The FIU football team’s recent away-game victory has pushed anticipation of a Homecoming win this weekend to a new high.
The Panthers gave the local crowd something to roar about early in the season when they clinched their opener in a dramatic overtime finish on Sept. 1 at FIU Stadium. Looking for most of the night to be headed toward a dismal result, they fought valiantly to reward spectators with a storybook ending to the first game under new coach Mike MacIntyre.
In the weeks that followed, however, they suffered a pair of losses on the road, including a drubbing of biblical proportions. And while the big defeats might have crushed a lesser squad, underdog FIU showed its resilience by bouncing back, improbably, to beat New Mexico State last week on the opponent’s turf. Now heading toward a couple of back-to-back matchups on home soil, the team has a solid 2-2 record going into mid-season.
Players found the mental fortitude to overcome the losing streak, they say, on the strength of the mutual respect between themselves and MacIntyre – something the head coach himself addressed after the recent triumph.
“I told these guys that I love them and I thank them for trusting in us as a coaching staff and trusting in each other as players,” MacIntyre said. “[The previous week’s] loss was a game where these players could have looked at us and decided that they don’t trust what we’re doing or they don’t trust what each other is doing, but they kept the faith, and it showed tonight.”
Defensive starter Jeramy Passmore, who with Keegan Davis combined for 11 tackles in the win against New Mexico State, said that Coach helped everyone look beyond disappointment. “After the tough loss we had to [Western Kentucky University] on the road, the first thing he said when he came into the meeting room was, ‘You know what the good thing about today is? It’s a new week.’ You know, all the guys really bought into that, saying it’s a new week and a new day, a time to just look forward and focus on our next opponent and really just do all the things that we’d worked on since the beginning of fall camp.”
Likewise, defensive lineman Ty Danzy gives props to MacIntyre and the rest of the coaching staff for keeping morale strong through continuous encouragement. “[MacIntyre] really is just treating us like winners, treating us like champions,” Danzy said. “He speaks about being player-led, because great teams are player-led. Good teams are coach-led. We’re heading towards that direction. He wants us to make sure that we have the confidence to do what we need to.”
Saturday night’s contest between FIU and the UConn Huskies (2-4) features two of the youngest teams in FBS (Division 1-A) football and should make for a great fan experience. Players are eager for a friendly audience and know that they can deliver a show worth coming out for as they give it their all on the field.
“We want all of you guys to come out and pack the cage,” Passmore said. “It’s going to be a good one. Come out and enjoy it, spend time with us, and spend time with your family and friends. We’re going to come out with a ‘W.’”
Tailgating officially begins at 4:30 p.m. Kickoff takes place at 7 p.m.
–– Reporting by Nick Sutton