Florida International loses to rallying Duke 31-27
The glow over early-season wins against Louisville and Central Florida has diminished for Florida International.
The Panthers failed to protect a 10-point fourth quarter lead and lost to Duke 31-27 Saturday night. After starting the season with three straight victories, Florida International is now 3-2.
The Blue Devils (3-2) took the lead for good on Juwan Thompson's second touchdown run, a 9-yarder with 6:52 remaining. On the previous play, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo sacked Panthers quarterback Wesley Carroll, forcing a fumble. Anthony Young-Wiseman recovered the fumble at the Florida International 23 and ran it to the 9-yard-line.
''We've been good with the football up until tonight, but we did expect it was going to be one of those fourth-quarter games (coming down to) whoever can manage to generate effective offense down the stretch,'' Florida International coach Mario Cristobal said.
The Panthers drove to the Blue Devils' 12-yard line, but Carroll's fourth-down pass to T.Y. Hilton in the end zone fell incomplete with 2:29 remaining.
''We didn't play well enough to win,'' Carroll said. ''We made too many errors especially down in the red zone. We have to get in the red zone and get touchdowns.''
The Blue Devils cut it to 27-24 on Thompson's 6-yard run with 11:56 left. Sean Renfree's 52-yard pass to Conner Vernon to the Panthers 9-yard line set up Thompson's run.
Renfree completed 28 of 43 for 335 yards and two touchdowns passes.
''We continued to compete,'' Duke coach David Cutcliff said. ''Maybe two years ago, we get down 10 points like this in the fourth and we'd get beat by 20.''
Carroll threw his third touchdown pass with 13:30 remaining in the fourth quarter and put the Panthers ahead 27-17. Carroll connected with Wayne Times on a 34-yard catch and run.
Carroll finished 25 of 39 for 348 yards.
''We knew coming in that it was going to be a dog fight and a shoot-out,'' Hilton said. ''We knew that it would come down to the end and whoever made plays in the fourth quarter would earn the victory. We played hard but that's not good enough.''
The teams exchanged leads twice during a 31-point first quarter.
Florida International erased a 3-0 deficit on one play as Carroll connected with Hilton for a 63-yard play action touchdown pass and a 7-3 lead.
The Blue Devils countered and regained the lead 14-10 with a five-play, 68-yard play drive capped by Renfree's 31-yard touchdown pass to Conner Vernon. Vernon finished with eight receptions and 117 yards.
''This is one of those games that we kept fighting and kept going,'' said Vernon, a graduate of Miami's Gulliver Prep.
Duke's lead was short-lived as Carroll's 15-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Faucher culminated a 10-play, 85-yard drive and gave the Panthers a 14-10 advantage.
Renfree threw his second touchdown pass on the next Duke drive when he connected with Cooper Helfet for 22 yards and gave the Blue Devils a 17-14 lead late in the quarter.
Renfree completed 12 of 14 passes for 173 yards in the first quarter and Carroll was 9 of 12 for 157 yards.