Florida International’s Belief in Itself Pays Off in 34-15 Route of Charlotte

Written by Emily Hall

As the opening strains of Waka Flocka Flame’s “Grove Street Party” spilled out of the Florida International locker-room Saturday night, it was hard not to argue with the song choice.

After the 34-15 stunner the Panthers laid on Charlotte, It was in fact a party.

But if the players had felt like sharing the aux, there’s another song I would have played instead.

“Return of the Mack” by the forever soulful Mark Morrison. Because having covered the Florida native since his days at San Jose State, I was well aware that Mike MacIntyre would in fact be back.

From the opening whistle at Jerry Richardson Stadium Saturday afternoon, Coach Mac had the Panthers executing at a level that finally showcased the work, dedication and belief this team has been putting in from day 1. 

“Belief is a choice,” said MacIntyre after the game. “And they’ve been choosing to believe and our coaches have been diving in to them and we’ve really worked hard all along at building relationships and family groups and outings and doing things together. Because before you can really start to believe you have to have trust and you have to have a connection and that’s hard to build quick in today’s world but we did a lot of things to do that.”

The proof was in the plan – FIU scored four touchdowns on its first four possessions for the first time since 2015 when the Panthers scored a touchdown on each of the opening six drives against UTEP.

First, it was the Grayson James show – the sophomore quarterback scored back-to-back rushing touchdowns of 12 yards and nine yards, respectively. Then it was the Lexington Joseph variety hour – the junior running back known as “Flex” went off with back-to-back rushing touchdowns of his own, of 1-yard and 15-yards. James finished 25-33 for 302 yards and an additional passing touchdown. He also added 10 carries for 53 yards. Flex finished with 17 carries for 75 yards and three touchdowns.

“They came ready to play from the get go,” said MacIntyre.  “They got down there and scored on the first drive, which we’ve needed to do the last few weeks and we got though that hump and I think that just broke down a damn so to speak and the water gushed out.”

The scoring continued with a 5-yard touchdown pass from James to wide receiver Kris Mitchell late in the third quarter gave FIU a 34-0 lead. Charlotte did show some fight in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 2-yard rush from quarterback Chris Reynolds and then again on a 5-yard pass from quarterback James Foster to Shadrick Byrd. 

FIU looked a little more grown up tonight, although the Panthers were still plagued by six penalties for a loss of 45 yards. MacIntyre wasn’t sweating the small stuff, but rather reveling in the victory that was evidence his team was buying in.

“When you win, they believe a little more,” said MacIntyre.FIU heads home to host a 5-2 Louisiana Tech team while Charlotte will look to regroup against Rice on the road next weekend.

Image Credit kim Montuoro

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