“We have a long way to go” following FIU football’s loss 38-6 to Liberty

Freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins getting ready to command the offense. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer 

The FIU Football team showed life early but couldn’t find sustainable offense, taking a blowout 38-6 loss to the Liberty Flames on Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023, at FIU Football Stadium in Miami, Florida.

Prior to this game, the Panthers took down the UConn Huskies 24-17 behind an unstoppable first half from the offense. 

Leading the offense was freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins, who is now 3-0 since being named starter and has totaled more than 300 all-purpose yards in each game. 

Opening up a three-game winning streak, FIU entered this game with a 3-1 record, their best start to a season since 2017.

In similar fashion, Liberty has started their season 3-0, looking to keep up the hot start as well.

Sophomore quarterback Kaidon Salter has been the focal point of the Flames’ offense, leading his team to a 55-27 win in their previous game against the Buffalo Bulls. 

Producing at a high rate for his team, Salter had more than 410 all-purpose yards and six total touchdowns, picking apart the Bulls’ defense.

To start the game off, the Flames wanted to set the tone early and dominate FIU on both sides of the field.

Picking up from where he left off, Salter completed three of his four passes and collected a substantial gain from a run in the Flames first drive.

Sophomore QB Kaisen Salter escaping pressure for a gain. Video courtesy of Jaymz Cosme | PantherNOW.

Finishing off their opening drive, Salter connected on a throw to senior tight end Bentley Hanshaw and scored Liberty’s first touchdown of the game.

Claiming an early 7-0 lead, the Flames began to build momentum and forced FIU to punt on the next drive.

Taking advantage of the situation, senior wide receiver Treon Sibley caught the punt and returned it to the endzone, extending the lead even further.

Falling into an early 14-0 deficit, the Panthers continued their offensive struggles, getting forced into another punt on the following drive.

As Liberty was starting a new drive, junior defensive back CJ Christian intercepted a deep pass over the middle, forcing Salter’s first interception of the year.

Returning on offense, junior wide receiver Kris Mitchell started FIU’s drive with a 48-yard reception to bring the team to the redzone..

Capitalizing on the field position, Jenkins made a sneaky rush up the middle and scored a touchdown. 

After a missed PAT by junior kicker Chase Gabriel, the game’s score sat at 14-6.

Following the Panthers touchdown, both teams slowed down the scoring for most of the second quarter, with multiple defensive stops from each side.

Having a much easier time moving the ball downfield, Liberty scored the only touchdown of the second quarter with sophomore running back Billy Lucas finding the endzone on an 18-yard run.

Entering halftime, the Flames opened up a 24-6 lead following Lucas’ touchdown and a field goal from sophomore kicker Nick Brown.

Coming out of the half, Liberty started to run away with the game, as Salter would finish off two drives with rushing touchdowns to make the score 38-6 by the end of the third quarter. 

Having built such a substantial lead, the Flames were essentially able to run out the clock for the entire fourth quarter and cement the defeat in stone for the Panthers.

“We have improved, that shows us we’ve got a lot more to do” said FIU football head coach Mike MacIntyre after the 38-6 loss to Liberty. 

Staying focused on the long season ahead, he added “we have come a long way, but that proved to us we have a long way to go”.

Looking to bounce back, the FIU football team is heading on the road to face the New Mexico State Aggies on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Kickoff is set for 9:00 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium and the game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme

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