Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quick Start not enough as FIU Football Falls to Pitt, 42-25

The FIU football team (1-2) fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers, 42-25, Saturday afternoon. The Panthers started the game with 16-straight points, while holding Pittsburgh scoreless for the first quarter.

Freshman quarterback Alex McGough threw for 224 yards (15-of-30), with two touchdowns and an additional rushing touchdown. Redshirt senior Glenn Coleman (76 yards) and junior T.J. Lowder (73 yards) paced the Panthers' offense, while sophomore Jonnu Smith added 62 yards in the effort.

Building of its success from its first two games, the FIU defense gave Pittsburgh a challenge in the first half. On the game's opening play, junior Michael Wakefield sacked Pittsburgh's Chad Voytik for a loss of seven yards. The Panthers were able to force Pittsburgh to go three-and-out twice in the first 15 minutes.

With Pittsburgh slowly chipping away yardage on it second drive, redshirt freshman Jordan Guest came up with a big-time stop, stripping Pittsburgh's James Conner of the ball on Pittsburg's 9-yard line.

On the ensuing drive, freshman running back Alex Gardner nearly broke free on a 15-yard rush before being taken down.

FIU broke a scoreless game with 3:56 to go in the first quarter, tacking on 16 unanswered points. On Pittsburgh's opening play from its 8-yard line, the Panthers' defense called a blitz, with Jeremiah McKinnon taking down Voytik for two points.

The Panthers went on to score two touchdowns on back-to-back drives to close the first quarter. McGough, who got the start under center, connected with Lowder for 33 yards, pinning FIU at Pittsburgh's 3-yard line. A three-yard quarterback draw by McGough gave the Panthers a 9-0 lead. It's the first career rushing touchdown for the Tampa, Fla., native.

The FIU defense forced Pittsburgh to go three-and-out a second time with 1:40 to-go, before McGough threw a deep ball to Coleman for 57-yards for an untouched touchdown. It also stands as the longest pass of McGough's career. With Pittsburgh within FIU's 10-yard line, redshirt junior Richard Leonard forced and recovered a fumble.

Pittsburgh was able to respond with 14 points and was heading towards the end zone with one minute on the clock before sophomore Wilkerson Myrtil picked off Voytik to stop a key drive. FIU entered halftime with a 16-14 edge over Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh opened the second half with 12-straight points, giving the Panthers a 26-16 edge over FIU to start the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback E.J. Hilliard drove the Panthers 43 yards on nine plays to open the fourth quarter. The Miami native rushed for 19 yards during the series, including a 16-yard run. Sophomore Austin Taylor converted a 43-yard field goal, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 26-19. It's a season long for the kicker out of Punta Gorda, Fla.

Senior Giovani Francois came up with a key sack on third down, forcing a Pittsburgh punt with under 10 minutes remaining in the game. It's the first sack of the season for the defensive end.

McGough carried the Panthers 71 yards with the fourth quarter approaching three minutes. A 12-yard route to Smith resulted in the Panthers' third touchdown of the day. After a failed two-point conversion, Pittsburgh led, 35-25.

Pittsburgh capped off its day with one final touchdown.

FIU's defense sacked Voytik three times, while three Panthers finished with at least five solo tackles (Leonard, 8; McKinnon 6;Lars Koht, 5).

The Panthers host Louisville on Saturday, Sept. 20. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. from Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium.

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