Three is a magic number. Yes, it is.
We'll discuss three teams in this blog post. It’s in Game 3 of this FIU season that we get a Saturday game in a sold out stadium, tailgaters of all ages free of job or class tethers, alumni in school-toned dorkwear, a classic college-affiliated football scene whether at The Big House or a shotgun shack stadium in Iowa.
Unfortunately missing from the overall atmosphere will be FIU's radio broadcast. There's a conflict with 1080 WHIM, which will be broadcasting another game tonight. So, no FIU radio for the biggest home game in the program's 10 seasons. That's not big time. Very tiny, in fact. UPDATE: after about an hour of uproar over this from FIU fans, the scheduling overlap is no more and the game will be on 1080 with FIU's radio team. Chips lay all over the table in this battle of state schools with enrollments that soon will make them the Seoul and Sao Paulo of American universities. There’s neighborhood rivalries, friend rivalries betwen the players. Both teams claim they’re taking it one game at a time, especially FIU under the pre-interview coaching of Mario Cristobal. Yeah, yeah, but the ultimate goal is to take it one game at a time until you win them all, just like FIU left tackle Caylin Hauptmann said at media day. If Central Florida takes out FIU and BYU, they’ve got a shot as well as an outside shot at getting into a major BCS bowl game. If FIU gets past Central Florida, they’ll have beaten what looks like the best, most talented team on their schedule to get to 3-0.
Then, there’s recruiting. Can one game make a huge recruiting difference? Coaches try to get away from that idea publicly because they privately often hope it isn’t true. That’s too much on riding on one game. Ever notice how fast most coaches in the macho-preaching sports, football and hockey, turn tail to skedaddle away from risky situations if they can? Alas, they can’t run from this idea here. If…
UCF goes UWC on FIU: this result says whatever level to which FIU’s risen, it’s still a step or two below football involving those with chest hair. Recruiting advantage: UCF.
UCF wins solidly, but not in a rout: says UCF’s a better team now, and FIU’s still trailing, which is the consensus opinion. No change in current status.
UCF wins close: You can almost hear “How many other (my position) are you recruiting?” Recruiting advantage: whichever school is closer to the prospect
FIU wins, by decision or Liston-over-Patterson first round KO: they’re on UCF’s level, they’re rising faster than UCF and might soon be beyond them. Recruiting advantage: FIU.
Preseason predictions: It’s the third game of the season. We’ve got an actual small sample size. Who gives two clucks to a duck what a bunch of scribes thought in the spring when the preseason publications were actually written?
The game: I didn’t like this matchup for FIU in the preseason. After watching two FIU wins and UCF beating the stew, as my late grandmother used to say, out of Boston College, I still don’t like it.
What you heard all week from FIU about UCF’s defense were variations on “disciplined. They play assignment football.”
Translation: they don’t put themselves out of position, this increasing their vulnerability to the okeydokes – counters, misdirections, end arounds, reverses. You get an athletic, fast defense that doesn’t let its strength become its weakness, that’s when you get a defense that gives up one touchdown in the last 16 quarters.
UCF got pressure on Boston College’s quarterback rushing only four, blitzing only to break up the boredom. A repeat here means FIU quarterback Wesley Carroll better be Peyton Manning on his reads against a seven-man drop off on obvious passing downs. But a plus for FIU: only two sacks allowed in two games, both of which should’ve been Carroll throwaways. One was that strange play against Louisville when three players moved before the snap, the play continued and everybody hesitated for a beat while Carroll took a sack.
T.Y. Hilton doesn’t think there’s a secondary that can cover FIU’s wide receivers man-to-man. He better be right tonight, for FIU’s sake. If he isn’t, it’s going to be a long night of short possessions for the FIU offense. I don’t see them running on UCF, which is more talented up front than Louisville.
FIU kept trying to work the run last week even as Louisville’s defensive front did to the interior line what Interstate 95 did to Overtown. The called play breakdown, 24 runs and 22 passes, certainly didn’t reflect that the Cardinals’ defensive problems clearly were greater in pass defense against FIU than run defense. FIU likes offensive balance, albeit with more official snaps than 46. I’m more a guy who likes teams that go with what’s working, ditch what’s not.
Darriet Perry spent the early part of the week dealing with a family tragedy back in Valdosta, Ga. Perry’s FIU’s best power runner for yards after contact. There might be a lot of early contact here.
As good as UCF’s defense looked against BC, there were plays to be made against the Knights. They gave up a couple of 8-to-10-yard runs that a Kedrick Rhodes or Jeremiah Harden or Darian Mallary would turn into 15-to-25 yarders. They blew some coverages in the flat, too. BC just didn’t have the skill people to take advantage of it. FIU will if they can create the same chances.
When UCF has the ball, they’re body punchers. A line whose starters average exactly 299 pounds across the front moved Boston College around like patio furniture, especially in the second half. I’ve got a glider that puts up more of a fight when I bring it in off the north balcony for hurricanes than some of those battered, drained BC guys did in the fourth quarter.
Battered, FIU might be, but they won’t be drained. Or, rather, they shouldn’t be. As with Louisville, I can see UCF having ground success early, but as the game goes on, those big men start to flag a bit and FIU’s quickness again comes into play.
Maintaining rush lanes and solid pursuit lines never again will be so important. If they don’t, UCF quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey will squirt through for first down after heartbreaking first down. FIU needs to keep him in the pocket – Godfrey’s accurate on the move. FIU’s secondary didn’t have the massive blown coverages of Week 1 last week against Louisville, but still gave up some plays it seemed they shouldn't.
So how does this all play out?
Nobody’s ever hurt themselves by coming out screaming like James Brown opening “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” And it would do FIU some good.
FIU needs a couple of big plays early – a long run or catch, maybe a huge kickoff return or interception return – to keep the party going in the stands, create an atmosphere that says the fates have decreed an FIU victory. Everyone has nights like that.
What’s more likely to happen? UCF muscles its way to an early 10-point lead. FIU gets used to UCF’s size, just as it did Louisville’s, in the second quarter. From there, the two slug it out with punts and field goals until Wesley Carroll finds someone doing a Russian kick dance through the UCF secondary for a score. Three possessions later, UCF’s Godfrey hits on two third down throws and leads them to the first of two late touchdowns. The second comes on a fumble return by UCF.
UCF 31, FIU 16.
To paraphrase an ex, that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could very well be wrong.
Senior Lucas Di Croce's two first half goals stood up for a 2-1 win against North Florida Friday night at FIU Soccer Stadium, getting the team over .500 at 3-2-2 overall and keeping them unbeaten at home: 3-0-2.
The 7th Annual Alumni Golf Tournament will be held at The Country Club at Coral Springs Sept. 30. Registration's at 7 a.m. and there will be an 8 a.m. shotgun start. In addition to raffle and a live auction of licensed, autographed memorabilia, there will be a closest-to-the-pin contest and hole-in-one contest that could give the winner at 2012 Dodge Ram truck. Registration is $175. For more information, call David Lister (954_594-5763).
The women's soccer season began with Stetson burying a last minute scoring chance (skill) off a deflected pass (luck) for the win after FIU dominated statistically. In some ways, that set the tone for the season. When a team has several games like that, as FIU has, then suffers a 7-0 loss, as FIU (2-5) did to Oregon State in the Nike Invitational Friday night, the concern usually is preventing the psychological collapse.
"I don't think we're in danger of that," head coach Thomas Chestnutt said around 1 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. "Our team has self belief."
Chestnutt believes FIU just ran into a good team on a night when it was terribly hot, realized it and rode that feeling for all it was worth. FIU has a day off before facing Oregon Sunday.
"Since I've been here, I've not seen a team that played with that level of aggression and committment on the field," head coach Thomas Chestnutt said. "Still, it's embarrassing to be beaten 7-0."
This season, senior Kelly Ann Hutchinson has been FIU's only semi-consistent finisher, potting a team high three goals on 11 shots.
"Kelly and Vicky (Miliucci) have played strong game in, game out," Chestnutt said. "They've been the cornerstones of our team. Even tonight, they played well. Sara Stewart as a freshman has done a great job, very consistent. Usually, freshman are up and down."
Next week starts the conference portion of the schedule, with a road trip to Arkansas State for a Sunday afternoon game.
"We're not where we want to be as a team, but we're certainly capable of beating anyone on our schedule for the rest of the season," Chestnutt said.