Even before I heard outside hitter Jovana Bjelica now had a hat trick of Sun Belt Player of the Week awards, I rolled over to The Bank with the intent of talking to the Serbian junior who had 31 kills against Arkansas State Friday and averaged 6.38 kills per set over weekend wins against ASU (five-setter) and Arkansas-Little Rock (1-2-3-and-out)
Though the volleyball team wasn’t practicing, at least not at the normal time, I did wind up talking to a tall, blond woman who was a pretty good college athlete – Inge Nissen, longtime FIU women’s assistant coach, a Hall of Fame player at Old Dominion way back in the day. Our short conversation reminded me that Sun Belt media days for basketball are nigh, Tuesday and Wednesday. FIU women’s coach Cindy Russo’s up late Tuesday morning. So, we’ll finally have some hoop here.
On to the What Happened To Us? Bowl, between Sun Belt favorites FIU and Troy Tuesday. The advance is at http://www.miamiherald.com/sports.
The line opened with FIU as 5-point favorites. It’s moved up to 6.5 in Vegas, 6.0 on some of the offshore sites. The money’s coming down on FIU. The over/under got set at 55.5 or 56 depending on the book or site. Despite having Sun Belt Preseason Defensive Player of the Year defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy’s averages giving up 34.7 points per game and 460.8 yards per game, both worst in the Sun Belt, which is akin to being the worst driver in Hialeah. And they play fast, so there’s lots of plays and possessions -- 77.5 plays per game on offense, a conference-highh 77.0 on defense. Ergo, that over/under number would be higher if FIU’s red zone offense didn’t look as confused as Kramer in a hospital.
Speaking of which, I keep wondering why FIU didn’t go to 6-4 tight ends Jonathan Faucher and Colt Anderson more in the red zone, where they have one red zone touchdown pass. In the NFL, good red zone offenses often involve good tight end usage. The Patriots in the red zone? Like a Rick Barry free throw. One of the reasons the Dolphins have struggled in the red zone the last two seasons is a) Anthony Fasano’s a C-list tight end and b) they don’t know how to make the most of what Fasano can do.
This isn’t the NFL, but the same logical principles apply. When shrunken space shrinks speed advantages, bring on the combination of quickness and size. When FIU threw to a covered Faucher against Duke, he jumped over the defender for the ball and the touchdown.
Why not do that more often? Mario Cristobal’s answer:
“We’ve seen things that are there for them to have. We plug it in, we rep it, we make it part of the game plan. When we feel they’re taken away or we feel it’s more advantageous to go another route, we do so as well. One thing we have been for the most part is pretty efficient with the football. We haven’t thrown many interceptions. We’d like to stay along those lines when we do throw it. We would like to use them. They are good football players. When the ball’s been throw to them, they have been effective. It’s always part of our regimen looking, not only for the tight ends, but the backs as well, getting the ball to them in the passing game. The outside guys as well, involving them more. That’s a challenge we’re working on consistently – continue to spread the ball around and find the holes in the defense.”
However FIU gets to the end zone, the Panthers likely will need to do it often. Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Troy quarterback Corey Robinson averages 296.5 yards per game not far off what Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin did before he met FIU. But Aplin showed up for Tuesday’s game apparently fresh from using the WABAC machine to swipe the body of Turner Gill in his prime. Almost half of Aplin’s 341 rushing yards this season came against FIU.
Offensively, again, FIU should move the ball at will. Troy’s not stopping anybody. We’ll see whether another week at work gives FIU the ability to run their offense without a false start penalty or some basic scewup that brings the drive screeching to a General Lee halt.
Troy’s kicked only six field goals this year. I’ll take FIU 38-35.
That’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.