In what could be coach Mario Cristobal's final game at Florida International, the Golden Panthers gave up ten fourth quarter points to fall 20-10 in the Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl.
After a go-ahead Marshall field goal, Florida International appeared to be on the move, crossing midfield with a little more than four minutes remaining. Wesley Carroll hit playmaker T.Y. Hilton on a quick slant and it looked as if Hilton would break off a big gain in the seam. But a Marshall defender grabbed Hilton from behind, and his helmet knocked the ball loose and into the Thundering Herd secondary. It was a costly fumble for Hilton, who was the lone bright spot in an anemic offensive night for FIU. Marshall jumped on it at the 40 yard line and took with four minutes remaining and a 13-10 lead.
Trying to burn clock, Marshall, who was just as woeful on offense, converted on a key third and five when Rakeem Cato found B.J. Crawford for 15 yards down the right side. With the Panthers having only one timeout remaining, Marshall was able to run the clock down to 38 seconds and looked all set to punt it on fourth and five. To the surprise of all - including the FIU defense - Doc Holliday went for the jugular and had Cato throw a deep out to Aaron Dobson for his second touchdown of the evening. The 35 yard score iced the game at 20-10.
With so few limited offensive opportunities, it was fitting that a blocked punt and surprise fourth down play led to the win. FIU finishes the season at 8-5, and will now sustain an offseason full of Mario Cristobal coaching rumors.
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