After a few nights of lopsided bowl results, college football fans were treated to an entertaining ending Friday afternoon in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl as FIU (9-4) held off Toledo (7-6) for a 35-32 victory. The win was FIU’s first bowl victory since 2010 and FIU head coach Butch Davis picked up his first bowl victory as a head coach since 2010 with North Carolina.
FIU essentially slammed the door shut on Toledo with a smart decision to go for a fourth down conversion with six yards to play and about 2:45 remaining in the game. With Toledo out of timeouts and the winds making for a difficult long field goal attempt, Davis took a shot his quarterback, Christian Alexander could find a receiver to move the sticks. A video replay would have to uphold a first down catch by Tony Gaiter IV to allow FIU to keep the offense on the field and run the clock by keeping the ball on the ground. FIU’s Anthony Jones would break loose up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run on a third-and-one to put the Panthers up 10 points in the final minute. Toledo needed to allow the score to get the football back, although they would be unable to make a late miracle rally.
Toledo quarterback Eli Peters struggled with his completion percentage but ended his day with 264 passing yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the losing effort. Peters also rushed for a team-high 43 yards to lead the offensive effort. But Toledo had just two third-down conversions out of 11 attempts and the defense could not slow down FIU when they needed to the most.
FIU finished the season with a record of 9-4, the best in program history. Davis wasted no time in turning things around for the program by winning eight games last year and topping that with nine wins and a bowl victory this season. FIU may have fallen shy of playing for the Conference USA championship this season, but the Golden Panthers appear to have found some credibility and stability in a short turnaround. Next season, the bar will be raised for the program as expectations will be raised.
FIU’s win moves Conference USA to 3-2 this bowl season, including a record of 2-0 against the MAC. The MAC is just 1-3 this bowl season, with Ohio scoring the only win in the Frisco Bowl Wednesday night.
FIU will open the 2019 season on the road against Tulane on Aug. 31, 2019. Toledo will open their 2019 campaign the same day with a road game at Kentucky.
WHO: Temple (6-6) vs. FIU (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Tropicana Field, Saint Petersburg, FL
THE SKINNY: A year after finishing the regular season with a conference championship, the 2017 season was much different for the Temple Owls. First-year head coach Geoff Collins had some bumpy first tests after taking over the program, but the Owls seemed to find an offensive identity that could work in the final weeks of the season.
Junior quarterback Frank Nutile finished the season on a high note and made the case to keep the starting job in 2018 with 11 touchdowns in the final five games of the season. Nutile’s late surge in the offense provided some stability for the offense and helped to open up the game a bit for the Owls, but the running game remains the key to the Owls offense. Ryquell Armstead and David Hood have split the carries for share of the carries to a balanced effect, and that should continue against the Panthers.
Lost in the attention given to Lane Kiffin turning FAU around is the job done by Butch Davis at FIU. Perhaps even more impressive than the job done by Kiffin this season, Davis returned to the sideline and quickly built an eight-win team with FIU. The offense exploded in the final weeks of the season with 41 points against Western Kentucky and 63 against UMass. If FIU brings that type of firepower into the bowl matchup, Temple could have trouble keeping up the pace.
Davis is no stranger to coaching against Temple, although this is not the same Temple program Davis faced while coaching the Miami Hurricanes in the old Big East. The playing field is much more even now for Temple and Davis.
THE PICK: Temple 31, FIU 27
Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Butch Davis has interest in coming home. With Miami firing Al Golden as head coach Sunday evening, Davis has jumped in line to be a candidate for the job.
In a radio interview Monday morning on 790 The Ticket in Miami, Davis said he would like to be considered for the job. Davis certainly has Miami roots, but he also has a bit of a checkered past from his time after leaving Miami.
Davis took over the job of head coach at Miami in 1995 after Dennis Erickson took a job with the Seattle Seahawks after turning down offers to coach the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. Davis had previously been an assistant coach at Miami under former Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson. Davis joined Johnson in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and stayed in Dallas from 1989 through 1994. Davis was a perfect fit for Miami in 1995, but it would take a few years to get Miami to resemble a national power worthy of national title aspirations. Davis left Miami following his only double-digit win season with the program (2000), and Larry Coker finished the national title mission a year later as Davis was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Davis lasted three seasons in Cleveland, being forced to resign after a 3-8 start in 2004.
After a few years off, Davis returned to the sidelines as the head coach at North Carolina. After three consecutive 8-5 seasons in Chapel Hill, Davis was fired by the university amid allegations of academic misconduct and improper benefits to players under the watch of Davis.
There is probably a pretty good chance Davis would receive a warmer welcome to the Miami family from former Miami players. Many players were vocal about their displeasure over the hiring of Golden years ago because he was not perceived to be a Miami guy (Golden played for Joe Paterno at Penn State, making him about as much of an opposite of a Miami guy as there could be), and many have celebrated the firing of Golden in the past 24 hours. Davis being a former assistant during Miami’s prime and one who came back to build a championship-caliber team would seem to be enough to receive a warm welcome from the Miami family.