Shula Trophy Returns to FIU: Panthers Run Past Owls 33-31 in Shula Bowl

FIU rushed for the most yards in a game since 2010 and wrested the Don Shula Bowl Trophy from Florida Atlantic in a spirited 33-31 win in Don Shula Bowl XV at FIU Stadium Saturday night.

As the clock ticked down in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Panthers stormed across the field to collect the Shula trophy that was sitting on a table on the FAU sideline during the game.

The Panthers rushed for 270 yards against the Owls led by Alex Gardner‘s 119 yards and Anthony Jones who had 90 yards. Quarterback Alex McGough rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

For his efforts, Gardner was named the Shula Bowl MVP for FIU. It was the second consecutive Shula Bowl MVP honor for Gardner, who received the distinction last year in Boca Raton. Greg Howell, who rushed for 101 yards, was named the Shula Bowl MVP for FAU.

The 270 rushing yards for FIU were the fifth most in the program’s 14-plus year history and it was the most FIU had rushed for since 2010. Against Troy in 2010, the Panthers ran for a program-record 448 yards. Three Panthers: Darriet Perry, T.Y. Hilton and Darian Mallary each rushed for more than 100 yards against Troy.

In the early stages of the fourth quarter FIU trailed 31-30 but the Panthers running game put them in position to take the eventual lead.

FIU started at its 37 and on the first play Jones ran through the FAU defense for 35 yards to the FAU 28. Gardner collected 13 yards after that to set up Austin Taylor, who drilled a 32-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 33-31 lead.

The teams gave an initial glimpse of the back-and-forth game that awaited in the first two possessions. On the second play of the game, Howell rushed for a 68-yard touchdown. FAU led 7-0.

FIU tied it on the ensuing possession. The Panthers matriculated down field in 12 plays capping their drive with McGough running for a 17-yard touchdown. Nearly midway through the second quarter, McGough made the Owls bite on the read-option and coasted 35 yards in for his second rushing touchdown.

FAU led 17-14 at halftime and intercepted McGough on the first play of the second half and returned it for a touchdown. Azee Al-Shaair took the pick six 30 yards for the score that increased the Owls lead to 24-14.

FIU answered with consecutive touchdowns on a 3-yard run by Jones and a 26-yard pass from McGough to Thomas Owens.

McGough finished 15 of 30 for 199 yards passing with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. Owens had four catches for 61 yards to lead FIU. Jonnu Smith had four grabs for 59 yards.

FIU hits the road next Saturday to El Paso, Texas. The Panthers take on the UTEP Miners in an 8 p.m. kickoff from the Sun Bowl.

via FIU Sports

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