Yes, it was probably the toughest loss in the 6-year-going-to-be-7-year history of FIU football. The heck with the 7 OT North Texas loss in 2006, this Shula Bowl was for a chance at a bowl game for FIU. Clawing Cancer, yes, we need to revise that FIU loss list.
Hey, today is Dec. 1. Happy December and 24 days until Christmas....Last year on Dec. 1, FIU was 0-11. A 4-7 record is an improvement.
But I know, I know, I know after the first 9 games of the season, all you good people learned you were related to Gordon Gekko (right). Nothing wrong with that. Heck, I wanted to go bowling too and in Hawaii.
Although the Shula Bowl was lost, all was not lost for your Golden Panthers:
FIU has a No. 1 QB and his name is no longer Paul Younger or Wayne McCall. FIU's starting QB is Paul McCall (400 yards, 4 TDs). FIU discovered a No. 1 RB in Darriet Perry (left) (115 yds, 2 TDs) -- Did you see the 13-yard run where he was dragging 3 FAU tacklers on his back to pick up an extra 6 yards?
FIU has 2 No. 1 receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Greg Ellingson (237 yards combined and 4 TDs). Besides outrunning everyone on the field, Goodbye also showed he can break tackles on his 34-yd catch and run TD. The other FIU WRs also contributed: Jason Frierson, who is developing the last few games. Junior Mertile, who I would like to see him break one just to see how fast he is. The O-line did a nice job too, opening holes for DP and allowing just 1 sack against an experienced FAU D.
If these are the kinds of recruits MC is bringing in, then the future is quite bright for FIU. Remember, there are a bunch of defensive freshmen that are either still developing physically or redshirting this season. Add another 25 signees in February and this team's talent keeps growing.
During camp we thought Blue25's impact would come as a WR, but did we ever think he would have the impact he's had on STs. Blue25 blocked a punt and has been a ST maven with his open field tackling on punt returns. He did both vs. FAU. O' Darris D' Haiti also blocked a punt on Saturday -- his 2nd of the season after getting one at North Texas.
And while NO loss is a good loss (If you ain't first, you're last) and I'm sure I'll hear it from you good people who don't want to hear this: But FIU will learn from this game. I'm NOT calling this a good loss, because there is no such thing. But whenever they're faced with this situation to close a game down the road -- and your Golden Panthers will be in this situation again, because this program is headed in the right direction -- FIU will know what to do and if it forgets, just say "Shula Bowl 2008" or "3-Minute Debacle" and that's all the motivation the Golden Panthers will need.
Of course, there were aspects of Saturday's game that FIU needs to work on:
I wrote on the GPP last week that FIU needed to get constant pressure and sacks on Rusty Smith in order to get him off his game. The Golden Panthers did not do that. Thanks to the Owls WRs dropsies, RS did not get going until the 4th qtr when all of the sudden FAU WRs learned how to catch the ball. The Owls had the same issue last week against Arkansas State where they dropped 12 passes.
What I noticed from Saturday's game was that FIU was always a second or two late to crushing RS. This was because of 2 things: strength and speed. FIU is not quick enough or strong enough yet to blow by or through other O-lines. I counted at least 4 times in the 4th qtr when an FIU defender was closing in on RS, but just did not get there on time. Another year of experience and growth in Rod Moore's offseason workout program and the Golden Panthers will get there.
Read most of your comments on the FIU D in this past game and I don't care what D scheme you want to use, you're not going to stop Smith, the Sun Belt's Offensive Player of the Year and best QB, without your starting safeties and without consistent pressure and sacks. Through no fault of the players playing safety Saturday, FIU had 2 guys playing safety that are NOT safeties, but rather cornerbacks. RS is no dummy. He figured that out quickly. FAU couldn't take advantage earlier, because the Owls WRs couldn't catch a cold for the first 3 qtrs. You could make an argument that this is where the previous FIU coaching staff's recruiting prowess was on display. Right now, FIU has no depth and that was exposed in this game.
Not a fan of using that shotgun on third and short or at the 1-yard line like on Sat. in the drive that resulted in a FG to give FIU a 16-14 lead before halftime. DP was averaging 5 yards a carry at that point in the game....FAU could not stop him (still love that 13-yd run with 3 FAU guys on DP's back)....Make FAU stop him from 1-yard out.
I'm with all of you on that there is no excuse to miss PATs. Kickers have one duty -- to kick. Will say that Dustin Rivest has improved greatly from last season. For the record, only 1 of the 2 PATs was missed in Sat.'s game. The first one. On the second PAT the snap was mishandled so the kick never got off. Still, missing PATs has no excuse, but there was more to Saturday's loss than just the extra point. FIU's O,D and ST all made enough mistakes to help out FAU.
This Saturday we're going to see how FIU handles adversity after this disheartening loss. Will the Golden Panthers curl up in the fetal position and become the J-E-T-S (Just End The Season) or do the Golden Panthers come out roaring, score 50 points and become Kings of the Hilltoppers and this time close the deal with a W into the offseason?