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.