-yard touchdown grab for senior wide receiver Jalen Bracey.

Jumping out to a 17-3 lead, the Panthers decided to ride with the energy that Jenkins was creating and continued their offensive onslaught.

As the end of the first half drew near, Jenkins threw a 64-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Kris Mitchell, who brought it in for a touchdown.

Scoring their final touchdown of the game, the Panthers entered halftime holding a 24-3 lead.

Opening the second half, both UConn and FIU looked like completely different teams.

Answering back offensively, the Huskies moved the ball down the field and were helped by the Panthers’ lack of discipline, receiving two roughing the passer penalties.

Checking in at fullback, junior defensive lineman Jelani Stafford found the endzone from the 1-yard line, resulting in a UConn touchdown.

Cutting the lead to 24-10, the Huskies were able to take advantage of FIU’s complacency with the lead.

Unable to find any offense, the Panthers were held scoreless for the remainder of the third quarter.

Attempting to make a comeback, UConn scored again on their opening drive of the fourth quarter.

Roberson connected with junior running back Devontae Houston on a 37-yard touchdown pass, making it a one touchdown game.

With the score at 24-17, FIU’s defense came through when it mattered most and held out, allowing the Panthers to collect a win.

Now earning their third win in a row, FIU is undefeated with Jenkins as the starting quarterback.

Keyone Jenkins’ statistics through his first three games of the 2023 season. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Having another big game, Jenkins threw for 284 yards and collected three all-purpose touchdowns against the Huskies.

Mitchell has been a beneficiary of Jenkins’ passes, now ranking fifth in the FBS in receiving yards and sixth in touchdowns this season.

Returning home for their next game, FIU football looks to keep their win streak alive against the Liberty Eagles on Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

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

Players of the game:

Keyone Jenkins: 284 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Jalen Bracey: 5 receptions, 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Kris Mitchell: 2 receptions, 73 yards, 1 touchdown

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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