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Football Game Day II, 2011; soccer(s), volleyball, cross country

To no one's surprise, the Sun Belt Conference will suspend free safety Chuck Grace for his hit to the head on North Texas' Andrew Power. A Sun Belt spokesman said Grace will miss "a quarter" of Friday night's game against Louisville. So, it's less "suspension" than "punishment." He got sent to his room, but not grounded.

Preseason projections: The Sporting News actually had FIU and Louisville meeting twice this season -- here and in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Nobody else is drinking the Cardinals' bourbon: Sports Illustrated's got Louisville at 4-8, Athlon's at 5-7, but both have them 3-2 in non-conference games.

The game: Your name is Charlie Strong. You like to move the ball by land. FIU knows you want to move the ball by land. FIU also knows your quarterback is gimpy but the most big plays in a big play game could come from your receivers. So, what do you do early, Charlie? Muscle up against a defense that stonewalled a North Texas line of similar size and identical experience or freeze the macho and come out flinging?

I say Louisville comes out with a series of plays that'll use FIU's defensive quickness and speed against them: screens to quick backs, misdirection runs, play action passes. If that works and FIU's defense starts moving a half-second late, then the Cardinals will switch to the straight ahead stuff. But Strong knows Louisville needs points, so even if the Cardinals jump FIU, don't look for them to totally refrigerate the ball.

Because while FIU doesn't get the run push as consistently as it wants, the pass plays are there for Wesley Carroll and he's feeling it early again. Young Cardinal cornerbacks get taken to school by FIU's wide receivers. It's not so much the speed, it's the diversity of the attack. Once safeties Shenard Holton and Hakeem Smith have to give more than drop-in help to the corners, FIU starts running counters.

As Dan Jenkins wrote in his Sports Illustrated game story on the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma classic -- still tops my list of best college game ever -- you can't take everything away in modern football. At least, not in the middle of the field. Neither team finishes drives as it likes. Ameliorating those failures is a Louisville kickoff return for a touchdown and FIU getting great field position from returners, T.Y. Hilton and Richard Leonard. Quarterback Will Stein, trying to do too much, throws a late interception. FIU scores on the ensuing drive and escapes with a 27-20 win.

But, that's just one black man's opinion.

Some video from a guy with connections to Louisville and Miami.

 

SOCCER

The pitch wasn't kind to FIU last weekend, the genders combining for to go 0-3 both at home (the women) and up at the Bert & Iris Wolstein Classic (the men). Tonight's double-header, the women against Florida Gulf Coast and the men against Stetson, could be an early turning point in the season for each team.

Florida Gulf Coast is only in its fifth year as a program but makes up for that in the coaching experience of Jimmy Blankenship, an FIU alumnus who was an ace college women's soccer coach back when the oldest of tonight's players were still trying to conquer crawling. Also, Gulf Coast is 2-1-1 against FIU. This will be the last home game for FIU's women's soccer until Sept. 30.

Stetson beat Penn State last week, which edged FIU 1-0 at the Wolstein Classic. Jacksonville follows for the men on Sunday. Gonzalo de Mujica from Weston leads Stetson in assists this season with three. In fact, eight Stetson players could consider this game a homecoming of sorts, as they're from Broward or Miami-Dade. FIU has 14 such players.

VOLLEYBALL

Starting to wonder if the volleyball team's next home matches would be the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. It would've gone a long way toward the team going undefeated at home, one of their season goals, although a 56-9 home record since 2005 says they don't need such shortcuts. They'll get Tulane Friday night and Florida A&M Sunday. A shame they have to open at home against a soccer doubleheader and a major football game, then play their second home match on the season's first NFL Sunday.

Another of FIU's season goals was improving defensively. They're averaging 2.21 blocks per set, up from 1.67 blocks per set last year. Andrea Lakovic is closing on the rally scoring era FIU career records of Jennifer Owens for solo blocks, block assists and total blocks.

CROSS COUNTRY

The cross country teams are at the USF Invitational today after each finshed third in the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational last week. Senior Daniela Espino won the individual title, coming home in 18:43.

 

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