The Florida International Panthers beating the Miami Hurricanes 30-24 may go down as the biggest upset in Miami sports history.
It was fitting that the game took place at the site of the Orange Bowl and FIU was led by the same head coach that built arguably the great college football team in history in Miami before leaving for the NFL in 2001.
“We did everything we can, when everybody says you can’t,” FIU coach Butch Davis said. “To be [three]-touchdown underdogs … if you believe that you can, then you can.”
This was like the greasers beating the socials for the soul of the city. The private school with the proud legacy fell to the public upstart with none. One school has five national championships and plays in a NFL stadium. The other school’s stadium has a seating capacity of 20,000 and can barely fill it.
FIU has four times the amount of students as UM, which is usually the case when it comes to comparing public and private schools. The college football system puts down half of the conferences and makes those teams disqualified from competing for the national championship. FIU fans have no hope of their team making it to the playoffs. UM fans expect it every season.
Like their students, the players grew up wanting to put on the orange and green before calling FIU their home. Yet despite the Hurricanes being the school that invented swagger, it was the Panthers who brought it to the field.
“That used to be our dream school,” said FIU kicker Jorge Borregales said., who converted 3-of-3 field goals — two of them from 50 yards or more. “Everybody knew Miami. Beating them today, it’s like, yeah, we’re here.”
“We wasn’t even calling them the University of Miami during the week,” FIU linebacker Sage Lewis said. “We were calling them the University of Coral Gables. We’re the true Miami school. We have more students internationally. We did it for the university and really for the world.”
FIU set the tone of the game through defense. An interception by Stantley Thomas-Oliver III set up a field goal by Borregales giving the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
Morgan threw nine passes once he got the ball back, moving the chains the capping it off with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Shemar Thornton to go up 10-0.
The Hurricane’s next two drives ended on turnover on downs and the Panthers closed out the first half with a 50 yard field goal. The Panthers then started the second half with Davis intercepting Hurricanes quarterback Jarren Williams. Jamal Gates also got into the action with a pick of his own in the third quarter.
A field goal by Camden Price finally got the Hurricanes on the board with a 16-3 deficit going into the fourth quarter.
A touchdown pass from Morgan to Tony Gaiter IV extended the Panthers lead to 23-3 early in the fourth quarter. Gaiter celebrated his score with a member of the FIU Army ROTC.
The Hurricanes offense finally got clicking with three touchdowns in the game’s final 11 minutes. a 14-yard touchdown run by Cam’Ron Harris and 35-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Mark Pope put Miami within six points.
A touchdown run by FIU running back Anthony Jones put FIU out of reach with a 30-17 lead with 2:17 left in the game. The Hurricanes responded with a touchdown pass from Williams to Dee Wiggins but the onside kick attempt failed and the Panthers went into victory formation.
Manny Diaz is in his first year as head coach after three years as the defensive coordinator called the loss to FIU, “One of the darkest nights in this program’s history.” His Hurricanes are 0-3 after coming out of a bye week.
“We’ve got to do a lot better job getting our guys prepared for this kind of game,” Diaz said.
Diaz has heard the criticism from the fan base after starting the season 0-2 and not winning games in blowout fashion agains opponents that they don’t find to be in their level. Three straight wins quieted the fury and even had them thinking Orange Bowl but now it’s back and worse than ever.
“The noise is deserved,” Diaz said. “We need to get this fixed.”
Miami was never meant to have a rivalry with the likes of FIU and even Florida Atlantic. The first time UM and FIU played resulted in an infamous brawl that severed ties for a decade. The Hurricanes closed out the Orange Bowl in embarrassing fashion, losing 48–0 to Virginia in 2008. The old but iconic stadium was demolished to make way for Marlins Park but the Canes’ first game back on the sacred soil might have come with a much more sour taste.
As for FIU, this win might lead more of its student fans to feel confident in their football team and lend more support. Under Butch Davis, the Panthers are going to their third straight bowl game for the first time in program history. This may not be the only time the Panthers will be capable of beating the Hurricanes and that’s what must have Hurricane fans worried, especially the ones who didn’t go to FIU.
“I think it’s a rivalry after tonight,” Jones said.