Wow, what a game. Too bad FIU could not pull out a close victory at home against Rutgers. Don't worry Panthers' fans, there are many positives to take away from the game.
Defense, defense, defense. Coach Geoff Collins seems to have the Golden Panthers' defense performing at a high-level. It was nice to see how quick the guys looked out there.
The defense is going to be a big help this year. I was not sure how well FIU would do this season but if the Panthers' defense can keep playing like this, I do not see why a 6-6 or possibly a 7-5 record is out of the question (I say this with a lot of caution). I would not be doing my job if I did not question the fact that the Rutgers' offense is not that good.
Even though I think the FIU defense is much improved. I still think we need to see what happens against Texas A&M and particularly Maryland to see where the defense truly stands. With that said, I do not want to take credit away from the job the guys did on Saturday. They really played very well and showed some great things.Statistically, FIU limited Rutgers to a 172 total yards (96 pass, 76 rush) which usually means a win. FIU is currently ranked second in the nation in total defense behind California, a pretty remarkable feat after last season.
Consistent line play. Both the d-line and o-line played well. The Panthers offensive line was nearly flawless...except for a sack. I felt for much of the night both Wesley Carroll and Wayne younger had a good amount of time in the pocket to make plays. Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal and coach Cristobal have done a good job of filling in the hole left by Kevin Van Kirk's injury. The o-line was also able to open enough holes for the Panthers to have an effective run game for most of the night.
Offensive flashes. One thing you can take away from this game is that this offense has the potential to move the ball. The score would have been a lot different if the Panthers didn't turn the ball over four times, including three costly fumbles. Running back Jeremiah Harden had a solid 88 yards on 15 carries, but he also had a drive ending fumble. Cristobal about Harden in Saturday's game. "Explosive guy made some nice plays, but you can't put the ball on the ground. He had some real nice runs. He also had the catch for a touchdown. I don't want to point out at him. I know they are a good team, they tomahawked [the ball], stripped it out."
If Harden can keep his hands on the ball the kid could turn into a major play maker for the Panthers.
FIU fans show up. The game attracted more than 19,000+ to the stadium. Let's see what happens later on in the year when the team starts SBC play how many show up. A large crowd like Saturdays can only help your team.
NOT SO POSITIVES
QB play. The quarterback play was erratic from both Carroll and Younger. That being said, I feel Carroll played much better. Carroll, 12-22, 166 yards, 2INT, 2TD, was able to move the offense. Younger (5-10, 38 yards) struggled to find a consistent rhythm. All preseason FIU fans have been waiting to find out will would be the starting QB. And now we know. Expect to see more Younger and Carroll in games.
During Saturday's post game news conference Cristobal said about Carroll, "He was hot and cold." About the QB battle Cristobal said. "We'll always play the guy who is playing best. If both guys are playing equally well or close to it, we'll do whatever is best for the offense. Very similar to schools like BYU or some other schools around the country they have to go to the same system because they are in a similar predicament." When asked if there has been separation so far Cristobal said, "Absolutely not."
Penalties. FIU was sloppy in the penalty department. FIU had 14 penalties for 126 yards compared to Rutgers 3 for 15 yards.
Turnovers. Along with 126 penalty yards, four turnovers will cause any team to lose.
FIU versus Maryland (Sept. 25) will be on ESPNU. Game time noon.