Anthony Jones rushed for three touchdowns to complete his comeback story, and Florida International survived a horrible start to defeat Toledo 35-32 on Friday in the Bahamas Bowl.
Jones missed much of the season after being one of two FIU players who were injured in a drive-by shooting in September. He scored on runs of 6, 30 and 18 yards for the Panthers (9-4), who set a school record for wins.
Sterling Palmer caught a touchdown pass and Maurice Alexander rushed for another score for FIU, which fumbled away the opening kickoff and trailed 10-0 early.
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 with 41 seconds left.
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.
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.
They got on the board when Jones got his first rushing score of the day early in the second quarter, took a 14-10 lead into the half and grabbed the lead for good on Jones’ 30-yard run with 3:47 left in the third quarter.