The Florida International Panthers finish their historic season on a high note as they defeated the Toledo Rockets 35-32 in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The Panthers were led by their backup quarterback, Christian Alexander, and redshirt-junior running back Anthony Jones. The Panthers finished the season with a 9-4 record which is the first time in program history FIU has had a nine-win season. This is also their second bowl win in program history. Their only other bowl win was also against the Toledo Rockets in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2010.
Toledo finished the 2018 season with a loss in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The Rockets passing offense came to play as they were able to spread the ball over the FIU defense. Backup quarterback, Eli Peters had a good bowl game finding the end zone a few times. Peters completed 22 out of 38 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown. Peters was also their leading rusher with 43 rushing yards on five carries. Starting running back Bryant Koback had fourteen carries for 42 yards including a five-yard rushing touchdown. Junior wide receiver Diontae Johnson was the leading receiver for the Rockets. Johnson had six receptions for 98 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass on their final drive. Jon’Vea Johnson also played a huge part in the game for Toledo. He had three catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
The Toledo defense had a rough time in the Bahamas as FIU was able the run the ball all game long. They gave up over 230 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns versus FIU. Defensive lineman Tuzar Skipper led the Toledo defense in tackles with eight in the game. Skipper also had a tackle for loss against the FIU rushing attack. Richard Olekanma also had eight tackles in the game and also had half of a tackle for loss. The Toledo special teams did force a fumble on the opening kickoff. That fumble led the Toledo’s first score of the game.
The FIU Panthers offense had a big game without their starting quarterback James Morgan. Alexander played very well in the game. He completed 17 out of 26 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown pass. Alexander also rushed for 83 yards on 11 carries. Also, Jones had the game of his life as he had 15 carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Maurice Alexander also scored a 16-yard rushing touchdown on a jet sweep. The leading receiver for the FIU Panthers was tight end Sterling Palmer. The 6’6” tight end had three receptions for 64 yards and a 33-yard touchdown reception.
On defense, the FIU Panthers did a terrific job of stopping the Toledo rushing attack. The Rockets were averaging well over 200 rushing yards per game entering the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The FIU defense led the Toledo rushing attack to 124 yards and only one rushing touchdown. Texas graduate transfer linebacker Edwin Freeman led the Panthers in tackles with eight. Redshirt-junior linebacker Sage Lewis also had a nice game with six tackles against the Toledo Rockets. Safety Dorian Hall had the only sack in the game for both teams. Hall also had four tackles and one tackle for loss.