FIU football turns 15 years old when the 2016 season kicks off against Indiana on September 1. In their short history the Panthers have had some memorable moments -- most of them in wins but some in losses as well. To commemorate the 15 years of FIU football as we get closer to the season opener, I'll count down the Top 15 moments in FIU football history
Having covered FIU football since its first game in August 2002 when I worked for the local newspaper, the following countdown is what I believe are the Top 15 moments. Of course, you may disagree so feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section.
Probably one of the most exciting game finishes in FIU football history occurred off of a play that initially broke down and as you might guess T.Y. Hilton was in the middle of it.
Late in Hilton's 2008 freshman season, FIU trailed Arkansas State 21-15 with 2:14 left in the game. However, thanks to a 26-yard punt return by Hilton to the ASU 38 the Panthers were set up with good field position.
With FIU quarterback Paul McCall already thrown for 321 yards in the game, 38 yards from the go-ahead touchdown didn't seem like much.
On first down at the ASU 38, FIU tried to catch the Red Wolves off-guard. Originally, the Panthers were set to run a trick play where Hilton would take a handoff on an end around, stop suddenly and throw a pass to Greg Ellingson downfield. Well, that's sort of how the play worked.
Hilton ran toward McCall for the handoff, but the two players fumbled the exchange. The ball rolled about 10 yards backwards where Hilton scooped it up, but he started running the wrong way -- to the left instead of to the right side of the field where the FIU offensive line was blocking. Meanwhile, receiver Junior Mertile started running downfield with the closest ASU defender about 20 yards away. Hilton heaved the ball against his momentum which resulted in a wounded duck that hung in the air and seemed to take forever to come down. But when the ball finally came down Mertile caught the "Hilton Heave" at the 4 and walked into the end zone (photo above).
FIU sealed the game on the ensuing possession after linebacker Franklin Brown intercepted ASU quarterback Corey Leonard. The Panthers rallied to a 22-21 victory.
Next on the Top 15 countdown: How to Close
FIU FOOTBALL'S TOP 15 MOMENTS