Free Pizza as a Prize for the Students
If you have ever been a college student, odds are pizza is or was a staple of your diet. The best thing for your average college student who lacks financial resources on a regular basis, the pizza helps by providing nutrition while not using significant financial resources (meaning relatively cheap). However, during the Spring 2011 semester, Little Caesar’s Pizza offered free pizza to the student body at Florida International University because its football team won the 2010 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.
A Short History of Failure and Success
As an alumnus who was a student when the Golden Panther football program was created, the program’s only moment that drew any significant attention before the 2010 season was a 2006 brawl against cross-town opponent and national power, the University of Miami Hurricanes. A program that started playing in 2002 had not had a winning season entering the 2010 season, went 6-6 and was able to qualify for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl after winning the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
The Golden Panthers Go Bowling!
The Golden Panthers’ opponent were the Rockets of the University of Toledo, a slight favorite who was playing in this bowl game for the fourth time. Toledo was playing in its first bowl game since the 2005 and finished the 2010 season with an 8-4 record competing in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). For a bowl game played in Detroit’s Ford Field on the day after Christmas, it was a game that could have melted snow.
Toledo got off to a 14-0 lead led by two Adonis Thomas touchdown run, including an 87 yarder in the second quarter. Darriet Perry opened the scoring for the Golden Panthers as he scored on a 1 yard run to trim the Toledo lead to 14-7. However, Toledo was able to score though the air as Terrance Owens scored his first of two touchdowns, catching a pass from Danny Noble, to gain a 21-7 halftime lead.
The second half scoring opened as the appropriately named Bill Claus (insert Santa joke here) converted a 29 yard field goal to make it 24-7. Florida International got back on the board on the ensuing kickoff as Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year T.Y. Hilton returned it for an 89 yard touchdown to bring the score to 24-14. FIU added an additional 17 unanswered points from touchdowns on a Darriet Perry run, a T.Y. Hilton touchdown pass from Wesley Carroll to gain the lead and a 31 yard field goal from Jack Griffin to make it a 31-24 Golden Panther lead with 3:18 remaining.
Terrance Owens scored on the ensuing Toledo drive on a 14 yard run and gained a 32-31 lead with a two-point conversion with just over a minute to go.
The Golden Panther’s final drive was the most memorable of the entire game. On a 4th-and-17, Hilton helped the Golden Panthers pull off a successful hook and lateral to convert a first down and keep a game-winning drive alive. The drive and game ended with Jack Griffin converting a 34 yard field goal to give FIU a scintillating 34-32 victory and its first bowl game victory.
T.Y. Hilton was named the Most Valuable Player and helped his fellow students win free pizza from Little Caesar’s.