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Late “pick six” dooms FIU in loss to Middle Tennessee

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The Florida International Panthers were going for their best win of the season, but in the end turnovers kept them out of the winner’s circle. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders escaped with a 42-35 win on Saturday night in Miami.

It looked like the Raiders would have an easy time of it, jumping out to a 21-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. FIU didn’t quit, scoring 21 of the next 28 points to trail only 28-21 at half time.

With 5:43 left, the Panthers tied the game, then got the ball back on their own 20 with 1:42 left. Disaster then struck.

Quarterback Alex McGough was picked off by D.J. Sanders who returned it 48 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with only 1:22 left. It was his fifth “pick six” of the season.

FIU’s last hope died when Alex Gardner fumbled in the closing moments.

Outside of the interception, McGough played well. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 46 more.

Outside of the fumble, Gardner rushed for 95 yards on 15 carries. Thomas Owens caught six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

With the loss, FIU drops to 3-6 overall and 3-2 in Conference USA. AS heartbreaking as this loss was, it shows the improvements the team has made since Ron Cooper took over as interim coach five games ago. The Panthers are 3-2 since he took over.

FIU has a tough task next week when they travel to Bowling Green, Ky. to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. WKY is 6-3 on the season.

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 Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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