Usually, as readers of this blog know from last year, my usual long-winded postgame blog analysis is done after the game and posted sometime in the wee am hours (exceptions for excessive sleepiness preceding multi-hour morning drives). Last night, I planned to do the same. I didn't plan to get home late, sleepy and still needing to hit Lincoln Road for dinner with the wife.
So, it's Sunday morning.
Head Coach's view (or, part of it):
"Kedrick Rhodes ran really, really well. Tourek Williams played really really well. Richard Leonard, Junior Mertile, big plays. Jeremiah McKinnon played some good fotoball...a lot of big plays both sides of hte ball. Back and forth in a good way. That's what you want to see. A really good first scrimmage."
While there were big plays by both offense and defense, it seemed most of the offensive explosiveness came from the 3s facing each other. My first thought after the scrimmage was, "Well, that's probably the best defense they'll face all season..."
Fireman's Fund full coverage in the secondary. A pass rush that usually got to or around the quarterback. Solid tackling. That was the first team defense all night. They had maybe two real failures in a series of downs. The first I describe in the next paragraph. The other was a third and 10 with the offense backed up on its own 1 on which quarterback Jake Medlock completed a pass to Zach Schaubhut for about 19 yards.
Medlock was upbeat afterwards, but that's him. He's the kind of guy in the action movies who says, "So I lost an arm -- I still had one to shoot with and there was less of me for them to shoot at!" He said he wanted to show composure after bad plays and he did that. He also showed a good voice at the line, turning a third and 6 into a third and 1 by drawing defensive tackle Isame Faciane offside. He nearly did it again on the third and 1, the entire defensive line jumping forward and back like a quartet of Kappas or Q-Dogs in a step show. Rhodes plowed for a first down. Mario Cristobal was happy about that.
Othewise, it was pretty much a shutdown. The second teamers didn't have quite the same amount of success with the second team offense, but they allowed only one score, an incredible one-handed catch sky sweep by Jairus Williams with Mertile in his jersey. They had some outside containment problems. Shane Coleman got outside for a 48-yard run and Hammonds broke out for a 22-yard run. They had freshman linebackers Leroy Owens and Patrick Jean working the middle much of the night. That's going to happen with young guys. Owens, who also had a sack, made the interception that killed the second team's two-minute drill drive.
Among the third-teamers, quarterback E.J. Hilliard, aside from telegraphing a throw that allowed Mertile to jump the route for a pick six with the second team, showed his legs and a pretty good arm for distance and accuracy. He escaped the pocket and hit redshirt sophomore Michael Curry deep for a 70-yard touchdown.They hooked up for a 42-yard play earlier in the scrimmage. Both were behind freshman safety Davison Colimon, who bounced back after the first one with a fumble recovery.
The touchdown to Curry came with Hilliard being chased by freshman defensive tackle Darrian Dyson. A helmetless Darrian Dyson, who drew a flag for it. According to Mario Cristobal, this year, once you lose your helmet, you can't re-engage a block and can't rejoin pursuit of a player. Three helmets came off during plays Saturday night, which Cristobal mentioned as a concern.
Freshman quarterbcak Favian Upshaw hit redshirt freshman T.J. Lowder for a 44-yard touchdown late in the scrimmage. That kind of made up for the handoff between Upshaw and freshman fullback Lemarq Caldwell that freshman defensive lineman Diegot Joseph snatched up.
I would've been shocked if I had seen anything else Saturday night. FIU's a top notch defensive team -- and big, really looking big -- with a strong running game and a quarterback still getting it all together. That's only slightly less the case with the second team units.
There's still three weeks practice time left before Duke. And as I wrote in a story from Sun Belt media days, given the choice, every Sun Belt coach said they'd rather have the best defense than the best offense.
Hilton made his preseason debut with Indianapolis today -- three catches for 25 yards, one rush for 9 yards around the right side as the Colts lined up in the shotgun, one punt return for 6 yards.
A few days ago, his father texted me pictures of three autographed Hilton rookie cards.