Many of you good people came close to the actual score of Saturday's season opener against No. 4 Alabama, but there probably weren't too many that could have predicted the way your Panthers stood toe to toe with the mighty Tide for nearly three full quarters.
There were some encouraging signs and there were some things that FIU needs to work on as they move on in this 2009 season. Here's a look back at Game 1:
On its first offensive series, FIU did not panic after a fumbled snap for a 9-yard loss and Darriet Perry getting tackled for a 2-yard loss. On 3rd and 21 from their own 3, the Panthers remained calm and Paul McCall (above, right) hit Greg Ellingson for 46 yards. Despite going against probably the best D he will see all season, PMC kept his poise back there the entire game. The series ended with a punt, but it could have been a lot worse from deep in FIU territory.
The FIU D struggled early on to stop the Bama run, but did not break on 2 series and made the Tide settle for field goals. Peter Riley's pass D on the first series had Bama settling for 3. The Tide was just 3 of 10 on third down for the game Saturday.
Please insert your superlatives for No. 4 here. First time Goodbye touches the ball in the 2008 season -- punt return for TD vs. Kansas. First time Goodbye touches the ball in the 2009 season -- kickoff return for TD vs. Bama.
We saw the depth of the FIU receiving corps in this quarter: Ty Frierson for 16; More of GE with his TD catch to put FIU ahead 14-13 and Marquis Rolle going across the middle for 16. Good to see MR get involved, with his size he could be a serious weapon for this offense. With opposing D's focused on No. 4, GE could have a monster season. Ellingson (left) has got size, velcro hands and while he is not as fast as No. 4 and Junior Mertile, he's not a plodder either.
The funniest moment of the game came when Bama's punter intentionally punted into the Tide's sideline to not give Goodbye any chance to return the kick. You know how in baseball they have the "Ted Williams Shift" for left-handed power hitters, well, guess you could call that punt the "Goodbye Shank". By the way, true baseball story: In his first baseball at-bat in little league, T.Y. hit a double....could he be the next "PrimeTime"?
Bama came right back for 6 of their own, helped by a 35-yard pass play on the first play of the series. It didn't help that FIU could not muster much of a pass rush on Greg McElroy. The Tide QB had all day to throw on several occasions. It might have been just a size difference, because FIU certainly has speed on D as Toronto Smith's 15-yard sack of McElroy showed later in the quarter.
Darian Mallary can run with the big boys. Oooh might be small in stature, but he has some strong legs as he showed in his first college carry for 7 yards that moved the pile. But overall, FIU had trouble running the ball, not enough push upfront.
The Tide ramped up their D here and kept the FIU O from taking the lead. What I noticed was that Bama took away the short crossing routes that were so effective for the Panthers in the first half. Couple that with Bama bringing more pressure on PMC and there was no chance to throw anything deep. Bama had 3.5 of its 5 sacks in this quarter. FIU had 4 series of 3-and-out in the 3rd.
The FIU D tightened up in this quarter keeping the Panthers in it down just 20-14 and punter Carlos Munera was a huge help in the field position battle nailing punts of 48, 48, and 54 yards in the quarter.
FIU's punt return coverage had trouble with Javier Arenas in this quarter with Arenas returning punts 29 and 46 yards into FIU territory. Arenas, like T.Y. is one of the best in the country at returning kicks, so FIU is not the first team he's done that to. In the Tide's other kick return, Damion Square got just 5 yards.
This is when the Tide's size, strength and depth took over. Even with probably their best rusher, Roy Upchurch, out of the game Bama still had 3 other backs get more than 50 yards each and average from 5.6 to 11.5 yards a carry. Trent Richardson and Terry Grant ripped off long TD runs. It didn't help that Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Ash Parker were out of the game with injuries. The Tide had 153 yards rushing in the 4th.
FIU kept battling on O with 9 and 10 play drives, but just could not get that one or two big plays to get into the end zone. Colt Anderson looked like a natural at tight end hauling in that 23-yard reception from Wayne Younger.
Rate your Panthers performance from Saturday in our poll question below the Pawse
Might need to go bandwagon shopping. During the GPP's LIVE BLOG of the FIU/Alabama game on Saturday, we had a GPP-record 1,725 hits. Plenty of interest in FIU when the Panthers had the No. 4 team in the nation down 14-13 and stayed close 20-14 for nearly 3 quarters. Heard they had same nice problem at the Sports Grills.
WIN A GPP BLOG WEEK 1 STANDINGS (FIU/Rutgers scores due by 4:59 p.m. Eastern GPP Time on Saturday)
Clawing Cancer (2)
Puma (3), Quijote (3)
ArrozConPollo (5), CarolinaGoldenPanther (5), ChiaPanther (5), David Florez (5), FIUChris (5), Gazi (5), Gold (5), Lone Panther (5)
FIUPantherFan (6), FIU0406 (6)
Baltimore Panther (7), SunblazerPanther (7)
alt7787 (8), Golden Panther 90 (8), OC FIU PANTHER (8), ridgepanther (8)
CJ (9), FIU Fanatic (9), Gooch7 (9), panther viscosity (9), SouthPaw (9)
FIUJM (10), FIU LOVE (10), FIUrulez (10)
chrisfiu (12), Joel (12)
blkpanther (13), oooahhh (13)
hay (15), Fomenter (16), Crazy Cane (19) esteban688 (20), FIUcanesFan (22), TheChampionUnderdog (23), MIA/NY Josh (24)
FIUPIKE (27), FIUer (30), Tri-Panther (30), Max (37)
GPP: 1-0 (9)
BaltimorePanther: Pete can you please give us an update on the injuries?
PP: The team was off Monday, but should have some updates after Tuesday's practice.
FIUFPL: How was the hit after the fair cath on TY not a foul? I know there was some other crap that I can't remember right now...but I hope Pete caught all that. Also was like to know about Bama fan/staff reaction after the game. Pete you have any of that? Pete, any news on the Bama effort to save FIU Cheerleaders.
1) Does the Bama game change your view on the prediction of this year's record?
2) What do you think are FIU's chances against Rutgers now?
3) Is it just me or is Greg Ellingson extremely underrated? He makes tough catches EVERY GAME. He will be in the NFL for sure.
4) Is Dudley LaPorte likely to play against Rutgers?
PP: The hit on Goodbye could have gone either way, because it appeared one of the Bama players was blocked into No. 4. However, how the Tide did not get any roughing the QB calls was not right. PMC was nailed several times long after he had thrown the ball. This is what happens when you have one of the two teams conference referee crews working the game. I've never liked that the home team gets their conference crew in out of conference games. An SEC crew will always give the benefit of the doubt to the SEC team. College football should use different conference ref crews in OOC games. Send a Big Ten crew to call FIU/Bama.
The Bama staff and fan reaction was of surprise that a 7-year old football program was able to stay with their Tide. A lot of them said they would not be surprised to see FIU win the Sun Belt and go bowling this year. They also became believers in No. 4 after they thought their coach was paying lip service to Goodbye earlier in the week. Haven't heard anything new on Bama's cheerleading efforts.
No, the Bama game does not change my 6-6 prediction for FIU this season, because the Sun Belt looks tougher than I thought it would be. Louisiana, North Texas and even ULM are not going to be pushovers and Toledo will give FIU a very good game and it would not shock to see the Rockets even the series. Funny what a coaching change has done for Toledo.
I think FIU has a good shot against Rutgers, but I won't give you my score until Friday.
If GE keeps doing what he's doing, he will eventually get a shot in the NFL. He has size, hands and can run.
We'll find out about DLP this week. The NCAA is a tricky bunch, hopefully it does not take as long as C-Mack's case did.
Hand out a grade on FIU's performance against Alabama. The grade here is a "B" considering the Panthers did not have the size nor the depth that the Tide had, yet managed to have the lead and keep it within 6 points for nearly 3 quarters....Your turn: