The football team (8-4, 6-2 in Conference USA) will face the University of Toledo Rockets on Dec. 21 in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. For those who can’t make it to the game, there will be watch parties at the Hard Rock Cafe Miami and GC Ballrooms. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. Here are three reasons you won’t want to miss it.
1. A familiar foe
Toledo (7-5, 5-3 in Mid-American Conference) has a storied football program. Founded in 1917, the Rockets have seen 11 conference championships, 17 bowl games and nine appearances in the Top 25.
The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl will be the Rockets’ fourth all-time meeting with FIU. Their most recent matchup stands out above the rest: the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, Michigan.
In the Panthers’ first bowl game, they fell behind the Rockets at halftime, 21-7; however, an 89-yard touchdown return by T.Y. Hilton ignited the FIU offense in the third quarter.
With 50 seconds remaining and the Rockets in the lead, 32-31, the game came down to the FIU offense. They faced a precarious situation: fourth down on their own 41-yard line, with 17 yards to gain for a fresh set of downs. That’s when “The Motor City Miracle” happened.
Quarterback Wesley Caroll threw a short pass to receiver Jacob Younger. He snagged the ball just inches from the ground and lateraled it back to Hilton, who was cutting across the field behind him. Hilton beat Toledo’s defenders in a race to the sideline and tiptoed his way to a first down.
The Panthers’ sustained the drive all the way to Toledo’s 17-yard line and kicked a field goal to win it.
Read and watch: The Motor City Miracle lifts FIU over Toledo
2. James Morgan’s revenge
While the Rockets try to even their bowl record with FIU, a Panther — junior quarterback James Morgan — has his own score to settle with Toledo.
Morgan completed his undergraduate degree at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. BGSU and Toledo, both Mid-American Conference teams, play an annual rivalry game. The universities are separated by just 25 miles on Interstate 75.
FIU’s signal caller started in the 2016 edition of the matchup, throwing for five touchdowns and one interception; however, Toledo rallied past his Falcons with a last-minute touchdown.
Morgan is having a career year as a graduate transfer. He established a new FIU single-season touchdown record (26) and leads C-USA in passing yards per attempt (8.4) and passer rating efficiency (157.6). He will look to continue his great season against his old foe in the Bahamas.
3. Prepared to make history
The football team is on the cusp of winning nine games—their most ever in a season.
FIU had the same opportunity going into the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl last year, but was stunned when former quarterback Alex McGough was forced to leave the game in the first quarter with a collarbone injury. His backup, Maurice Alexander, could not advance FIU’s offense (he ended up successfully transitioning to wide receiver in 2018). Temple beat FIU, 28-3.
To avoid a similar predicament this year, head coach Butch Davis has made a point of having two game-ready quarterbacks. He held a competition between Morgan and junior Christian Alexander for the starting job in training camp that lasted well into the regular season.
Although Morgan eventually won out, Alexander is prepared to play, too. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 218 yards and added a pair of rushing touchdowns in nine games this season.