UMass wraps up road trip at FIU

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Most college football teams, like the University of Massachusetts, have to cope with tough losses during the course of a season. What the Minutemen's opponent on Saturday is going through goes way beyond tough losses.

Two Florida International football players, Anthony Jones and Mershawn Miller, were shot and injured in a drive-by shooting in the Miami area on Sept. 6. Miller was hit in the arm, Jones in the back and the face. Both are recovering.

"Anytime something like that happens, it's heart-wrenching. It's heart-wrenching for the team, the families, the coaches and the staff," Florida International head coach Butch Jones said on his weekly broadcast. "As I told the team, after we knew Anthony and Mershawn were going to be okay, it it actually becomes a celebration because they are fortunate."

The Minutemen will be in South Florida to play a celebrating FIU team that earned its first win last week, beating Old Dominion 28-20. The Panthers' season opener was at home against Indiana, with the Hoosiers winning 38-28.

The Minutemen, meanwhile, have dropped two straight after winning the opener against Duquesne. UMass lost at Boston College 55-21, and then dropped a 34-13 decision at Georgia Southern a week ago. This is the third game of a three-game road schedule for the Minutemen, who return home on Sept. 22 to face Charlotte.

Last December, UMass and FIU played in Florida, with the Panthers registering a 63-45 win. FIU managed to score the final 21 points of the game.

The Panthers are led by redshirt junior quarterback James Morgan, who threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns against Old Dominion. Morgan's wide receivers are on the smaller side, but are quick.

Defensively, middle linebacker Sage Lewis is fourth in the nation in tackles, averaging 14 per game.

Last week, UMass had tied Georgia Southern 10-10 on Jordan Fredericks' 1-yard TD run with 2:18 to play in the first half. The Eagles responded with an 8-play, 75-yard drive in 1:36 that led to Shai Werts' 3-yard TD run with 36 seconds left. It started a 24-3 run for Georgia Southern that took UMass out of the game.

It was the second time in as many weeks that UMass closed out the first half badly. Against Boston College, it was 34-7 when BC scored 14 points in the final 43 seconds. Not that 27 points isn't a hefty deficit to come back from, but that last minute really put UMass behind the eight ball.

On his coach's show, FIU's Davis cautioned his fans about UMass to consider the game tape and not their records.

"When you lost a game, you're going to try to rise up and rally the troops," Davis said, when asked about UMass. "They're going to do everything they can to come down here and play extraordinarily well."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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