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A few thoughts from FIU 23, Troy 20 (OT)....

What we’ve seen from FIU over the last month:

Slopping about and losing prompts anger. Slopping about, but winning with some difficulty against a lousy opponent prompts annoyance. Slopping about, but winning against an opponent with some talent prompts giddiness – especially if you’ve saved your season.

That’s what we’ve seen from FIU over the last month, most recently in the Tuesday night-early Wednesday a.m. moments after a fun, flawed, augmented, drama-drenched 23-20 overtime win against Troy. Wesley Carroll, usually coolly happy or frustrated into rote cliché, didn’t just laugh, he seemed on the verge of giggling. Mario Cristobal chuckled, joked about his demeanor after a first half of flags, fumbles and assorted foibles ("Oh, there was some talk in the locker room. Good thing we had the doors closed.")

Maybe it’s that, acknowledging media deadlines or just the lateness of the hour, Cristobal and the players entered the postgame media conferences much sooner than usual. I don’t think so, though. Wins against Louisville and Central Florida prompted fist pumps, flying chest and hip bumps. This was more the “phew, that was close. You OK?” after your tire blows at 80 on I-95, but you keep it out of the ditch and the semi misses you.

Or, the other side’s kicker misses to the left – twice.

“He pulled them,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said of kicker Michael Taylor’s second extra point attempt and the 43-yard overtime field goal attempt. “He flat out pulled them. That’s the one little problem he has.”

Actually, when Taylor clanked his second extra point off the left upright, it didn’t keep Troy from winning in regulation. It just opened the door to overtime. If FIU trailed 21-17 with 3:31 left and fourth and 2 at the Troy 3-yard line, they’d have gone for it. That opens another of possibilities, most of which end at a winner decided after 60 minutes. But at 20-17, FIU took the safe route and we got overtime.

Tuesday’s imperfections kept the game as entertaining even while being exasperating. Somebody on Twitter said during the fourth quarter that I must be falling asleep in the press box from the bad football. No, that would’ve been Sunday’s first 55 minutes of the Dolphins game – awful and excruciating to watch. Tuesday could’ve kept me riveted even if I had been at home with pizza, Long Islands and the DirectTV universe at my command. So many moments of “Ooo, nice play!” “C’mon, man!” “Oh, my goodness!” “Whoa!” “That’s some ridiculous stuff there!”

Dealing with Troy’s go-go offensive pace concerned FIU. As Cristobal pointed out, they also substitute late before the snap, making defensive adjustments difficult. Tourek Willams said, “We had a package where we added two defensive ends and took two defensive tackles out. We wanted more speed on the field.”

Also, give the FIU defense credit for not getting spastic in the face of Troy’s pace. No offside penalties. Williams, matched against redshirt freshman right tackle Terrence Jones, had two sacks and several pressures. The right side of Troy’s line needed a kiddie menu, with Jones and freshman guard Zach Johnson. Most of Troy’s big runs came around the left side, where 6-4, 312-pound left tackle James Brown can make a running back look like Jim Brown.

Troy, whose running game previously just let quarterback Corey Robinson rest his arm, actually ran well, with backs Shawn Southward and D.J. Taylor picking up 95 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. But they couldn’t protect Robinson and their receivers kept running the four-yards-short-of-the-marker third down patterns that the Dolphins run so well. FIU squatted on those routes and tackled better than they have in a month. Troy made no adjustments after a first half with only four first downs and zero third down conversions. Overall the last two weeks, FIU’s downfield coverage has improved. Troy threw for only 215 yards on 20 of 34 passing. They ran only 59 plays, 18 below their average.

FIU’s offensive line was the Panthers’ game in microcosm. Their first half penalties -- two holds on left tackle Caylin Hauptmann, a hold on Rupert Bryan, two false starts on Bryan in the same series – interrupted more drives than Dolphin Expressway wrecks. But Hauptmann, Bryan, left guard Shae Smith, center Giancarlo Revilla and right guard Curtis Bryant moved Troy well enough for Kedrick Rhodes’ 172 yards on 30 carries and Darriet Perry’s 60 yards on 12 carries. By the end, they were just buffaloing Troy to the side most plays and it wasn’t like the Trojans didn’t know what was coming.

Such as on the fourth quarter fourth and 1 from the FIU 39. If that ball’s snapped, everyone, his mama and his unborn grandkids know Perry’s getting it. And he did for 6 yards over the left side. In overtime, nobody thought FIU would risk an interception. Six Rhodes runs, 21 yards, chip shot Jack Griffin field goal.

Rhodes, who said they knew they’d have success on some zone blocking inside runs, has 762 rushing yards for the season. Unless the coaches really see something in the defense that says a brute force back or a pure speed back works better, they should ride Rhodes the rest of the season like Seattle Slew and use the other backs as just a change of pace or to give him a rest. Perry’s now second in FIU history with 1,703 career rushing yards.

Griffin’s kickoffs were much better than in previous weeks. His average kickoff length was 65.8 yards and FIU’s net yards were 46.2.

Josh Brisk averaged 37.6 yards per punt, an average dragged down by his last punt, a 14-yarder in the final seconds of regulation. That left Troy a chance to Fredo the Panthers with a Hail Mary from the 50. Justin Halley picked that one off, giving FIU four interceptions in the last three games.

Carroll’s got three interceptions in the last three games and admitted Tuesday’s was something “that shouldn’t have happened.” He threw downfield for an open tight end Jonathan Faucher not just off his back foot, but hopping backwards in the face of pressure.

That throw aside, Carroll ran FIU’s offense expertly. Here’s FIU’s offense: in the second half, Carroll completed only five of 15, but for 144 yards and two touchdowns. This is a slugger’s offense. I love that Carroll, with T.Y. Hilton taking regular snaps most of the night, hit other guys deep as he did in finding Wayne Times for the 76-yard score and stepping up almost beyond the pocket to hit Jacob Younger for a 43-yarder on third and 21. Hilton’s FIU’s Ferrari, but he’s not the only potential playmaker in the Panthers garage. Several times this season, under a modicum of duress, Carroll has tried to make a tougher throw to a multi-covered Hilton rather than an easier downfield throw to a single covered receiver.

“It worked out exactly like we drew it up,” Carroll said. “Jacob Younger did a great job on his. Wayne Times beat man coverage. Great pre-snap read by everybody.”

Speaking of Hilton, the groan familiar to Dolphins fans late last season when they saw the increasingly ineffective Wildcat came from my throat each of the three times FIU lined up Hilton in the Wildcat Tuesday. With the base offense walking downfield in rhythm, the Hilton Wildcat couldn’t get in step.

The first time, a second and 1 from the Troy 20, they had moved the ball 50 yards in four plays, plus gotten a Troy offside. Perry got called for a false start (the only thing early in this town Tuesday – players on both sides of the ball moving before an FIU snap). Next time, first and 10 from the Troy 43 with a 47-yard drive working: Hilton carries left for a 2-yard loss. A punt ensued two plays later. The final time, FIU had driven 39 yards to the Troy 32 when Troy read the reverse to Coleman, who slipped for a 6-yard loss. That’s the series and drive that ended with the Younger touchdown, but you don’t get many 43-yard bombs on third and 21.

Hilton wound up with four catches for 62 yards and 161 all-purpose yards. He seemed a little ouchy late, although he looked roused after jawing with Troy's Xavier Lamb in the fourth quarter. Rhodes had 194 all-purpose yards.

Against Louisville and Central Florida, FIU demonstrated mental toughness at pivotal points that could’ve seen them collapse. Tuesday saw many such moments, most glaringly after a first half the Panthers owned everything but the scoreboard and, in the third quarter, Troy’s two touchdowns in 44 seconds to turn 17-7 into 20-17. A collapse at either time would’ve meant a collapse of the season.

Instead, they showed the maturity and strength from September that they didn’t show in Jonesboro last week. The Panthers sit 5-3, 2-2 in the Sun Belt. All they desire remains possible.

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Great write up David. Reading your posts this season has been a complete 180 from last year's porous coverage. Thanks again for your insightful take on our team. GO FIU!!!

David: Imagine how good this Panther team can be if flags are cleaned up, did pass defense improved? Nice after action write up

Great in-depth analysis.

I agree. The coverage this year has been great.

Thanks David.

thanks, David. A great defensive game compensated for a mistake-prone offense.

I expected more playing at home against a team with a losing record, even if it is Troy, but a win is a win. Troy seems to have declined. Could be that FIU is siphoning off players that would've gone to Troy.

Does anyone think we'll get a bid to join the Big East or the ACC? If Notre Dame goes to the ACC I think we would be a perfect team to round out the ACC super conference! We can deliver the South Florida recruit's as well as any other school in the area.
If we end up in the Big East I think we would make up a great three way rival for USF and UCF. Any way you shake it I'm bullish about FIU's chances of landing in a BCS conference!

David, I agree with the other post here about your great write up. Your doing a fantastic job, thank you. Can either you or anyone in that reads this blog, explain why the replays of the plays that are under review not shown on the big screen? It is very fustrating,....

Also I know that many of your were happy about being on National TV and how it is good for exposure, but personally i think these Tuesday night games are horrible, and may do more bad than good. Tonight, Wednesday there is another game on TV Pitt Vs Uconn. You can watch a football game 7 Days a week, ESPN has sold its soul. I was at the game yesterday and felt like I was at a JV High School game. It felt weird, that and the start time of the game at 8 pm which is way to late for a Tuesday night game. If your bringing your kids like I did, you have to leave early. If your are a working man, you also have to leave early. Students have to leave early if they have class early the next day, i cant keep going on and on. FIU should reconsider about these Tuesday night games and concetrate on what works, Saturday late afternoon games. If your gonna bring the blimp, make sure the stadium is packed, even if you have to cancel classes the next day for students.

I HAVE TO ADMIT FIU HAS A BETTER STADIUM THAN THE U. IF THERE ARE ANY UM FANS PLEASE HELP AND SIGN THIS PETITION FOR A NEW STADIUM. SUN LIFE STADIUM REALLY IS NO LIFE STADIUM...

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-university-of-miami-build-a-stadium-for-our-miami-hurricanes-football-team

^^^^ That's just sad man.

You got a 20 or 30 year lease at Sun Lifeless Stadium and your team's administrators have already proven they're too cheap or incapable of anteing up themselves, basically demolishing history and tradition with their own bare hands. Yet this petition is supposed to inspire some kind of new thought...now?

Just enjoy the $8 beers and plentiful seating and move on.

I thought the pink looked great on the uniforms with the blue and gold. Any chance we can incorporate that pink into our uniforms permanently. Maybe call ourselves FIU Flamingos or something similar. Actually Pink/Black/and white is pretty cool as well. It all about standing out and separating ourselves. Remember pink is cool in Miami, like in Miami Vice. Makes sense. Look at Boise and their blue field that is creative and unique. So are there uniforms...

There are already too much panthers, cougars, etc. in the NCAA!

http://www.rivalart.com/Clipart-Kits/Mascot-Clipart/Flamingo-Mascots/Flaming_pointing_finger.shtml

Lol....
Even true U fans know that their fans troll our boards.
"Jeff simon" I signed your petition and know of a recently vacated stadium (Lockhart) that can be your home after U gets sued for "breach of contract" by the Fins...lol

Oh, sources close to the Fins reported that the UF championship celebration was such a big success, they will honor THE OHIO ST national championship in 2012 and FSU's in 2013.
Also future plans for remembering the fatigue game, a Ponder day.....really!

Didn't want to say anything but I saw some of the game the other night (T.Y. Hilton is a beast) and that was the first time I had ever seen a panned out shot of FIU's stadium.

How are you people making fun of Joe Robbie stadium? How are you making fun of UM's attendance?

A third of your stadium is bleachers. Two thirds of your bleachers are empty.

Were there 10,000 fans at that game?

BTW - beers are $8 at any stadium you go to in the country, how much are they at FIU's stadium? WTF are you people talking about???

BN: Supposedly there were 15K something at the game. The bleachers are the visitor's seating, so we can't really take the hit for that. The other excuse is that it was a Tuesday. Tuesdays are inherently harder than Thursdays because they are followed by W, T and F whereas Thursday only has Friday behind it.

But our attendance has been way up this year. We've "sold out" twice this year and that stadium is a powerful place when it is packed. You are close to the field and say what you want about cheap, aluminum stadiums, but they are loud.

And we're filling in the bleachers after this year. I remember back in the day the east EZ at the OB was bleachers.

I mean no doubt, Miami fans are terrible and never show up to any of the Miami teams' games but the way FIU fans talk about Joe Robbie I would think they had a state of the art masterpiece that was filled to the brim every game.

Your students alone could fill the stadium two times over. I know they live at home with their parents but surely they could work out some kind of carpool?

Anyway DJN is offbase on the wildcat - they need to put some motion into the play to make it effective (and not just a direct snap) but anything to get the ball in Hilton's hands and out of that quarterback's is a good play.

As an aside - that above poster with the petition who wrote previously about how jealous he is of FIU's stadium and how much he hates "no life stadium" - he's never posted anything about that petition on UM's blog or on Greg Cote's blog, which does have some UM fans that read it.

Pretty clear what message he's trying to convey.

Thanks for the compliments, folks.

The attendance Tuesday was pretty awful at game's start and didn't get much better. I'll give you my take on the scheduling thing in another blog post, perhaps today or tomorrow.

Buc Nasty, the Wildcat is fine when the base offense isn't going or is just blah. But, in each case Tuesday, they were biting off chunks of yardage with the base offense. To me, when things are going so well with what you're doing out of your base, you stay with that until the other guys prove they can stop it consistently. I said the same thing last year with the Dolphins. It was amazing how often the Wildcat killed momentum for them last season, as opposed to 2008 or 2009. If your fastball and curve are working, shelve the slider and screwball.

That's a good point, when everyone's expecting a big play out of a fancy formation even a nice little gain can be deflating.

Still, a direct snap isn't fooling anyone, get that running back (Rhodes?) in motion and they might have something.

Or maybe I'm just biased because I care more about seeing the ball in T.Y. Hilton's hands than the outcome of the game.

Thanks for the writeup DJN. Appreciate the thorough analysis.

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