BOCA RATON, Fla. – The FIU football team dropped a 58-21 decision on Saturday afternoon against Florida Atlantic in the 20th edition of the annual Shula Bowl, which was played at FAU Stadium.
The two teams were locked up in a tight battle for the opening quarter and a half as neither side led by more than seven points until FAU opened a 14-point edge with just over seven minutes left until halftime.
The game also marked the opener in Conference USA play for both teams. FIU slips to 1-4 overall following the setback and is 0-1 in league play. FAU moves to 3-2 and 1-0 in conference action.
Senior quarterback Max Bortenschlager finished the game 12-of-28 passing for 263 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His top targets were Tyrese Chambers, who made a pair of grabs for 79 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown catch. Kris Mitchell caught three passes for 68 yards.
Defensively, Josh Valentine-Turner led the charge with a team-best 11 tackles, including six solo stops. Freshman Joe Perkins added nine stops, two of which were of the solo variety.
FAU was paced by quarterback N’Koshi Perry, who finished with 329 yards and three touchdowns while completing 18-21 pass attempts. Overall, Perry connected with 11 different receivers, led by Je’Quan Burton, who nabbed seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
FAU started off fast with a 45-yard gain on the first play of the contest when Perry found Brandon Robinson on a pass off a flea flicker to get the Owls down to the FIU 34. Perry scored three plays later on an eight-yard scamper to put the Owls ahead 7-0 at the 13:52 mark of the first quarter.
The Panthers tied things up with a big play of their own on their third drive of the contest. Junior wide receiver Bryce Singleton hauled in a 57-yard pass down the left sideline which set up a one-yard scoring run by D’Vonte Price, making the score 7-7 with 7:18 left in the opening quarter. Bortenschlager finished 3-of-3 with 88 yards on the drive, which totaled 93 yards in seven plays.
A big fourth down stop by the FIU defense on the Owls’ next possession set up the Panthers deep inside FAU territory at the 33-yard line, but the offense would not be able to capitalize on the field position following a FIU unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the ball closer to midfield.
Senior James Charles reclaimed the lead for FAU with a 31-yard touchdown jaunt on the opening play of the second quarter. The Owls attempted the two-point conversation and failed to leave the score 13-7 FAU with 14:36 left in the second quarter.
Bortenschlager and the Panthers answered right back with a six-play, 75-yard march that was keyed by a 48-yard catch by Mitchell that got FIU down to the Owls’ 24-yard line. A personal foul penalty against FAU on third and 10 kept the drive alive for the Panthers allowing Bortenschlager to connect with junior Randall St. Felix for an 11-yard scoring strike at the 12:03 mark of the second that put the Panthers ahead 14-13.
The back-and-forth opening half continued as the Owls utilized a targeting penalty on FIU to get into position for Perry to toss a touchdown pass to Zaire Mitchell-Paden on an 18-yard route in the back of the end zone. The score pushed the Owls ahead by a 20-14 margin with just under nine minutes left before the break.
Perry stretched the Owls’ advantage to 27-14 when he found a streaking Johnny Ford down the middle of the field for an 89-yard touchdown with 7:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Bortenschlager hooked up with Chambers for a big strike of their own just moments later with a 68-yard score at 4:54 of the second quarter, to get the Panthers within six at 27-21.
Perry added his third touchdown pass of the half with a 49-yard scoring connection to Burton to increase FAU’s advantage to 34-21 with just 82 ticks left before intermission.
After the opening three possessions of the second half yielded punts, the Owls broke through with an 11-play drive that covered 83 yards and culminated in a 20-yard field goal by Aaron Shahriari that moved the score to 37-21 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
FAU senior cornerback Zyon Gilbert forced the game’s first turnover when he high pointed a Bortenschlager pass for an interception at the 4:04 mark of the third quarter. The Owls capitalized on the turnover on a touchdown run from five yards out just six plays later to up the margin to 44-21 with under two minutes remaining in the third.
Ford added a 10-yard touchdown run with 10:13 left in regulation to make the score 51-21. The drive capped an 11-play, 64 march that took five minutes off the clock.
The final points of the contest came on a 20-yard scamper by FAU freshman Kelvin Dean at 3:53 of the fourth.
The Panthers return home to FIU Stadium for the first time in 27 days on Friday, Oct. 8 when it hosts Charlotte in a 7 p.m. ET kickoff.
FIU Panthers Athletics contributed to this game recap