The Florida International Panthers football team will not be playing on championship Saturday. Isaiah Green finished with two touchdown passes, Omari Cobb scored on a pick-six and Brandon Drayton recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for another score as Marshall stymied the Panthers from clinching the Conference USA East Division title with a 28-25 victory. Sage Lewis had nine tackles to set FIU’s single-season record with 126.
The Panthers (8-4, 6-2) controlled their destiny at home, needing a win to get to their first C-USA championship game. Instead, the next day following the loss Butch Davis delivered early news to his players.
In an orchestrated meeting, Davis shared with a projector the Panthers will face Toledo from the Mid-American Conference in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl at 12:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 21 at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
The early invitation allows both FIU and Toledo additional time to prepare to play in an international destination, including obtaining passports for those who still need them to travel to the Bahamas as well as giving extra time for fans to make their travel plans to Nassau for bowl week.
FIU finished the regular season 8-4 overall, tying the program record for wins in a year for the second-straight season. The bowl berth will mark FIU’s fourth in program history, with the first two coming in 2010 and 2011 and the most recent pair coming under the tenure of Davis.
“We’re thrilled for our team to play in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl – which is our second-consecutive bowl game – and get a chance to enjoy the Bahamian culture,” Davis said. “The Atlantis resort is one of the best facilities in the world and we’re excited to enjoy their hospitality. Toledo is a very good football program and our kids are excited for the challenge. Hopefully, this provides our team with an opportunity to cap the season on a high note.”
This will be the fourth all-time meeting between FIU and Toledo, and the first between the schools since the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, where FIU won 34-32. FIU leads the series over Toledo, 2-1. The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl series between Conference USA and the MAC is tied, 2-2.
Toledo (7-5, 5-3 in Mid-American Conference play) will be led to its’ 18th all-time bowl appearance by head coach Jason Candle, who is in his third full season (28-12) as a college head coach (all at Toledo).
The 2018 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl will be the fifth-straight bowl game for the Rockets, and the eighth in the last nine seasons. This will be the fourth bowl game for the Rockets under Candle’s direction, as he was named head coach prior to the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, and in all three full seasons as Toledo’s head coach.
The Rockets come into the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on a two-game win streak and victories in four of their final five games. Rockets finished second in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division.
The Rockets are averaging 41.1 points and 5.3 yards per rush while converting 38 percent on third down. But the Rockets’ defense is allowing 30.2 points and 4.6 yards per carry. Toledo’s defense allows 258 passing yards, which outgains its offensive air attack by 33 yards per game.
Davis is looking for his first bowl game win as head coach of the Panthers.
Davis shared FIU’s team will attend this Sunday’s Dolphins-Bills game. Panthers will leave for the Bahamas on Dec. 17. They will practice Dec. 18 and 19 and have a walk-through in the stadium on Dec. 20. The matchup will be played on a grass field that is typically used for soccer.
The team erupted with joy when they learned they were traveling to the Bahamas.
“Everybody was happy,” Davis said. “A lot of kids have never been there.”
The Panthers football team is 61-118 all-time, 1-2 in bowl games. A win will give the team needed joy to carry on throughout the summer.