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Late comeback leads FIU to third straight victory

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The Florida Atlantic Golden Panthers edged the Charlotte 49ers 27-26 in a thriller on Saturday night in Charlotte. The victory was FIU’s third consecutive win after opening the season at 0-4.

FIU needed a dramatic comeback to earn the victory. Trailing by two touchdowns with only 7:12 to play, The Panthers scored 14 points in a span of six minutes to take a one-point lead.

Charlotte took the ball on their own 30 and drove to the Panthers’ 32 with 10 seconds remaining. When Blake Brewer missed a 49-yard field goal, FIU had the type of win that was almost inconceivable just one month ago.

Alex McGough had a strong second half at quarterback for the Panthers, finishing with 315 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. FIU needed every yard because they gained only 39 yards rushing in 21 attempts.

McGough’s favorite target was Thomas Owens, who caught 11 balls for 148 yards. A.J. Branisel and Jonnu Smith each caught touchdown passes.

Charlotte dominated time of possess by more than eight minutes, thanks to piling up 232 rushing yards. That was somewhat negated by three 49er turnovers, including one that led to a Panthers’ touchdown.

The victory brought FIU to 3-4 overall, but 3-0 in the East Division of Conference USA. Interim Coach Ron Cooper is perfect 3-0 after taking over for Ron Turner, who was released last month.

Cooper and the Panthers will go for their fourth straight win next Saturday when they host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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