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54 posts from November 2010

November 29, 2010

Cristobal on looking back, FIU's week ahead

The weekly Sun Belt coaches conferences call is usually a good place to get a sneak preview of Mario Cristobal's message for the next game.

Here's a quote that you'll probably be hearing much of in the days to come:

Can you talk about the importance of the accomplishment your team realized Saturday?

CRISTOBAL: "One thing that, with our players, we are very real with them. You can’t disguise the fact of what that game represented, and what was at stake. With the outcome being what it was, it put us in a position to get to something we were trying to accomplish since we arrived here. It was a great feeling in that locker room afterwards.

"But I think our coaching staff and our players, all year long, have done a great job of once that moment and those high-fives are exchanged, to immediately realize we still have a lot of work to do. We are not where we need to be to accomplish everything we want to accomplish. We have a great team coming in next week. I had a great high school coach and a couple of really good college coaches, and one thing that stuck in my mind is, whenever you do have a good day, that’s when you really coach your hardest. That’s what we intend on doing."

FIU Men's Hoops at Marshall -- TONIGHT!

FIU Men at Marshall
When: Monday at 7 p.m.
Where: Cam Henderson Center
TV/Radio: None
Of note: The Golden Panthers (4-1) hit the road for the first time this season, two days after beating Chattanooga to wrap up a five-game homestand to start the year ...  FIU leads the Sun Belt in field-goal percentage (45.1 percent) and  steals per game (10.4) ... The Thundering Herd (3-2) last played Saturday, losing to Louisville 80-66. DeAndre Kane leads the team in scoring (16.0 ppg).

Reports: Two defensive ends commit after FIU's win

Add two more to FIU's growing list of commitments.

Defensive linemen Cody Horstman (Vero Beach) and Aaron Nielsen (Orlando Freedom) both committed to the Golden Panthers in the moments after their bowl-clinching win over Arkansas State Saturday.

Rivals.com lists both players as two-star recruits.

That puts their list of commitments from the Class of 2011 to 14 players two months shy of national signing day -- a list that includes Central quarterback Rakeem Cato, who led the Rockets to victory in a playoff drudge match with rival Northwestern Friday.

As for the players currently enrolled at FIU, they finish up the 2010 season against Middle Tennessee Saturday at 6 p.m. (ESPN3).

The Panthers asked us to pass along this message: Game sponsor Regions Bank is providing up to four free tickets for Dade, Broward and Monroe County workers with a proper ID. They can get tickets on game day at the R. Kirk Landon Field House Box Office.

November 28, 2010

Kickoff for MTSU game set: 6 p.m. Saturday

We now know when FIU will put a bow on its Sun Belt championship regular season: 6 p.m. Saturday against Middle Tennessee.

The game will air on ESPN3.com.

Congrats, FIU ... Now what?

So, we all know that FIU is headed to a bowl game.

But which one, you ask?

We'll find out in the next seven days, but if I was a betting man, I'd say put money on New Orleans.

Here's why:

First off, FIU is a great story. The Panthers are a first-time conference champion, playing in a big media market with a flair for the dramatics (see: Hilton, T.Y.).

Furthermore, while FIU fans probably won't pack the Superdome (heck, they couldn't pack FIU Stadium Saturday), with Louisiana-Monroe's elimination from bowl contention, none of the remaining eligible teams -- FIU, Troy and Middle Tennessee -- will bring more than a few thousand to the Big Easy.

One other point. It's the worst-kept secret that the GoDaddy.com has a Bieber-sized crush on Troy, what with the university some 150 miles from Mobile. So a back-room deal might be arranged between the two bowls and the Sun Belt, allowing Troy to slip to GoDaddy and convincing New Orleans to take FIU.

One scenario that looks less and less likely: FIU falling to Detroit's Little Caesars bowl. There's no way I can see the SBC allowing its conference champ -- and as Mario Cristobal called it, the best story in the country -- falling to a terciery bowl, and allowing the bowls with the top two tie-ins to pass it over.

One other point: Bowl invitations are officially announced this coming Sunday, but if New Orleans truly is interested in FIU, we'll probably pick up some serious buzz in the next couple of days. If all is quiet, it might mean NOB still has interest in MTSU, which could make Saturday's regular-season finale the "Escape From Detroit" bowl.

I'll keep you posted.

Post-game Q&A with Mario Cristobal

Can you put into words what you're feeling right now?

CRISTOBAL: "It was a very emotional and energized locker room. It was something we envisioned a long, long time ago when we first arrived at FIU. It’s been some tough sledding, and it might have happened a little bit ahead of schedule, but that’s OK. It allows us to set the standards really, really high going forward."

What was said in the locker room?

"It’s very personal, and it’s very real. One thing we did since the moment we got here was knowing it had to be established with a blue-collar philosophy. This didn’t happen today, or the pregame speech, and sure as hell not the walkthrough yesterday. This happened since January 4, and coming all the way through now. Relentless and endless work, and a commitment to being excellent. A nonstop desire to be real, real good and the ability to get better."

Can you take us through our game-winning drive?

"It was good to get a couple of penalties go our way, because we sure had some that hurt us earlier in the ballgame. Those yellow flags can really hurt you or help you. It kept the drive moving. The fourth-down pass was huge. Great catch by T.Y. One thing we’ve all seen is T.Y. Hilton has been a real-deal playmaker for us, but now he’s done it in crunch time. Again. Can’t say enough about him, resiliency of the quarterback, defense."

What was the menality on that drive?

"Often times think people think it’s easy to dominate. Sometimes domination doesn’t happen to that last play. You find a way to make the catch, that block, defend that ball, and you dominated that play. It was going to be a matter of responding. They were going to have their cannons loaded and shooting. And sure enough, they did. Caught us in some things. we found a way to respond."

How about the Hilton touchdown pass?

"It’s a jailbreak screen. Serini, I credit him. He did a great job. You want for a second, throw the D-lineman, and then take an angle to your defender."

How often do you it?

"Pretty often. Not enough, apparently. The whole country is running that play. A lot of times, it’s a feast or famine play. They were generating a good pass rush. We felt like we could slide it underneath."

Can you talk about how far you've come?

"The day I accepted the job, I told you I’ll see you in five years. And that was before we found out about the sanctions, lost scholarships. One thing I have learned, often times you get too much credit when things are going well, and you have to take the blame. But those coaches down there and that football team, the way they attack this thing on a daily basis. They have developed a culture and set a really high standard. Has to drive our new guys going forward."

Can you talk about the atmosphere, and were you disappointed in the crowd size?

"No, I think our fans are great. We’re building it little by little. Our players loved it. Football’s football. It could be four cats out in the stands or a packed house. We’re going to play football. And now we can say we’re playing FIU football."

It's official now. You're going to a bowl. what's the feeling like?

"Unbelievable. It’s really off the charts. Take in the moment. The whole validation of so much work, so much time. It’s a reward, but at the same time we have to realize we’re playing a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s a huge goal achieved. We’ve reached it. Now we have to set higher ones and bigger ones. You saw me on the field and we were going nuts out there. Because we had those 13, 14 seniors, they’ve been through the tough time."

Is it fitting it came down to the last drive?

"I think so. This team is hellbent on giving me a heart attack. They’re doing a good job of it."

Do you have a preference of which bowl you go to?

"This is so new for us. Honestly, our guys don’t know any better right now. All we know is they’re as excited as could be right now. There are so many families downstairs right now. It’s an unbelievable scene. It’s off the charts. Years and years of years of going through hell to get this done today. What they do know, Greg [Ellingson] will tell you, come film time. They’re competitors that are hungry. Without a question, we’re the greatest story in the country this year. In my humble opinion. Not just for me, but for these players. What they have done, and what they’ve gone through."

Hilton makes top plays on Sportscenter

FIU reciever T.Y. Hilton's game winning 42-yard touchdown catch was the No. 5 top play on Sportscenter Saturday night.


November 27, 2010

Live blog - FIU-ASU

FIU-Chattanooga Basketball -- TONIGHT!

Chattanooga at FIU Men
When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: U.S. Century Bank Arena
TV/Radio: FIUSports.com
Of note: The Golden Panthers (3-1) wrap up their season-opening, five-game homestand before playing four on the road, beginning Monday at Marshall ... Starting point guard Phil Gary is symptom-free after suffering a concussion against Florida State Nov. 18 and should play Saturday ... The Mocs (2-4) last played Nov. 24, losing to Jackson State 87-75. Omar Wattad leads the team in scoring (12.0 ppg).

November 26, 2010

FIU Women's Hoops vs. Morehead State -- TONIGHT!

FIU Women vs. Morehead State
When/Where: Friday at 6 p.m., U.S. Century Bank Arena
TV/Radio: FIUSports.com
Twitter: @FIUAthletics
Of note: This is FIU's first game in its own Thanksgiving Classic. Indiana State and Western Michigan are also participating in this weekend's tournament. ... The Panthers vie for their second straight win after dropping their first three of the year. FIU defeated Eastern Kentucky 59-52 last Saturday behind a game-high 14 points from Jerica Cooley.

Quotes left out of Friday's Herald story on FIU football

In case you missed it, here's my takeout piece on the signficance of this year's football season -- and this Saturday's game, in particular -- on the growth of Florida International.

It's pretty exhaustive, but Of course, space isn't infinite in print. But it is here in the lands of 0s and 1s.

So here's a couple of interesting tidbits that were left out.

Athletic director Pete Garcia on a possible contract extension for Mario Cristobal: "I'm very happy with the job Mario has done. This is what I envisioned when I hired him."

President Mark Rosenberg on the same: "If my son was playing football again, I'd want him to play for Mario Cristobal. I've been really impressed with him."

Garcia on the plans to expand the stadium: "This past year, obviously, we opened up the field house, the weight room. We just finished a couple of months ago, the two new press areas. We’re going to keep adding. Every year, there’s something more to it. As far as more seats, as we get the demand, the demand will dictate how much we keep adding. The final plan is 45,000 with an upper tier. But the demand will dictate how fast we will go. A 45,000-seat stadium down here in South Florida for football is all anyone needs."

New Orleans Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante on FIU: “Well, they’re a team that we’ve had our eye on. They’re playing very consistently right now. They, along probably with four others that are still in the mix for the outright championship in the league are ones we’re keeping a close eye on right now.”

GoDaddy.com President Jerry Silverstein: "There are several pieces to the pie. We are very close with Pete Garcia down there and Dr. Rosenberg and we have spoken with they. We have spoken with Troy and Dr. Hopkins. We have spoken with different athletic programs. Sometimes it’s a relationship. Sometimes it’s star players. You’ve got No. 4 down there, Hilton, who’s a very exciting player who can help turn TV sets on. You are building that fan base, where people are traveling and doing better. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Those remain to be worked out. We worked with conference office."

November 24, 2010

Chattanooga-FIU tipoff moved to 7:30 p.m.

In what should be an exciting doubleheader on campus, game time for FIU's game Saturday against Chattanooga has been moved to 7:30 p.m.

The game has likely been pushed back so it doesn't overlap with the Panthers' highly anticipated game against Arkansas State, which kicks off at 3:30.

November 23, 2010

Exclusive: Little Caesars Bowl still in play

Life's full of surprises.

Like this one I got from the Sun Belt Tuesday: FIU could win the conference, yet still end up playing in the Little Caesars Bowl on Dec. 26.

As recently as Monday, league reps had said that FIU, if it got to 6-6, would be assured a spot in either the New Orleans or GoDaddy.com bowls. But I just received this clarification:

"The Sun Belt Champ does not have to go to the New Orleans Bowl or the GoDaddy.com Bowl as long as those two bowls know that the champion has been accommodated by another bowl game.

"For example, if the Sun Belt champ were going to a BCS game or other game of their choosing, New Orleans or GoDaddy don't have to take the champ.

"If [Little Caesars] is open then it is in play. Doesn't have to be a bigger bowl necessarily."

Little Caesars, held in lovely Detroit on Dec. 26, is slated to take a third Sun Belt team if there are not eight bowl-eligible squads from the Big Ten. There are that many teams (and will be no more, as Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana all have seven or more losses), but with Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin all in the Top 10 of the BCS standings, two teams could get a spot in one of the five BCS berths -- leaving the Little Caesars Bowl without a Big Ten rep.

Oh boy ...

Sweet promotional video for Ark. St.-FIU

Fired up for this Saturday's game at The Cage yet? You will be after you watch this ...

Report: UNT to stick with Sun Belt

There's been plenty of speculation that the emergence of the mega-conference will ultimately mean the Sun Belt gets squeezed out.

Exhibit A: The WAC making overtures to North Texas.

But it seems like the Mean Green aren't going anywere, at least right now.

From the Denton Record-Chronicle:

DENTON – North Texas has told the Western Athletic Conference that it isn't interested in joining, athletic director Rick Villarreal said Monday.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson contacted Villarreal earlier in the day to gauge the school's interest in joining the league.

Villarreal said that after consulting with UNT president Lane Rawlins, he told Benson that the school is not interested.

"I told him that while we appreciate the interest, that the University of North Texas is going to be a member of the Sun Belt Conference and work to continue to build the league," Villarreal said.

November 22, 2010

Cristobal: FIU linebacker Mars to redshirt

Just got off the weekly conference call, and got this bit of news on Larvez "Pooh Bear" Mars, who broke his ankle in a car wreck over the summer."

Mario Cristobal: "It’s gong to be a redshirt year for him. We were hopefully throughout the entire process, and we really pushed it as much as we could. It’s just to the point now that he wouldn’t have been anywhere close to his capabilities at this point in time to help the team, so we’re going to redshirt him."

November 21, 2010

ULL post-game Mario Cristobal Q&A

What are your thoughts on the goal line stand?

“It was the best I have ever seen. That changed the game.  Our motto is let’s put the ball down and play ball we were able to get the stop. On that change of possession, we were able to go 98 yards, the length of the field, on a very tough and physical drive. That set the tone against a team that is very talented and tough and came here ready to play.”

How about Junior Mertile playing corner and getting an interception?

“We talked about the move earlier in the season because he is a very talented individual that gives us more length and speed at corner.  We experimented with it on Monday and decided to make the move. Junior [Mertile] has responded well all week. He had some great practices. And today, they sniffed out the tunnel screen and Gaitor jumped it, got a great hit, and Mertile had the catch for a touchdown. He had a couple of little mistakes, but for his first game at corner, he played a really good ball game.”

 What’s the importance of being one game away from clinching the conference?

“The word ‘clinch’ really has no meaning for us.  We are a day-by-day, minute by minute team.  The one thing that came out of this victory was that we responded well to adversity. There were situations where Louisiana had a chance to step in front of us and put some points on the board but the defense came out and made great plays. When they got the turnover, four turnovers to none, those were points for us. Every chance we had to keep pushing it and stay ahead of the scoreboard, it made it hard for Louisiana.”

 Did your defense keep you in it? 

“We only had 59 total plays. For us, we’re used to going 85, 90, 100 plays. Not much, compared to what we’re used to having, but the defense helped us by getting us on a short field. At the same time, we had a blocked punt. A real funky look that they put together and gave us. One of our tackles didn’t see and credit to our special teams for fixing it going forward.”

 How about Darriet Perry having another monster game?

“He is as tough as it gets. Sometimes it’s scotch tape and rubber bands that holds that kid together. He gets stronger each week even when he has faced injury. He ran extremely hard against a defense that consistently had one or two extra men in the box. When they do, there’s no one to block them. He’s got to beat them physically or with moves. DP, Darian Mallary, I think they played an excellent game.”

 Do you guys have it going as good as you’ve ever played?

“We’ve got to watch the tape to see what we did well and didn’t do well. One thing’s for sure. There’s a lot of corrections to be made. Today worked out well. It’s not always going to work out well.”

How about being one win away from a bowl?

“It puts us in position. We’ve put ourselves in a position to succeed. All that means is we’ve got to hop on this plane, grade some film, land in Miami, get some rest, get up and go to work.”

You really got after the quarterback today with the seven sacks ...

“There is no given. Everyone’s evenly matched. And until you get that final possession, the end of the game is what counts. We did it with a cover-2. Overall, a very strong defensive performance.”

How’s Cedric Mack?

“He strained his calf, and since we don’t have an MRI machine out here to prevent it from getting worse, we kept him out. We expect him to be back. Giancarlo went in there, starting feeling comfortable, and we did a good job rushing the ball.”

Is Junior Mertile a full-time corner now?

“He’s a corner. He’s an athlete. You might see him in the Wildcat. He’s adding a different, special dimension to our defense. You couldn’t ask for anything more in your first game. Coach Ponce is upset. I’ll tell you what. We get receivers, and the defense keeps plucking them away and making them players over there. Ash Parker was another one. They’re going to play somewhere.”

November 20, 2010

FIU-Lafayette LIVE BLOG (sort of)

So here are the ground rules for tonight: ULL does not allow live blogging or Twittering during the game, aside from the end of quarters and the half. But that doesn't stop you good people from commenting whenever you'd like. So join in the conversation, either here or on Twitter.

As always, follow me @AdamHBeasley.


FIU hoops doubleheader at the Bank

Eastern Kentucky at FIU Women
When: Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Where: U.S. Century Bank Arena
TV/Radio: FIUSports.com
Of note: The Golden Panthers retuen home after appearing in three games in last weekend's World Vision International. FIU beat Rice 66-65, but lost to Baylor and Montana State. ... The Panthers, who lead the Sun Belt in free throw percentage (.846), are 24-11 all-time in home openers. ... This is FIU's first meeting with Eastern Kentucky (1-1).

Utah Valley at FIU Men
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Where: U.S. Century Bank Arena
TV/Radio: FIUSports.com
Of note: The Golden Panthers (2-1) play their third game in six days, having beated Barry Monday but losing to Florida State 89-66 on Thursday. ... Starting point guard Phil Gary is questionable after taking a blow to the head Thursday ... Utah Valley (0-1) is an independent Division I program that lost to Maine 71-66 last week.

November 19, 2010

More quotes from FIU's loss to Florida State

Here's my game story, but you want more? You get more ...

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton on why he agreed to play at FIU:

"I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Pete Garcia. We worked together at the University of Miami. He was interested in the game. I didn’t see the real harm. We had to play somebody. Maybe in the future they’ll give us a free room at South Beach. We have a lot of alumni and fans in this area. We think it’s good to play on the road early. It prepares us to play in a hostile environemnet. But this is a business trip. I like to come in and out. Talking to a whole bunch of people doesnt get a whole lot done. This wasn’t a social trip. It was a chance to come down and play against a well-prepared team. But I'm not really sure we played as well as we’re capable of playing."

FIU coach Isiah Thomas on Chris Singleton's pick on Phil Gary:

"Phil got hurt because it was our fault. Our defensive man was up to let his teammate know a screen was coming. They made a good basketball play and nailed our guy. I told my guys that you can be mad and upset all you want, but it was a good basketball play."

Thomas on the lack of movement during early signing period:

"We’re hoping that if we can have a good year, we can attract better talent. With the crowd that we had tonight and the crowds that are showing up, hoping that at the end of the next recruiting period, we'll be able to attract some better players that see a program that’s on the rise. Hopefully they’ll want to come and be a part of something we’re building."

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