Football travels to Arkansas for final road game of the season

Junior kicker Chase Gabriel celebrating a field goal with his teammate. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Jaymz Cosme | Staff Writer

The FIU football team looks to emerge victorious in their final road game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Holding a 4-6 record, the Panthers took a 40-6 to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in their most recent game on Saturday, Nov. 11. Unable to find a consistent source of offense, they didn’t score a touchdown over the entire game.

Vs. MTSU:

Facing an early setback, FIU allowed a substantial lead and was unable to mount a comeback, ultimately falling at the hands of MTSU. After allowing 17 unanswered points in the first quarter, by halftime, the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 31-6 lead. 

Starting off their scoring with a 24-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Nick Vattiato to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Elijah Metcalf, the Blue Raiders claimed a 7-0 lead just over five minutes into the game. 

On their subsequent drive, junior kicker Zeke Rankin connected on a 29-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.

FIU’s next drive ended in a turnover after senior defensive tackle Jorden Starling sacked freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins and forced a fumble. It was recovered by junior defensive end Richard Kinley II and returned for a 23-yard touchdown, pushing the score to 17-0.

Scoring their first points of the game, junior kicker Chase Gabriel connected on a 42-yard field goal to cap off a 52-yard drive and reduced the deficit to 17-3. 

However, MTSU continued to dominate, with Vattiato’s second touchdown pass and a 72-yard catch-and-run by senior wide receiver DJ England Chisolm, bringing the score to 31-3 just before halftime.

Attempting to chip away at the lead, the Panthers connected on another field goal, pushing the score to 31-6. 

Held scoreless in the second half, all of their efforts would be hindered, as their first drive ended in a failed fourth-down conversion and a safety. With 12:38 remaining in the third, Jenkins recovered a fumble in FIU’s end zone and gave up a 33-6 lead.

Vattiato sealed the victory with a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jeremy Tate Jr., and scored the final points of the game with ten minutes remaining.

Taking a 40-6 loss, the Panthers accumulated a comparable amount of passing yards in the game but couldn’t find the end zone. Despite running 12 more plays on offense, they finished with 230 passing yards and no touchdowns.

Displaying their offensive prowess, ten players caught at least one pass for MTSU, which helped them accumulate 427 total offensive yards in the game. 

Vattiato played a pivotal role in the victory, as he completed 18 of his 25 passes, resulting in 275 yards and four touchdowns. His first three touchdowns all came in the first half and were each thrown to a different receiver. 

In comparison, freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins finished 22 of his 35 passes and amassed 226 passing yards, but faced four sacks in the loss.

Defensively, the Panthers were led by junior linebacker Reggie Peterson, who recorded a game-high 13 tackles, marking a career-best in tackles.

Looking to rebound from a blowout loss, FIU is taking on the Arkansas Razorbacks in their next game for their final road game of the season.

Vs. Arkansas:

Arkansas enters the matchup with an overall record of 3-7, holding a 1-6 mark in Southeastern Conference play. Over their last six games, they suffered five losses, with their sole victory coming in a 39-36 overtime win over the Florida Gators on Nov. 4. 

Despite a recent 48-10 home defeat to the Auburn Tigers, multiple losses came in closely contested games. 

Against the previously ranked No. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide, they took a 24-21 loss, only losing by the margin of a field goal. They also took a 27-20 loss to the formerly No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels, coming within one touchdown of tying the game. 

For the upcoming game against, they will be playing their second consecutive home contest and sixth overall. On their home turf, they hold a 2-3 record with wins over the Western Carolina Catamounts and Kent State Golden Eagles. 

Offensively, the Razorbacks average 318.3 total yards and 26.1 points per game over their first ten games. The team’s offensive strategy has been balanced, with an average of 12.8 rushing yards and 196.5 passing yards per contest.

FIU’s red zone offense compared to Arkansas’ red zone offense. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics. Graphic design by Will Duval | PantherNOW.

On the defensive side of the ball, they allow opponents an average of 357.5 yards and 26.7 points per game. Proving to be a high scoring defense, they have scored four defensive touchdowns this season, which is the second most in the NCAA Division I.

If the Panthers wish to emerge victorious, success hinges on efficient execution in both offensive and defensive red zone situations.They must capitalize on scoring opportunities and convert consistently when in the red zone. 

Heading into their final away game, the FIU football team is traveling to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.

Follow Jaymz Cosme on X: @JaymzCosme

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