James Morgan passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and Napoleon Maxwell ran for 102 yards and two scores — including a 52-yarder midway through the fourth quarter — to help Florida International hold off Charlotte 42-35 on Saturday.
The Golden Panthers (8-3, 6-1 Conference USA) sit in the driver's seat with a berth in the C-USA championship game at stake. FIU needs only a win over third-place Marshall in the final regular-season game to reach the title game against UAB. Despite the fact that both the Golden Panthers and Middle Tennessee have 6-1 records in the East Division, the Panthers would advance by virtue of their 24-21 win over the Blue Raiders on Oct. 13.
FIU led by six when Morgan connected with Anthony Jones for a 3-yard score and hit Tony Gaiter IV for the 2-point conversion and a 35-21 lead just four seconds into the final quarter. The 49ers (4-7, 3-4) pulled within 35-28 on Benny LeMay's 6-yard TD run, but Maxwell pushed the Golden Panthers' lead back to 14 points with his long scoring run at the 7:04 mark. Wide receiver Chris Phillips capped the scoring for Charlotte with a 12-yard TD toss to quarterback Hasaan Klugh to get the 49ers within seven. The 49ers forced a three-and-out, but Dorian Hall picked off Klugh with eight seconds left to preserve the win for FIU.
LeMay finished with 159 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns for the 49ers. Klugh completed 16 of 22 passes for 253 yards and a score.