FIU and Middle Tennessee played a great game on Saturday. Middle Tennessee won and has had a great season. FIU lost but showed everyone watching that they are a well-coached team. All information on paper seemed, as if Middle Tennessee was going to put up 50 or 60 on the Panthers. But as famous ESPN original Chris Berman has said, “That’s why we play the games.”
FIU loses a starter
FIU’s starter for the entire season, Grayson James had a thigh bruise injured a week ago and the injury hadn’t healed. At 2pm, Coach MacIntyre got the news and turned to Redshirt Freshman Haden Carlson to start the game as per an article on the SB Nation page, underdogdynasty.com. Read the article here. Obviously, one would say that the game plan had to be paired down, to expect the worse and look for “teaching points” with the young man. Carlson hadn’t seen any playing time at FIU since he was with the team in 2020.
The Blue Raiders were coming to FIU with a 3-3 record on the road and with quarterback/receiver combo Chase Cunningham and Jaylin Lane. Cunningham was ranked #3 in Conference USA quarterbacks with 19 TD’s and 9 INT’s. He had just under 3,000 yards passing and a completion percentage of 64.4. How could anyone think that FIU had a chance in this game? The game started looking like the obvious stats on paper.
Middle Tennessee comes out firing
The first two drives for the Blue Raiders were crisp. They controlled the ball and scored two field goals. One drive went 15 plays and 61 yards, the other drive went 11 plays and 72 yards. They were getting what they wanted on offense. The Panthers first two drives ended in interceptions by Carlson. He did have a big 21 yard run on the first drive, showing off his mobility. Then Middle Tennessee offense “kicked it up a notch” driving 89 yards in 12 plays for a Darius Bracy 1 yard touchdown.
It was 13-0. It got worse from here. Middle Tennessee scored another touchdown on a Chase Cunningham 16 yard run. 20-0 Blue Raiders. The Panthers took the ball on the next drive and young Carlson accounted for 7 passes for 93 yards and punched the ball in the end zone with a 6 yard pass to local player Rivaldo Fairweather. Coach MacIntyre decided to gamble right before the half and called an onside kick! FIU recovered and kicker Chase Gabriel missed a 57 yard field goal. More was to come, 20-7 Blue Raiders.
FIU’s comeback begins
Middle Tennessee took over after an FIU punt and drove down the field, 11 plays, 51 yards for a touchdown. Star quarterback Chase Cunningham got his 2nd touchdown of the night. 27-7 Blue Raiders. 1st and 10 at the FIU 25 yard line and Carlson threw a touchdown pass to Rivaldo Fairweather for 75 yards and the Panthers weren’t done!
The Panther defense answered by holding Middle Tennessee to a short drive. The Panthers took over at the Blue Raider 48 yard line and Carlson accounted for two chunk play passes of 20 and 21 yards to score another touchdown.
A 21 yard pass to Josiah Miamen. WAKE UP EVERYBODY, WE HAVE A GAME IN WESTCHESTER. 27-21! Blue Raiders. The teams trade punts and the Panther defense allowed the offense to rest. So, now the offense took the field at the start of the 4th quarter at their own 12.
Carlson runs 12 yards for a first down and gets two more chunk play passes of 29 and 25 yards to Dean Patterson to get in plus territory. Carlson connects with Rivaldo Fairweather for the third time and the comeback is complete! 28-27 Panthers!
FIU’s final drive
The teams traded punts and Middle Tennessee’s offense woke up, going nine plays to the FIU 26 and set up for a Field Goal. The Field goal was blocked by Jeramy Passmore! The stars began to align for the upset and a great season ending victory. FIU took over at their own 26 yard line. On third and 5 from their own 31, Carlson threw his third interception of the night and it was taken back for a touchdown with 2:50 on the clock.
The stadium must have felt hollow at that moment. But it wasn’t over. Carlson and the Panthers offense took the field one last time, with a touchdown able to give them a victory. Carlson completed a 27 yard pass to Dean Patterson to get the Panthers into plus territory. He drove the team down to the Blue Raider 32 yard line with momentum. Carlson converted a fourth and 10 with a 10 yard pass to Dean Patterson to get the Panthers down to the 22 yard line. 1:06 remaining in the game and FIU has a chance to win. Carlson threw his fourth interception of the game and the Blue Raiders held off FIU to win.
“Sometimes when you lose, you win.”
Middle Tennessee won the game and finished a successful season. They upset the University of Miami and will go to a bowl game. FIU lost the game but found out so much about the decision to hire Mike MacIntyre and the players they recruited. Rivaldo Fairweather had an unbelievable game. Gaethan Bernadel went over 100 total tackles on the season and Donovan Manuel finished with 97 tackles.
They led the defense that shut out Middle Tennessee in the second half. FIU goes into next season knowing that they will have a quarterback battle with two good quarterbacks in James and Carlson. They lost the game and finished the season 4-8, 2-6 in Conference USA. The team had to start a freshman at quarterback and he threw four interceptions including the game losing interception. He threw four touchdowns. Next season will be much different for FIU. They should be one of the teams that finished higher than preseason expectations. Read that article by Matthew Brown here.
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE