Football faces off with Middle Tennessee in their first of final three games

Junior quarterback Grayson James throwing the ball against UAB. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer

The FIU football team looks to find their footing heading into their final three games of the season and is taking on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Holding a 4-5 record this season, the Panthers are coming off a 41-16 loss to the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Oct. 25, 2023. 

In that game they struggled to find early offense, as their first possession ended with a sack and a three-and-out.

Vs. JSU:

Senior quarterback Zion Webb wasted no time and marched JSU’s offense down the field in their first drive. Scoring immediately, he capped off their possession with a 13-yard touchdown run and gave them an early 7-0 lead.

FIU’s next drive also ended quickly with a three-and-out, as junior bandit Jaylen Swain sacked freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins on third down. 

Back on offense, the Gamecocks only needed five plays to score on their subsequent drive. 

Junior running back Ron Wiggins found the endzone on a 22-yard rush and extended their lead to 14-0.

Struggling throughout the first quarter, the Panthers would eventually give up a 21 point lead before the start of the second and needed to score in order to stay within reach. 

Scoring for the first time in the second quarter, junior kicker Chase Gabriel converted on a 50-yard field goal to make it to cut the deficit down to 21-3. 

Attempting to fight back into the game, their defense held out for the majority of the second quarter, as they only allowed a JSU to score on a field goal.

Looking for a spark on offense, FIU substituted Jenkins for junior quarterback Grayson James after halftime. 

On his first play, James completed a nine-yard pass to junior wide receiver Kris Mitchell, who fumbled the ball and lost it.

Able to prevent a score on the fumble, the defense managed to stop the Gamecocks’ offense despite being close to the endzone. Their drive ended in a field goal and pushed the lead to 27-3.

In need of points, James connected with Mitchell on a 60-yard pass, putting them in scoring distance. James finished off the drive and rushed for a one-yard touchdown. 

Trying to score as much as they could, the Panthers opted for a two-point conversion and failed, putting the score at 27-9.

Making a defensive stance, they stopped the Gamecocks on their next drive and gave themselves another chance on offense. 

Remaining composed, James led a methodical drive downfield that ended in a touchdown. He connected on an eight-yard pass to Mitchell, who caught it with one hand, bringing the score to 27-16.

However, FIU couldn’t maintain their offensive momentum and failed to score for the remainder of the game. They allowed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and took a 41-16 loss to JSU.

Hoping to find some of their consistency from earlier in the season, they go on the road to face the MTSU Blue Raiders. 


Entering the matchup, MTSU holds a 2-7 record after falling to the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Despite coming within reach of victory at the end of the game, too many missed offensive opportunities spoiled a stout defensive performance and gave them a 13-7 loss.

Increasing their defensive pressure, they recorded two tackles for loss in the second half of the game. 

The Blue Raiders have struggled on the defensive side all season, and have allowed over 30 points per game. Their defensive performance last week was one of their lowest scoring games in terms of points allowed.

FIU football’s defensive statistics vs. MTSU’s defensive statistics this season. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics. Graphic design by Will Duval | PantherNOW.

Sophomore quarterback Nicholas Vattiato leads their offense with 16 touchdowns and over 2300 passing yards this season. While scoring at a high rate, he has thrown nine interceptions and averages one per game. 

If FIU wants to leave this game with an even record, they must capitalize on turnovers, as well as converting on the crucial downs. MTSU committed multiple turnovers in six of their seven losses and lost the turnover battle in each of those games.

Looking to get back on track, the FIU football team is facing off with the MTSU Blue Raiders on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Floyd Stadium and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.


FIU: 27

MTSU: 24

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme

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