By: Jonathan Mayer | Assistant Sports Director
It has been a combined 2,447 days since the FIU football team won a road game and beat an FBS opponent, but on Saturday night those streaks came to a halt as the Panthers beat New Mexico State 21-7.
“I just love these young men. They keep working, they keep fighting and they keep showing grit,” FIU head coach Mike MacIntyre expressed to the media postgame.
“All of the things that we had to face this week – the hurricane, having to practice at the Dolphin’s and Hurricane’s facilities, the stomach bug that cost us some guys, having guys banged up – they blocked out all of the noise and kept the trust.”
FIU (2-2) started out slow on their first drive as the Panthers went three-and-out, with two sacks on quarterback Grayson James. Yet, the Panther’s defense set the tone for the rest of the game by shutting down the Aggies.
After the Panthers stalled New Mexico State (1-5) on their first drive, the Blue and Gold’s offense found success as they embarked on a 12-play, 89-yd drive, capped off by a 6-yd touchdown reception from wide receiver Tyrese Chambers.
The Aggies tied up the game following a 75-yd drive early in the second quarter on a touchdown run from running back Star Thomas.
Following this point the energy shifted in FIU’s direction.
On back-to-back drives in the second, FIU strung together 14 points, including a 25-yd touchdown pass from James to receiver Jalen Bracy, his first collegiate touchdown reception. Running back Lexington Joseph caught a 60-yard swing pass and took it all the way for his second touchdown of the season. The two scores were enough to get the victory on Saturday night.
“We have been working on that play a lot,” Joseph said postgame. “It all starts with trust, I got to trust my receivers and tight ends to make the block, they made a great block, and I kept going.”
Grayson James finished with 175 passing ya, good for 13 completions and three passing touchdowns.
James led the team in rushes with 18 attempts, playing a part in the successful Panthers ground game, totaling 182 rushing yards.
“That was something in the game plan and we’ll do whatever we can to help the team win,” James said. “Obviously if that’s me running the ball I am going to do that, and it worked a lot for us.”
Defensively it was a major turnaround. After giving up 112 points in the past two contests, including 73 last week against Western Kentucky, the Panthers held the Aggies to 221 total offensive yards, including 89-yards on the ground.
MacIntyre was extremely pleased with the game plan defensive coordinator Jovan Dewitt provided.
“To hold any FBS team to seven points is incredibly hard and I’m really proud of the way our defense responded,” MacIntyre said.
Defensive back Demetrius Hill lead the way with seven tackles including a break-up pass. Linebacker Gaethan Bernadel was solid, collecting six tackles and a tackle for loss. Hill and Berandel stand as the top tacklers this season through four games.
Heading back home for the first time in a month for homecoming, MacIntyre is thrilled with the patience his team has and the overall character they have shown.
“We tried not to let our players blink and I try to not let our coaches blink,” MacIntyre said. “We just got to keep focus, keep going because I see it coming and we still got a long way to go.”
Next up, the Panthers will wrap up their non-conference slate of the season with a matchup against the University of Connecticut Huskies for their annual homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 8th at FIU Football Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7 PM and can be streamed on ESPN3