The FIU football team scored 17 first-quarter points and never looked back as the Panthers handled the North Texas Mean Green, 34-10, Saturday night in Denton, Texas. With the win, FIU moves to 2-4 on the season, but more importantly, 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference.
Facing the second-ranked defense in the conference, FIU racked up 479 yards of total offense, led by Wesley Carroll who threw for 288 yards and two scores. Greg Ellingson led all receivers with 80 yards on three catches, and he also scored once. T.Y. Hilton finished the game with four catches for 65 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the year. On the ground, the Panthers ran for 192 yards, paced by Darriet Perry’s 98.
Defensively the Panthers held North Texas to 285 yards, holding the Sun Belt’s leading rusher, UNT’s Lance Dunbar, to just 30 yards on the ground. Toronto Smith led all FIU defenders with nine tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss.
FIU got the ball to open the game and wasted little time taking the lead as Carroll connected with Ellingson for a 50-yard touchdown with 12:43 to go in the first quarter. FIU picked up a pair of first downs on the drive, before Carroll found Ellingson over the middle and the senior receiver out-ran the Mean Green defense for six.
North Texas responded with a 73-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, but the FIU defense held the Mean Green to a 38-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 with 11:26 to go in the first quarter.
Jack Griffin made the score 10-3 with 7:11 to go in the first quarter as he converted his fourth field goal of the season. On the drive FIU picked up three first downs, including a crucial one on third-and-18 when the Mean Green was flagged for roughing the passer.
North Texas’ ensuing drive ended abruptly when Jerrico Lee picked up his first-career sack to force a UNT punt from its own one-yard line. Hilton returned the punt 27 yards to the UNT 19, setting up the Panthers’ offense with great field position.
The FIU offense took full advantage of the field position, scoring a touchdown on a Wayne Times 10-yard run with 2:36 to go in the first quarter, making the score 17-3. Times’ score came out of the “Wild Panther” offense as he took the snap on third-and-goal and scored up the middle for his first-career rushing touchdown.
FIU made the score 24-3 with 13:45 to go in the first half when Carroll connected with Hilton for a 43-yard TD. The pass capped off a six-play, 83-yard drive.
After the Panthers defense forced another Mean Green punt, FIU added three more with 53 seconds to go in the first half to make the score 27-3. Griffin’s field goal was set up by a 46-yard reception by Times.
The second half began with both teams punting on their first two possessions. However, on UNT’s second punt, a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Mean Green a first down. UNT managed to drive down to the FIU six-yard line, but Kreg Brown forced a fumble that backed UNT up 10 yards and forced a field goal try. UNT’s attempt, however, sailed wide left to keep the score at 27-3.
The missed kick gave FIU the ball at their own 20, and the Panthers took the ball down the field 80 yards to go ahead 34-3 on a Kedrick Rhodes two-yard score with 3:47 to go in the third quarter. The touchdown was the first of the freshman’s career. FIU picked up four first-downs on the drive, including one on a 30-yard reception by Jonathan Faucher, the longest of his career.
A fake punt that went for 64 yards set up a first-and-goal for North Texas at the FIU nine. UNT running back Dunbar did the rest on the next play, scoring to make the score 37-10 with 10:24 to go. That, however, would be as close as the Mean Green would get as the FIU defense preserved the 37-10 victory.
With the win, North Texas falls to 1-6 on the season. FIU will now enjoy a bye week before getting back to Sun Belt play as they travel up the road to Ft. Lauderdale to face the Florida Atlantic Owls on Oct. 30.
Check out a slideshow of FIU football on the road: