After three close losses, I feel like a broken record on this blog. FIU is a good team, FIU will do better, don't worry FIU fans...The truth is the Golden Panthers are not yet on the level of a Texas A&M, Maryland or Rutgers. FIU still needs time to grow and coach Mario Cristobal still needs to have a full recruiting class (which will not happen till next season). Will 2010 be the year FIU makes a bowl game and wins the SBC? Probably not. Anything can happen from this point on. But it is not going to be easy. The Panthers still have holes on this team that need to be addressed. Not all was bad against the Terps, though. Below are a few positives and negatives.
QB PLAY positive and negative
Junior starting quarterback Wesley Carroll (left) has looked descent so far. Wes has had trouble with decision making and accuracy. Several times in Saturday's 42-28 loss at Maryland, Wes failed to connect with open receiver because of badly thrown balls. Against BCS teams, mistakes will kill you. The blame definitely does not all fall on Carroll. All in all, Wes and the offense played pretty good. Carroll, 35-58, 355 yards, 2TD, 2INT, kept FIU in the game. FIU had an easy time of moving the ball through the air against Maryland. Trailing late in the game, FIU had to abandon the run and try to move the ball in big chunks. Wes was able to connect with WRs Greg Ellingson and T.Y. Hilton with ease. The problem came in the redzone. FIU was stopped twice, late in the game, on drives that could have changed the outcome. On one of their stops, Carroll over threw an open receiver (on what would have probably been a touchdown). One stat that stood out to me was that FIU ran 98 offensive plays to Maryland's 55 and were still outscored.
As I mentioned before, Maryland had no answer for Ellingson (right, 6 catches, 93 yards and a TD) and Hilton (7 catches, 72 yards). Both made easy work of a struggling Maryland defense. TE Jonathan Faucher also got into the mix with 3 catches for 28 yards and a score. Early in the game, Fauch took a vicious shot over the middle of the field, but was able to bounce back and returned to the game. Wayne Times had 5 catches for 44 yards. The Panthers receiver core for the most, part played solid.
RUNNING GAME negative
The running game was another story. The Panther failed to establish the running game early. Harden, 17 carries for 46 yards and a score, was shut down for much of the game. Harden scored early in the first quarter, but seemed to disappear the rest of the afternoon. Maryland averaged 6.0 yards per carry on the ground, opposed to FIU's 2.9 YPC. The FIU running game was aided by Carroll, who showed he has the ability to scramble out of the pocket. Carroll had 6 carries for 36 yards. FIU will need to be able to run the ball if they hope to be successful. The Panthers will have a hard time winning if they have to rely on Carroll to throw the ball 58 times a game.
OFFENSIVE LINE positive
I really cannot say enough about the work the offensive line has done. The Panthers have only surrendered one sack all season. It would be nice if the running game would have been more effective against Maryland, but if you throw the ball 58 times and not let your quarterback get hit, you are obviously doing something right. Commenter Baltimore Panthers points out below, that since Carroll has the ability to evade defenders, the offense line should not get all credit for only giving up one sack. I understand your reasoning, but you still have to give credit for the blocking up front. The offensive line is very much improved and should do even better heading into SBC play. The big problem will be if there is an injury.
Unlike the last two weeks, the FIU defense did not show up on Saturday. The defense was able to limit Maryland in the first quarter, but once back up QB Danny O'Brien found his rhythm, the Panthers were playing on their heels the rest of the game. The Panthers allowed O'Brien a season-high 250 yards through the air, and two touchdowns, including a poorly defended 68-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith (left). Big plays doomed the Panthers against the Terps. Aside from the 68-yard TD pass, the Terps scored on a 56-yard run by Da'Rel Scott and a 85-yard punt return by Tony Logan. Way too many defensive breakdowns to beat any opponent.
Response to comments
I think you guys are wrong asking for Mario Cristobal to be fired. Cristobal has done a good job with the team and has had to deal with NCAA violations that occurred before he took over. There is no way of knowing if Strock would have won a SBC title by now, but I am not going out on a limb by saying chances are it would not have happened. When Cristobal took over, the program was at a low point and a change needed to be made. Judging the team's progress after they have played three BCS conference teams is insane. Last time I checked FIU plays in the Sun Belt. Wait until the end of the season and what progress has been made against the SBC before you rush to judgment. Even if this season turns out to be a complete bust (which I do not see happening), Cristobal should be allowed to return for at least another season to what progress can be made. You also have to take into account that the two new coordinators will need a few games to have their systems into place. This team is still a work in progress. Early in camp Cristobal said this team was still young and it has shown. FIU fans should be excited about the effort the team has shown against Rutgers, Maryland and Texas A&M. This teams can give any university a tough game. To see FIU not only hang around, but actually have a change to win is a sign of what is to come. In previous years, FIU would not have even had a chance against those teams. Or am I wrong?