If you are a fan of the FIU Panthers football team, it’s quite possible that you don’t remember anything from the 2019 season other than what took place inside of Marlins Park on the second to last Saturday in November - the day when the Panthers made themselves truly visable when it comes to the sport in Miami-Dade County.
Indeed, the 30-24 victory over crosstown rival Miami was the moment that those in blue and gold are going to remember for seasons to come. It may also be the moment that helped save head coach Butch Davis’ job after his first losing season in his three years at the school.
An overtime loss to Marshall and a bowl game setback to Arkansas State didn’t just give the Panthers a 6-7 record on the season – it also left plenty of questions for a 2020 team that will be looking to get to their fourth straight bowl game without some of the main components of the last three trips.
The most important components? A quarterback who was the major force for the team that last two seasons who is now looking to make a NFL roster after getting drafted along with a defense that saw one star get picked into the pros.
Davis made his name turning around the Hurricanes in the 1990s – can he do it again and make FIU a household name? Here’s a preview of the upcoming season.
2019 Season Recap
FIU started off with two losses to begin last season before getting victories in four of their next five games. Of course, the honeymoon ended quickly with blowout losses to Middle Tennessee State and rival FAU before the historic win over the ‘Canes. However, two lackluster performances gave Davis his third losing season on the field in 13 years as a college football coach.
Best Returning Player
With the Panthers losing both their starting quarterback and starting running back from last season, much of the offense at the start of the season will rely on wide receiver Shemar Thornton. The senior from Hallandale finished 2019 with 668 yards in the air and had five touchdowns, including the first of the game in the win over the Hurricanes.
Most Intriguing Newcomer
Thornton’s spot as the top receiver could quickly go in another direction with transfer receiver JJ Holloman in the picture. The Georgia native sat out last season after transferring from the Bulldogs, where he started five games in 2018 and was one of the top receivers on a team that had just played for the national title – so Conference USA play won’t be a problem for this Peach State native.
Is FIU in for a big letdown season? There is no question that the 2019 campaign did not end the way Davis and company wanted. Losing players like James Morgan, Anthony Morgan and Stanley Thomas-Oliver are not going to make anything easier when the season starts on September 26th. If FIU starts slow, there may not be a chance for a mid and late season bounce back.
Most Important Game
October 30th vs. Marshall: FIU has already lost four games to the school delaying the season and two teams saying they aren’t playing football in 2020. So, the Panthers have just eight games to make a statement. The second half of the season is going to be the tougher part, so getting a win over a team they went to overtime with last season might be one of their final chances to get a victory.