BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Florida International University head coach Mike MacIntyre has coached both college and NFL teams for over 33 years and has seen a lot during that time.
But the consensus 2016 College Football Coach of the year at Colorado has rarely seen a coach go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 32 on the initial possession of the game.
That’s exactly what MacIntrye himself did on Saturday night in his team’s game with Arkansas, which turned into a 44-20 loss before an announced crowd of 61,442 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
MacIntyre’s early gamble failed, but he established the mentality he wanted his overmatched team to have during the rest of the contest, which saw the Panthers have a 13-7 lead in the opening quarter.
“Our decision was we were going to be aggressive as we could be,” MacIntyre said. “I thought we had a chance at it getting it there on 4th and 3 throwing it to our big tight end, but they did a good job covering it.
“Looking back, since we didn’t make it, you wouldn’t want to go for it, but our kids responded hard and kept fighting.
“I love these young men and how hard they play and how they are working and we’ll just keep working at it.”
Arkansas (4-7), who ended a three-game home losing streak, would roll up 510 yards total offense (323 rushing, 187 passing) while FIU (4-7) had 341 total yards.
Razorback quarterback KJ Jefferson was 15 of 28 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing 15 times for 90 yards.
Jefferson’s first touchdown pass was his 65rd and broke the school’s career touchdown passing mark held previously by Brandon Allen.
He would also go on to break Tyler Wilson’s career passing yardage total and now has 7,909 yards entering next Friday’s home game with Missouri (9-2) at 3 p.m.
“We misfit a couple of runs where we had guys that didn’t stunt correctly and we have to do a better job of coaching it,” MacIntyre said. “We worked it hard, but they messed it up a couple of times and Jefferson is so good that when he sees that, he takes advantage of it.
“When he gets rolling, it is like a train and that’s what happen to us.”
Arkansas freshman running back Isaiah Augustave got his first extended action of the season and rushed 14 times for 101 yards.
“I thought he did good,” MacIntyre said of Augustave. “…He hit and bounced outside and showed a little bit of speed and I thought he did some good things.”
Augustave – whose only other action has been in the season opener – and Dominque Johnson (6 carries, 62 yards rushing, half of which came on a 31-yard scoring dash) adding to Jefferson’s output.
The duo took the place of tailback Rashod Dubinon, who was hurt during earlier this week, and Rocket Sanders, who was hurt early in Saturday’s game.
MacIntyre saw some good things from his defensive line, but still was disappointed in the rushing yardage given up.
“They did do some good job in there, but definitely could have done better at times,” McIntyre said. “To give up 323 yards rushing is not very good. But I thought overall they did compete and give us a chance.”
McIntyre, who spent time as NFL assistant with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets and several SEC program, is in his second season as head coach at Florida International.
The Panthers, who trailed 31-13 at halftime, were looking for their third road win of what is a rebuilding season.
“I thought they competed hard,” MacIntyre said. “…Like I said we are an all freshman and sophomore offensive line, a freshman quarterback, a sophomore running back, young receivers. So we’ll keep improving.”
FIU quarterback Keyone Jenkins was 21 of 36 passing for 265 yards passing with 2 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
“Keyone showed some great plays tonight, did some really good things, compete really well,” MacIntyre said. “Seemed really comfortable out there, which is really good to see. He was able to be accurate with a lot of passes and made good checks. I was pleased with him.
“You know as a freshman, the more you see, the more it happens, the more the speed of the game, it is starting to slow down for him. He has all the talent to do a lot of great things.”
One big play in the game was Alfahyim Walcott’s 33-yard interception returned for a touchdown that allowed Arkansas to go up 21-13 early in the second quarter.
“We kind of gave them a couple of things, like the ball that popped up in the air off our chest and that was a touchdown and that was tough there,” MacIntyre said.
Panther wideout Kris Mitchell continued his outstanding junior season with 6 catches for 157 yards, including an 80-yard catch and dash that set up a score that tied it 7-7 early.
“Khris Mitchell went over 1,000 yards tonight (in a season) and hopefully has a big game next week and will be the leading receiver in the history of the school, which is saying something since there is a guy named TY Hilton that played there.”
“…He has had a phenomenal year an has just worked really extremely hard to keep going. I can’t wait to see him next year have another super year for us next year.”
Photo by John D. James