Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer
The FIU Football team snapped an eight-game losing streak against Conference USA opponents and claimed a 33-27 victory over the Sam Houston Bearkats on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas.
Prior to this matchup, the Panthers were coming off a 27-14 loss to UTEP on Wednesday, Oct. 11, and were in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
In that game, redshirt sophomore Kejon Owens led all rushers and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Despite his efforts, they gave up a 21-point lead in the first quarter which proved to be insurmountable.
However, after trailing 24-7 at halftime, FIU made a defensive stance in the second half of the game and only allowed the Miners to score three points.
Unable to translate their defensive momentum into offense, the Panthers were only able to score one touchdown in the second half and couldn’t rally for a comeback.
Losing the game 27-14, their record fell to 3-4 on the season and were in need of a win, as they were winless in the month of October.
Sam Houston came into the game bearing an 0-6 record and were coming off a 27-13 loss to the New Mexico State Aggies on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
That matchup saw the Bearkats give up a 27-0 lead in the first half of the game, as they allowed two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters.
Their offense was impacted by starting sophomore running back John Gentry’s absence and had no rushing touchdowns in the game. Making his return against FIU, he looked to add a new layer to his team’s offensive dynamic.
To open up the game, the Panthers’ started on offense and couldn’t gain more than one first down.
Attempting to keep the drive alive, sophomore running back Shomari Lawrence rushed the ball on third down but was stuffed for no gain. They ended their drive with a punt on fourth down and gave Sam Houston the ball at the 12-yard line.
Starting their drive from deep within their own territory, the Bearkats marched down the field until they reached FIU’s 33-yard line.
Returning the ball for 61-yards, the interception put FIU’s offense in prime position to score on Sam Houston’s nine-yard line.
Unsuccessful in their scoring attempts, the defense neutralized the Panthers’ momentum and pushed them to a fourth down with 11-yards remaining.
Set up for a field goal, they opted to run the ball with junior kicker Chase Gabriel, who was pushed out of bounds two-yards short of the endzone.
Turning the ball over on downs, the defense was prepared to take advantage of the field positioning, as the Bearkats offense started on their own two-yard line.
After starting the drive with an offsides penalty, FIU was able to force Sam Houston into a three-and-out and a punt.
Regaining possession, freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins led the offense in a mixed attack and pushed the ball down to the two-yard line.
Halting their offensive momentum, junior outside linebacker Issiah Nixon sacked Jenkins on second down, resulting in a four-yard loss.
Claiming a 3-0 lead entering the second quarter, the Panthers looked to continue executing their defensive game plan and finish off their offensive drives.
Trying to tie the game, the Bearkats went to kick a field goal but redshirt sophomore defensive back Brian Blades timed up the snap and blocked the kick, maintaining the lead.
Translating their momentum into offense, they drove the ball into enemy territory and reached the 24-yard line.
Taking the ball the distance of the field, Lawrence ran the ball on three consecutive plays and finished off the drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown.
Falling into an early 10-0 deficit, Sam Houston needed to respond before the game grew out of reach.
Answering back, Shoemaker led a 77-yard drive and attacked with both his running and passing. Riding his offensive takeover, the drive ended with a ten yard passing touchdown to junior tight end Elijah Sohn.
Cutting the lead to 10-7 after a successful field goal, they looked to continue their high intensity play on defense.
Able to force FIU to punt on their next drive, the Bearkats were able to get the ball back before halftime.
With less than two minutes remaining in the half, they drove the ball 47-yards and redshirt sophomore kicker Colby Sessums tied the game with a 30-yard field goal.
Standing at a 10-10 stalemate entering halftime, the second half was much more drawn out.
The Panthers’ first offensive drive of the half lasted eight minutes and three seconds and was their longest possession of the season.
Owens closed the drive with a 13-yard rushing touchdown, giving his team a 17-10 lead that lasted until the fourth quarter.
Unwilling to let up, Sam Houston responded with a long drive of their own, ending with a touchdown of their own.
On third down, Shoemaker made a 20-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Noah Smith in the endzone, tying the game at 17-17.
Neither team was able to score for a majority of the fourth quarter until Jenkins fumbled the ball at FIU’s 18-yard line.
Starting their offense close to the endzone, the Bearkats couldn’t gain more than two yards and kicked a field goal.
Sessums’ kick found its target and gave them a 20-17 lead with less than a minute and a half remaining in the game.
Redeeming his previous mistake, Jenkins converted on multiple big plays on the final drive of regulation and put the offense in position for a field goal.
Gabriel nailed a 36-yard attempt and tied the game at 20-20 with five seconds remaining, forcing overtime.
Not wasting any time, Sam Houston started overtime with Smith scoring a rushing touchdown on their first play.
Instantaneously stealing a 27-20 lead, the Panthers needed to score in order to stay alive in the game.
Despite taking five more plays, they were able to fight back, as Jenkins rushed into the endzone for a touchdown.
Evening up the score at 27-27 Jenkins scored a rushing touchdown in his fifth consecutive game.
Reaching double-overtime, FIU started on offense and threw a deep pass to redshirt junior Kris Mitchell on the first play, resulting in a touchdown.
Scoring in back-to-back drives, they stole a 33-27 lead and after a failed two-point conversion.
Holding out defensively, senior defensive lineman Jack Daly secured the game winning sack on the Bearkats final play.
Showing their resilience and conditioning, the Panthers took a 33-27 double-overtime win over Sam Houston and snapped their eight-game CUSA losing streak.
Boosting their record to 4-4 this season, the FIU football team travels back home to face the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, in Miami, Florida.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at FIU Stadium and the game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.
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