/r/CFB Reports: FIU claws back from deficit, wins 38–37 in OT over Bryant

FIU kicked off a new era Thursday night: new head coach, new uniforms, new culture. Whether this new era will lead to success remains to be seen, but for now, Panther fans are celebrating their first win in a very long time.

FIU (1–0) edged by Bryant (0–1) 38–37 in OT, the team’s first win in 364 days (September 2, 2021 vs. Long Island). The Bulldogs were the dominant team throughout most of the affair and appeared destined to win the game on multiple occasions. However, the Panthers showed just enough resilience to keep in the game and ultimately prevail at the end.

The game was fairly lackluster for the first three quarters: 22 combined points, six punts, two fumble turnovers, two turnovers on downs. But Bryant held a 16–6 advantage that was seemingly insurmountable given FIU’s performance on offense to that point. FIU’s troubles on offense were compounded when graduate starting QB Gunnar Holmberg (transfer from Duke) left the game in the 3rd quarter after taking a hit to the head from Bryant junior DE Chris Eaton Jr. Eaton Jr. was ejected for targeting, but Holmberg remained out for the rest of the game, being replaced by sophomore Grayson James. FIU’s new head coach Mike MacIntyre confirmed after the game that Holmberg had a concussion.

The game’s pace picked up in the 4th, though, as FIU scored 14 unanswered points to take a 20–16 lead with 9:25 remaining. The teams then scored three touchdowns (two for Bryant, one for FIU) in just under six minutes, resulting in a 30–27 Bryant lead with 43 seconds remaining. 

On the ensuing drive, FIU had to convert a 4th and 10 from their 25 yard line with 23 seconds remaining. They were bailed out by another Bryant targeting foul that kept the drive alive. FIU continued to move down the field, with the drive capped off by a game-tying 29-yard field goal as time expired.

In overtime, FIU won the coin toss and elected to defend first. Bryant scored on their first play via a 25-yard pass from sophomore QB Zevi Eckhaus to senior WR Anthony Frederick to make the score 37–30. FIU came perilously close to a 4th and 11 on their first set of downs, but a Bryant pass interference once again kept FIU going. The Panthers eventually scored on a pass from James to senior star WR Tyrese Chambers. MacIntyre then made a surprise call and elected to go for a two-point conversion. The call ended up working out as Grayson connected with sophomore WR EJ Wilson Jr. for the game-winning score.
Both teams ended up with certain players setting themselves apart with their performance. On offense for Bryant, their two-QB system of Eckhaus and graduate Gage Moloney went a combined 29–40 for 349 yards, while senior RB Ishad Byarm led the way for the running game with 48 yards on 19 attempts. Senior LB Ryan Saddler was the team’s workhorse on defense, getting 10 tackles (3 solo), two tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and one QB hurry. 

For FIU, James stepped into a tough situation mid-game but put up 207 yards on 16–31 passing, and the receiving corps was led by Chambers (8 receptions for 86 yards) and redshirt sophomore WR Kris Mitchell (3 receptions for 80 yards). Defensively, FIU had several key contributors, but sophomore DB Jamal Potts stood out with 7 tackles (5 solo), one tackle for loss, two pass breakups, and a QB hurry.

Ultimately a win is a win, especially for a team that has experienced so little in the past two seasons: FIU is now 2–18 since their upset win over Miami (FL) on November 23, 2019, and those two wins have been over FCS opponents.

But for a team seeking to move past its losing woes, a one-point win over an FCS team raises more than a few questions. The loss of Holmberg for an undetermined amount of time adds to the uncertainty for the Panthers.

Although the team ended the evening on a high note, the day’s events did begin on a somber note as the team honored Luke Knox prior to the game. Knox, who transferred from Ole Miss prior to the season, died two weeks ago. There was a moment of silence, and team captains Chambers and junior LB Donovan Manual carried out Knox’s jersey as they walked onto the field. The team also wore #16 memorial stickers (Knox’s number) on their helmet.

Next Up

FIU’s next matchup is next Saturday where they head to San Marcos, TX to face Texas State. The game kicks off at 7 PM Eastern and will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Bryant’s next matchup is also next Saturday for their home opener against Rhode Island. The game starts at 6 PM Eastern and will also be broadcast on ESPN+.