FIU is tasked with replacing two-year starter and fourth-round pick James Morgan at the quarterback position. And of course, the pandemic filled offseason has made the search for an established leader much more difficult.
While head coach Butch Davis said we would see at least two different quarterbacks in the season-opener, he called on three of his QB’s to deliver.
Here’s how FIU’s quarterbacks graded out in Week 1 versus Liberty.
Max Bortenschlager: D
The most experienced of the bunch, Bortenschlager was named the starting quarterback but disappointed in his two series‘. The redshirt senior’s first drive consisted of a throwaway and a sack on third down to force a three and out.
He followed with a solid strike to Georgia transfer JJ Holloman for 11 yards and a first down. And his final pass was another throwaway that should have been called for an intentional grounding.
That drive would result in a touchdown after D’Vonte Price’s 30-yard touchdown run. But overall, Bortenschlager completed just one of his three pass attempts for 11 yards and a 1.4 QBR.
It would be hard to reach a verdict on the Maryland transfer based on three passes in two series’. Still, his outing was nothing to be ecstatic about.
Kaylan Wiggins: B-
Wiggins entered the opener as the expected starter considering his experience in the Panther offense and ability to be a dual-threat option. He was the second QB to go under center, and was able to maintain over a six-minute drive and reach the Liberty 41-yard line before punting.
The redshirt junior’s first throw was questionable, but he was able to deliver a five-yard strike to Bryce Singleton for a first on third down. And he used his legs to his advantage, picking up a 17-yard gain off the read-option.
The drive would then fall apart after a number of penalties and a drop from Holloman.
Wiggins’ second series shouldn’t even be considered a series, as his name was called with under a minute left in the second quarter. He rushed for a 14-yard gain on third down to seal the half.
And questionably, that was all we would see from him. But Wiggins impressed nonetheless, rushing for 35 yards on three carries (11.7 YPC) and racking up a 42.3 QBR. He was also efficient on third downs, converting on two out of three.
Stone Norton: B+
And then there’s Norton, who started the second half and would lead FIU’s offense alongside Price throughout the rest of the match. But first, he got rid of some jitters, as his initial drive went for negative 14 yards.
The redshirt freshman’s ensuing possession featured a 14-yard pass to Holloman for a first down. And Price would quickly finish the drive with a 65-yard rushing touchdown.
It wasn’t until his third series where he stood out from the rest of the pack, as he delivered a picture-perfect strike to Singleton for 45-yards and a touchdown.
And while Norton would throw for another touchdown, his collegiate debut was filled with errors and inconsistency plays. That was most evident on FIU’s final series, as Norton had the shot to carry his troops down the field and win it with two minutes to go.
But instead of moving the ball up the field, it just went backward. After an eight yard completion to Sterling Palmer, Norton appeared confused in the pocket and threw it to no man’s land, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty.
Miscommunication would lead to another suspect pass and result in 4th & 12. On fourth down, the pocket collapsed on Norton and he was sacked for a 20-yard loss.
In general, Norton’s debut is considered a success, as he completed 69.2 percent of his passes and led two touchdown drives.
Given that FIU has a bye week before their match against Middle Tennessee, there’s a chance that Davis finds his ultimate starter during practice over the next two weeks.
Nonetheless, experimenting with the quarterback room against a struggling 0-3 team would be a valid option as they gear up for a tougher set of games moving forward.