MIAMI – James Morgan threw a pair of touchdown passes, and FIU pulled off easily the most significant win in its program’s history by stunning crosstown rival Miami 30-24 on Saturday night.
The Panthers were 20-point underdogs, were 0-3 all-time against Miami and were playing this game on the former site of the Orange Bowl stadium -- the place where the Hurricanes once won 58 consecutive games and claimed three of their five national championships.
But just like Miami’s last game on those grounds, a 48-0 defeat to Virginia in 2007, this one will be remembered as a disaster for the Hurricanes. Quarterback Jarren Williams was intercepted three times, running back Deejay Dallas departed early in the second half with what appeared to be a grotesque elbow injury -- and worst of all, the Hurricanes lost to a program that doesn’t match up in countless ways.
On the grass of Marlins Park, none of that mattered. FIU took the lead early, and never wavered. Miami got within 23-17 with 3:10 left on a 35-yard pass from Williams to Mark Pope. But FIU’s Anthony Jones -- who ran for a game-high 112 yards -- sealed the win with a 37-yard touchdown run with 2:17 remaining.
Williams connected with Dee Wiggins for a 3-yard scoring pass with 31 seconds left. But FIU recovered the ensuing onside kick, ran out the clock and began celebrating.
Jose Borregales kicked three field goals -- including ones from 50 and a school-record-tying 53 yards -- for the Panthers (6-5), who are bowl eligible with the win. Shemar Thornton and Tony Gaiter IV caught touchdown passes for the Panthers.
Cam’ron Harris rushed for 83 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown for Miami (6-5), which came into the weekend with hopes of possibly getting into the Orange Bowl. Those chances were doomed by FIU and former Miami coach Butch Davis, who improved to 4-2 all-time against the Hurricanes.
The Panthers were brash -- 14 penalties for 144 yards -- and not intimidated. They also weren’t afraid to manipulate the rules a bit, with no fewer than five instances of players going down with what appeared to be injuries that just happened to come at times where slowing down Miami would be advantageous. The first two of those came in the second quarter with Miami going for it on fourth downs, and the Hurricanes came up empty on both including a fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Faked FIU injuries or no, Miami simply couldn’t stop hurting itself at big times.
Williams was just 19 of 36 for 249 yards, a game after he set a Miami record with six touchdown passes against Louisville. When it seemed like Miami could get some momentum late in the third, a snap never got to Williams -- it hit receiver Mike Harley, who was in motion, instead and went down as a loss of 2 yards. That drive stalled, and on the ensuing FIU possession the Hurricanes were hit with 30 yards of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play.
FIU wound up getting a touchdown on that drive, with Morgan finding a wide-open Gaiter for what was then a 23-3 lead.