Two games into the season and nobody yet has figured out how to handle Florida International senior wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
After nearly eclipsing his own single-game record for total yards with 283 yards rushing, receiving, and returning in the opening win over North Texas, Hilton came back to set a school single-game game record for receiving yards in the Panthers’ 24-17 victory at Louisville.
His seven catches were good for 201 yards—two more yards than the mark he set against Arkansas State as a freshman in 2008.
He scored on consecutive series on third-down plays covering 74 and 83 yards to put the Panthers up 21-3 in the second quarter.
“We know that T.Y. is capable of big plays,” said senior quarterback Wes Carroll, who delivered perfect strikes to hit Hilton in stride on both plays. “He’s a phenomenal player. The line did a great job of just holding on long enough to get the ball out.”
Said Hilton: “On the first one, they blitzed my man, so I told Wes he was coming and he gave me a look. I gave him a quick movement and used my quickness to my advantage and just shot past him.
“On the second one, I saw they had the linebacker on me, and I looked at Wes again and he looked the safety off and came back to me across the middle.”
For the season, Hilton has caught 14 passes for 333 yards. He also has rushed for 49 yards—all in the 41-16 win over North Texas—and has 169 return yards (10 on two punt returns, 159 on four kickoff runbacks).
And not coincidentally, FIU is 2-0 for the first time in the history of the 10-year-old program as it begins preparations for its upcoming home game against Central Florida.
•Going back to last year, FIU has beaten the dominant team in the Sun Belt Conference with a win at Troy, winning its first bowl game, winning its first opener since 2004 before the Panthers were competing on the FBS level, and now, with the win over Louisville, has beaten a team from an automatic qualifying BCS Conference for the first time.
“It’s huge,” coach Mario Cristobal said of the nationally-televised win over at Louisville. “It’s huge for us. Since the day you get there, you preach about building a championship program and people look at you like a three-eyed monster.”
•FIU was 0-22 against teams from automatic qualifying BCS conferences and 0-5 against Big East members until the win over Louisville.
•The Panthers had a huge defensive stand early in the fourth quarter, stopping Louisville on third-and-1 and then fourth-and-1 on consecutive plays at FIU’s 7-yard line to preserve a 24-10 lead.
Keep An Eye On: DE Greg Hickman—The sophomore is becoming a big-play guy for the Panthers. He had seven tackles, including 2.5 for loss, against Louisville and was a key figure on a fourth down stop of the Cardinals deep in FIU territory in the final quarter.
Looking Good: The defense came up big for FIU, holding Louisville to just a net 83 yards rushing and coming up with six sacks, two each by sophomore CB Sam Miller and junior DE Tourek Williams, and one each by sophomore DT Isame Faciane and junior DT Joshua Forney. In two games, the Panthers have surrendered only two touchdowns and a field goal. All 16 points given up in the opener were the result of goofs by the offense.
Still Needs Work: The rushing game was pretty much non-existent at Louisville. FIU managed only 45 yards on 26 rushes. Junior RB Jeremiah Harden led with 19 yards on four carries. Senior RB Darriet Perry had 18 on 11 runs and sophomore RB Kedrick Rhodes netted 16 on eight tries. Most of the lost yardage came when QB Wes Carroll was sacked for a 12-yard loss.
Quote To Note: “You see what happened when I caught the ball” Once I caught it and I shot off, everybody just stopped and said, ‘Oh, he’s gone.’ That’s why they call me Good-bye.”—Senior WR T.Y. Hilton, asked why he has the nickname, “Good-bye.”
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
•Junior LB Winston Fraser set the defensive tone early in the game for FIU by returning an interception 71 yards for a touchdown. It was the first pick six of his career. He also had a big third-down stop in the fourth quarter that eventually led Louisville to turn the ball over on downs inside FIU’s 10-yard line.
•SS Jonathan Cyprien not only led the Panthers in tackles with 11 stops and broke up two passes, he also made a final key block on Fraser’s interception return.
•Sophomore CB Sam Miller’s two sacks were the first of his career. Of his six tackles, three were for losses.
•Junior P Josh Brisk had a solid night, averaging 41.4 yards on seven punts with two downed inside Louisville’s 20-yard line against one touchback.
•Junior PK Jack Griffin is 3-for-3 on field goals for the season after making his only attempt against Louisville (29 yards). He also has been handling kickoffs and has been credited with three tackles in FIU’s two games.
•Senior S Chuck Grace sat out the first quarter serving a conference-mandated suspension after being ejected from FIU’s season opener against North Texas.
•True freshman WR Dominique Rhymes got his first career start and had one catch for a seven-yard gain against Louisville.