Of course, with a little tidier game on the gridiron the Golden Panthers go home 2-0. Had plenty of time to reflect on last Saturday's football battle for 1st in the Sun Belt with a 2-hour layover in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport on Sunday morning.
Coincidentally, while waiting for a Fort Lauderdale-bound Delta flight, I ran into the FIU volleyball team in the Atlanta airport. The FIU ladies were waiting for a Delta flight as well at the gate next to mine, until they heard on the airport P.A. system that their gate was being changed.
FIU volleyball kept rolling last Saturday afternoon with a win at Troy. The Golden Panthers have won 5 straight, 7 of their last 8 matches and are 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the Sun Belt. Volleyball just might be FIU's most successful program in the last 4 years. FIU hosts the Sun Belt Volleyball Tournament beginning November 20 at FIU Arena.
Back to the gridiron, your Golden Panthers let a golden opportunity slip away on Saturday. Troy scored 33 points, but if they had been playing hoops, FIU made like Steve Nash on Saturday, because they had 10 assists to help Troy score 20 points. (The Trojans don't have any 3-point shooters).
By now, you good people know what I'm talking about: roughing the kicker penalty = 6 points; 3rd quarter fumble at FIU 16 = 7; punt hitting JJ on the back = 7.
At the stage that FIU is at right now, the Golden Panthers can't get away with those mistakes. Thus, you have Troy 33, FIU 23. Without those 3 mistakes, we could very well be talking about a 23-19 FIU win right now, because Troy did nothing offensively in the second half.
After being pushed around by the Trojans in the 1st half, the FIU D stiffened up in the 2nd half. Quentin Newman had a nice game with a sack and 3 tackles for loss.
Although, the FIU D got better as the game wore on, there are still too many missed tackles. The D needs to do a better job of wrapping up. The D did keep Troy 0 for 11 on 3rd down conversions.
Of course, there was more than just those 3 plays that highlighted Saturday's game.
Troy showed the FIU O & D lines that they need to get bigger. The Trojans manhandled both. The pass rush FIU was able to deliver in its 3 wins was non-existent. FIU could not rattle backup QB Levi Brown with pressure, because of Troy's O-line. The thought here is if Levi gets hammered early on a few times we might have seen a less effective Troy O in the 1st half.
Troy's D-line pressured PM all night and sacked him 7 times. Another off-season in the weight room should help both FIU lines.
We got a glimpse of the talent of Daunte Owens (left), who played because Julian Reams is nursing a calf injury. DO ripped off a 35-yard run in his first carry and had a nice 19-yard catch and run on a screen.
MC said JR should be back for ULL on Nov. 1, but we may see DO get some more touches. DO is the fastest of FIU's 3 backs that are playing now. If you attended the open scrimmages and the spring game earlier this season, DO's work Saturday was not much of a surprise.
I know Goodbye (116 receiving yards on Sat.) made a spectacular 1-handed catch Saturday that was called back because of a penalty....but does Greg Ellingson (below, right) have the stickiest hands on this team or what? GE made some terrific grabs vs. Troy. May have to start calling him Velcro.
Even though he was taking some shots, PM hung in there and put up 266 yards passing and 2 TDs. One thing I did notice, PM needs to tuck that ball when he takes off to run. Too easy to knock the ball out of his hand when its hanging there with 1 hand.
Troy had just 43 more total yards than FIU and outside of WR Jerrel Jernigan and their lines, the Trojans did not impress and I don't consider them a juggernaut.
Could easily envision whoever the SBC champ is this season having 2 losses. Troy still has to play ULL and Arkansas State (2 of the top 4 teams in the SBC). Right now, your Golden Panthers would be in the conversation of the top 4 teams in the SBC, go figure.
Of course, FIU also has to play ULL and ASU and if the Golden Panthers are going to contend for the SBC or even an SBC bowl-tie-in game they'll need to clean some things up. Did you even think I would have written the previous statement just 2 months ago?
Don't forget we'll get our first look at the 2009 FIU baseball team with a LIVE GPP baseball blog this Wednesday beginning around 5:45 p.m. from the Golden Panthers exhibition game vs. Team Ontario, who just played 2 games vs. Troy last weekend. The FIU game is at 6 p.m. at University Park Stadium and admission is free.
WIN A GPP BLOG or (2008 FIU media guide) Leaderboard (through 7 games):
7-0 (points differential)
Baltimorepanther (140); Ultimate FIU Fan (151).
NYCFIUFan (125); CJ (131); FIUChris (140); FIUPantherFan (144); Gold (147).
FIUVoice (118); outofthecage88 (126); FIUJM (131); Clawing Cancer (132); Fomenter (133), Puma (133); esteban688 (137); FIU Love (138); Gazi (139); The OC Panther (141); FIU 0406 (144); TheChampionUnderdog (145); TNGoldenPanther (150); FIU Fanatic (155); FIUBlueandGold (163); FIUfantastic (185).
FIUrulez (155); fiufan751 (157); gpantera (167); Max (169); U24/7 (172); SouthPaw (177); MIA/NY Josh (180); Quijote (186); CrazyCane (239).
GPP 6-1, 152.
**If your name is not listed above, then I did not receive a score from you for the Troy game.
We'll have a mid-season look at your Golden Panthers on the GPP in the next 2 weeks before FIU's next game at Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 1. Back in late August before the season opener at Kansas, we asked what your predicted record for FIU would be. Yours truly had the Golden Panthers at 4-8 this season. You good people voted 5-7 (26.6%) and 4-8 (24.5%) as your top 2 choices.
So what's your predicted finish now for FIU after what you've seen from the Golden Panthers so far this season and how far will FIU go this season: