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A few (belated) thoughts from FIU 31, Middle Tennessee State 18...and some recruiting

Sorry about the lateness of this. I once again chose sleep over wee hours postgame blog filing. Actually, the bigger mistake was choosing some Mexican place in Murfreesboro for postgame dinner over an IHOP or Waffle House, where I could’ve had room to work while killing some breakfast food.

Then, I got home, got busy with other work, took the kid out and did anybody else think Chef Alex was deep fried when her potatoes went into the water? And she had that bag of burnt stuff on the table just for the aroma?

Anyway, FIU finishes 8-4. It’s the best record ever for FIU and ties Florida State for the best record in Florida. Before anyone starts to high horse about FIU's schedule and the Sun Belt not being the ACC, let’s throw some water on that to melt it just a little. The University of Miami lost a home game to the same Boston College that got punked by FIU victim UCF. FSU lost to Wake Forest, which got stomped by Vanderbilt Saturday in a game that didn’t help FIU’s bowl hopes.

Ah, the bowl situation. UM’s out, so there’s 72 bowl eligible teams for 70 slots as of right now. The SEC, Conference USA, the Pac-12 and the WAC won’t be able to fill all their bowl commitments. Good news for FIU. All that could create at-large needs in the Dec. 20 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg; the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl; the Dec. 17 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the blue in Boise; the Dec. 21 San Diego County Poinsetta Bowl; and the Jan. 7 BBVA Compass Bank Bowl.

The bad news for FIU? The Big Ten, as in the 10 teams from that conference that can go bowling. Unlike the Coral Gables school under NCAA investigation, Ohio State has said if invited somewhere, it’ll go. That doesn’t just keep a school in the mix. It keeps a name school that travels well in the mix. Those Big Ten schools bring beef on the field and bodies to the hotels and restaurants. Midwestern winters and traditional fandom make desired bowl guests. Except for, this year, Penn State. Any bowl would love the money, as Penn State would still bring a good chunk of Pennsylvania, but the stories that would follow in the run-up to the game might be enough to propel bowl reps through the hospitality lounge alcohol supply 72 hours before kickoff.

Still, Penn State insists if called, it’ll come.

The St. Pete game looks like the most logical location that would have a space and some love for FIU. If the Compass Bowl’s going to go Sun Belt, Western Kentucky’s the obvious choice. Nobody says Western packs the house, but neither does FIU and Western’s only 250 miles away from the Compass Bowl. Same reason I think Beef O’Brady’s makes sense for FIU.

As for stuff from Saturday…

For the second consecutive game, Wesley Carroll played about as well as he has all season. Carroll deserves a chunk of the credit for the offense getting the job done in the red zone, four touchdowns in five red zone trips. Hate to harp on a point and I’m no coach, but it doesn’t seem an accident that over the last two weeks, FIU’s had five touchdowns in seven red zone trips and three of those trips featured passes to tight ends, two for touchdowns.

“(Tight ends) Coach (Greg) Laffere told me all week that was going to be there,” senior tight end Jonathan Faucher said after being so wide open catching a 5-yard touchdown pass off a play action fake, he could’ve counted bumps on the ball.

“They’ve been so instrumental in our running game,” Cristobal said. “People really start packing the box and they really start running by and ignoring them. Great call from the box. They’re in man coverage, their eyes are coming off the tight end, we went to a check to it at the line of scrimmage.”

Faucher also recovered an onside kick and, for the second time in three weeks, got his hands on a punt. The punt wobbled 28 yards, leaving FIU 51 yards away from a 21-6 lead. They took the lead on a lob to T.Y. Hilton that featured enough people in that back corner of the end zone for a robust game of tunk or euchre. Hilton said wide receiver Jacob Younger didn’t receive the right call, but it all worked out.

Back to Faucher and Colt Anderson, the two senior tight ends. Replacing two big (6-3, 233, 6-4, 220) and athletic (Anderson’s the consensus best basketball player on the team, Faucher used to play soccer) won’t be easy. It’s not just their run blocking or that they catch the ball on the rare occasions they’re targeted. Both play on special teams, where each has recovered an onside kick this year. Faucher’s made nine tackles on special teams, four solo.

“(Redshirt junior) Joey Harris will be a senior,” Cristobal said. “(Freshman) Ya’Keem Griner, I think has a chance to be a special talent. Paul Lundgren is a big guy who played defensive line befre. That’s kind of in vogue, taking those big defensive lineman, getting a bigger body out there.”

Speaking of defensive linemen, FIU’s found Middle Tennessee’s quarterbacks like the doorway at the end of the hall in the funhouse that keeps getting farther away the more you run toward it. By the middle of the third quarter, they were getting more consistent pressure, leading to Greg Hickman’s interception and a couple of near misses.

“They do that almost like waterfall protection,” Cristobal said. “Literally on the snap, they start backpedaling right away. The quarterback’s launch point is very deep. It takes a while to adjust to. I think they’re top 10 in the country in least sacks allowed (they had allowed only eight in 10 games). We stayed with it. We started putting some guys in the game that had some fresh legs.”

Shame Kedrick Rhodes sprained an ankle just 12 yards from the single season rushing record. Also a shame safety Justin Halley, who ended the year with a team-high four interceptions, wasn't credited with more than one pass breakup aside from his interception. He had his hands on at least two other passes.

Hilton’s kickoff return epitomized darkest-before-dawn. Nobody bothered to field the pooched kickoff or, at least, field it on the fly. When it bounced, that screamed trouble. Wayne Times jumped to bat it out of trouble, but this was a job for an outside hitter like Jovana Bjelica, not a wide receiver. The ball got swatted back toward the FIU goal line. Around the 15, it began doing that tantalizing “can-you-grab-me?” bouncing footballs do when Hilton happened by. He scooped up the ball, turned the corner on the opposite side of the field and got to the Middle 7. I’ll bet even Middle Tennessee fans groaned when Hilton got brought down. It seemed to much a wild, wonderful play to not end in a score.

Besides, that would’ve guaranteed the play a spot on SportsCenter.

Before the season, I predicted FIU would go 9-3 with losses to UCF, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe. In my weekly pregame blog predictions, I went 7-5. Quarterback injuries got me against the Louisianas – I didn’t expect three quarters of Medlock against Lafayette and I figured Medlock, out of inexperience, for the killing error against Monroe. Instead, Wesley Carroll came in and performed admirably.

I’m out. Hopefully, I’ll be back with a bowl matchup and bettling lines (maybe even some sides!).

RECRUITING

Haines City linebacker Josh Glanton, who verbally committed to FIU earlier this month, had an in-home visit from FIU Sunday according to his Twitter account and will be entertaining Michigan on Wednesday. An in-home from Michigan might test that verbal committment.

Pensacola High defensive back Damarius Travis will be making his official visit to FIU in December. Travis is also visiting Minnesota and Western Michigan. Visits in December for a kid from Pensacola? Advantage: FIU.

Also, reportedly, FIU's offered junior college wideout 6-5, 196-pound Corey Washington from Georgia Military College.

  

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