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FIU edges Toledo in Bahamas Bowl; BYU hammers Western Michigan in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

AP

Florida International University fumbled away the opening kickoff, gave up a touchdown 23 seconds into the game and found itself trailing by double digits by the end of the first quarter.

The Pangthers needed a comeback.

And Anthony Jones might know more about comebacks than anyone on the FIU roster.

Jones — one of two FIU players who were victims of a drive-by shooting in September — rushed for three touchdowns, including the clincher with 41 seconds remaining as the Panthers topped Toledo 35-32 on Friday in the Bahamas Bowl. Jones tied a school record with the three scores, and FIU (9-4) set a school record with its ninth win of the season.

“I’m extremely happy for my teammates, these seniors, all my coaches, the support staff at FIU, they were all behind me the whole time,” Jones said. “I’ve been extremely blessed by the man above.”

Jones and offensive lineman Mershawn Miller were shot in the city of Opa-locka, Florida — just north of downtown Miami — on the afternoon of Sept. 6. The alleged gunman is in custody and is facing two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Miller was hit in the arm; Jones was shot in the back and the bullet exited just under his eye. He lost about 9 kgin the days afterward, during which he was fed by tube.

“This is a gift from God,” FIU coach Butch Davis said.

Eli Peters had three touchdown passes and threw for 264 yards for Toledo (7-6), which fell in a bowl game for the third consecutive year. Jon’Vea Johnson had two of those TD grabs, and Diontae Johnson had six catches for 98 yards and a score for the Rockets.

It was FIU’s second bowl victory. The other came in 2010 — also against Toledo.

“It’s been an up and down year,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said. “It has had its highlights, and its moments where we weren’t so good. Consistency is everything in college football. … You have to be really consistent, really good at what you do for the long haul and there were times this year that we didn’t handle that so well.”

Jones scored on runs of 6, 30 and 18 yards for the Panthers. Sterling Palmer caught a touchdown pass and Maurice Alexander rushed for another score for FIU.

Christian Alexander completed 17 of 26 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown for FIU. The Panthers got a huge fourth-down conversion on a pass hauled in by Tony Gaiter IV with 2:40 remaining, the biggest play in a drive where Jones capped the win with his final TD run — the 18-yarder that sealed the win.

FIU played without starting quarterback James Morgan, who has an arm injury. Morgan completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,727 yards and 26 touchdowns in the regular season. FIU also didn’t have running back Shawndarrius Phillips, who was left home after a domestic battery charge stemming from a June case became known this month.

And yet, the Panthers had more than enough.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

BYU 49, Western Michigan 18

In Boise, Idaho, Zach Wilson set a BYU record and tied the NCAA bowl mark with 18-for-18 passing, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the Cougars’ rout of Western Michigan.

Selected the game MVP, Wilson tied the NCAA bowl record for completion percentage set by Riley Skinner at 11 for 11 for Wake Forest in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.

Down 10-7 at halftime, BYU (7-6) scored 28 points in the third quarter. Wilson connected with Aleva Hifo for a 70-yard scoring strike, and Riley Burt had a 37-yard touchdown run in the quarter.

Western Michigan (7-6) rolled up 192 yards of offense in the first half, then managed only 41 yards on 18 plays in the decisive third quarter.

Selected the game MVP, Wilson tied the NCAA bowl record for completion percentage set by Riley Skinner at 11 for 11 for Wake Forest in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.

Wilson’s 18 straight completions are second-most in an NCAA bowl game behind Georgia’s Mike Bobo, who had 19 straight against Wisconsin in the 1998 Outback Bowl.

“I’ve been trying to let Zach loose for a long time now,” Sitake said as he patted Wilson on the back. “I think an aggressive style of offense is what we need. This was really good for us to see that we could win a game when a team commits to stopping the run against us.”

In the first half, BYU (7-6) struggled to sustain momentum offensively and had just 115 yards, despite Wilson completing all eight of his attempts, mostly on short routes. The ground game had a total of 20 yards on 17 carries.

But with BYU down 10-7 at halftime, Sitake unleashed Wilson in the second half.

The Cougars’ 28-point third quarter started with an 8-yard pass from Wilson to Dylan Collie. Then, after a 37-yard TD run by Riley Burt, Wilson hit Aleva Hifo on a 70-yard scoring strike.

“I think the bar is set a little too high for the next bowl game,” Wilson said. “But I think we proved what we can do as a team and found our offensive identity and discovered what we’re good at.”

Despite the record-setting performance, Wilson admitted afterward that he had no idea his day was going so well statistically.

“The game flashes by so quick, and I thought I had at least six or seven incompletions,” Wilson said. “That’s when you realize the success for a quarterback is based on the team around you.”