Former FIU quarterback Alex McGough, who is on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad, visited his alma mater’s practice during a day off this week, reconnecting with his ex-teammates and his brother, Shane, a Panthers offensive lineman.
But, in a way, it’s as if Alex McGough never left.
That’s because FIU coach Butch Davis replaced McGough with an experienced quarterback — Bowling Green transfer James Morgan — who has fit in perfectly, leading the Panthers (4-2, 2-0) to sole possession of first place in Conference USA’s East Division entering Saturday’s home game against Rice.
“James [even] took my number ,” McGough said with a laugh. “I had to throw that in there.”
McGough and Morgan met this summer. McGough was preparing for the NFL Draft, where the Seahawks made him their seventh-round pick, and Morgan was learning FIU’s playbook, eventually beating out Christian Alexander for the starting job.
So far, the results have been positive for the Panthers as Morgan’s 14 touchdown passes rank second in Conference USA behind Mason Fine of North Texas, who has 16. Morgan is seventh in the league in passing yards (1,368) and eighth in completion percentage (63.9). He has been intercepted only four times.
By comparison, McGough completed 65.4 percent of his passes last season for 2,798 yards, 17 TDs, and eight interceptions. He ranked third in the league in completion percentage and fourth in touchdowns and yards.
McGough said he’s thrilled for Morgan and the entire FIU team.
“James is a footballer,” McGough said. “He loves the game. He came in here and embraced [the program]. It’s great to come back and see all my guys and all the coaches, to see everyone smiling and winning. It’s awesome to see everyone having success, James doing [well], defense balling.”
Morgan also had praise for McGough.
“I got a chance to hang out with him in the summer — he’s a legend around here,” Morgan said of McGough. “His picture is on the wall. He’s a great dude.”
Morgan, who has two years of eligibility remaining, said he is feeling more comfortable every week in his transition from Bowling Green’s “Air Raid” system to FIU’s pro-style offense.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in only three years at Bowling Green and is now going for his master’s in public administration. Law school is his plan for whenever his football career ends.
“If everything works out perfectly, I would graduate with my master’s, and that would give me some background in law,” Morgan said. “Then my goal is the NFL. If that doesn’t work out for some reason, that’s when I would try law school.”
THIS AND THAT▪ McGough said he is “grateful” the Seahawks — unlike some other NFL teams — allow their practice-squad players to travel to road games.
“It’s cool to be a part of it,” McGough said. “We sit through the meetings. We watch the games. We get to experience all that, and I think it helps for our future.”
▪ McGough was enthusiastic when asked about FIU wide receiver Maurice Alexander, who has made a smooth transition from quarterback.
“Balling!” McGough yelled. “That’s my boy — Mo Mo. He’s so athletic. He’s so shifty. He’s so fast. Last year, we had to get him on the field. We had a couple of packages for him, but that wasn’t’ enough.
“Now, finally, he’s able to show his punt-return ability. He can catch a short pass and go 90 [yards]. You need a player like that who is a threat to go deep. He’s a crucial part of the team, and I’m happy for him.”
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