Remember Playmakers, the show the NFL didn’t like so ESPN cancelled it after one season instead of telling the league, “Most of the stuff you’re upset about is a cleaned up version of stuff that’s already happened in the NFL, so just take our rights fee billions and shut up before we go North Dallas Forty on you in the second season?”
One episode began with the Cougars head coach learning he’s got prostate cancer days before the team faces a Michael Vick-style quarterback named Hawkins. The coaches decide to use Olczyk, the linebacker clearly based on Zach Thomas, as a spy on Hawkins. Practices, game film and an improbable impromptu parking lot game with Hawkins convince Olcyzk that he’ll be humiliated on Sunday. After the coach tells the team he’ll keep working through cancer treatments in his pregame speech, Olzyck asks the coach, how do you keep working in the face of a more powerful opponent? The coach answers, “You just keep showing up. Guys like you and me, that’s all we can do.” Olczyk fails miserably throughout the game. But near the end of a shootout, he causes Hawkins to fumble. The Cougars recover, and get the winning touchdown. After the game, the coach hands Olczyk a game ball with, sotto voce, “You just keep showing up.”
That’s what it feels like it’s going to take for FIU to win this game. They’ll just have to keep showing up, keep staying around until a Louisville oopsy opens the door a sliver.
Otherwise, FIU faithful should pray for more of the kind of rain that’s been coming down all day. It’ll kill attendance, but also likely hurt the team that throws the ball better while bringing chaos. Chaos from the elements fuels many a big upset.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON LINE ALERT: And that might be why the line on this game has done a precipitous drop for one day -- from Louisville by 13 or 13.5 all week down to anywhere from 10.5 to 12. Bettors are watching this game after they took the books' lunch last year on this matchup by getting down heavily all week on FIU. END OF ALERT
Also, Louisville wants a piece of FIU. The score last year, 24-17, and the three big scoring plays masked how much FIU outmuscled Louisville on Louisville’s turf for long stretches. They got punked in their Papa John's house on national television and they remember.
FIU’s trailed by double-digits in each first half this season. Lousiville’s outscored opponents 76-21 in three first halves (that’s 25.3-7, even in the new math).
FIU’s been allowing 291.67 yards per game passing, 107th in the nation, and are 99th in pass efficiency defense. They’ve been having trouble with cohesion in the secondary. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s throwing for 285.0 yards per game, and completing 81.8 percent of his passes. Louisville’s got it together – 10 different players caught passes last week against North Carolina.
Louisville’s averaging 4.23 per rush and that number gets dragged down by the 3.5 per rush the Cardinals put up against FCS punching bag Missouri State.
Looks as if this post should come with Lalo Schifrin them music.
Perhaps some tomfoolery in disguising coverages can throw Bridgewater off long enough for FIU’s pass rush to re-emerge from its year of slumber. But FIU doesn’t like to get too funky or too far from its scheme for fear of slowing down its athletes with too much thinking.
One of my least favorite things to hear is “run the ball well and keep the ball away from them.” That shrinks the number of possessions your defense must turn the trick of shutting down a high-powered offense. Maybe if you get some help from a bloated halftime, the juggernaut offense falls out of rhythm for a bit. Really, though, at some point, you still have to stop the other guys when they have the ball.
You hold it six minutes and get a field goal. They hold it two minutes and get a touchdown. Keep up that kind of trading and you’ll keep their offense off the field…for the fourth quarter, when it’s being rested with a garbage time lead.
On FIU’s first possession, if the defense wasn’t out for too long, FIU should give her the gun with the no-huddle. Louisville had some problems when North Carolina went scramble in the second half last week out of necessity (the Tar Heels trailed 36-7). If the defense got stuck out for several minutes, get a first down or two before going to it. Louisville’s 15th in rushing defense and allowing only 3.57 yards per rush, but look behind the numbers – against its two FBS opponents, they weren’t exactly The Great Wall. Kentucky ran for 93 yards on only 19 carries. Take out a 28 yards in Team Losses (two bad shotgun snaps) and the Heels got 75 yards on 15 carries, an even 5.0 per pop.
Everything for FIU works off the run. They learned – or had reaffirmed -- last week against UCF their chances of success without getting that going shrink to miniscule. What they can’t do is get so far behind they’re forced to become one-dimensional.
As I’ve written often, if you expected more from the offense overall so far, hey, we all have our fantasies. Jake Medlock, an inexperienced quarterback, has played one awful half out of six this year. It was in the game that set up as a problem, versus a good defense in its home opener, with a poor conceptual approach.
What’s gotten FIU in the hole each week are defense and special teams. Coaches not named Frank Beamer can live with special teams that don’t help you. People get fired over special teams that hurt you. Check out FIU’s track record so far on special teams.
Two of three games, they’ve given up points on special teams. Two of three games, a special teams turnover has led to an opposing touchdown. Two of three games, they’ve missed makeable field goals. And they’re 112th in net punting.
That can’t be the case tonight if FIU’s to have a chance.
I don’t know how much Louisville’s going to score. Not sure the Cardinals will score as often as they want. It feels like they’ll score as often as they need.
Call it 38-24, Louisville.
But that’s one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.
During The Andy Slater Show portion of 640AM's FIU marathon Friday, sand volleyball coach Rita Buck-Crockett announced that FIU would be hosting a tournament in late March bringing in Georgia Tech and volleyball powerhouse Pepperdine. Pepperdine won the sand volleyball national championship last spring, sanctioned by the American Volleyball Coaches Association while the sport grows into a fully-sanctioned NCAA beast.
Buck-Crockett said the courts being constructed on campus would host dual meets, yet FIU's tournaments would be held on South Beach.
It's a date at 1-3 Stetson tonight for 5-1-1 FIU, which has a 20-3 lifetime record against Stetson. I like their chances of improving that.
Get it whatever way you can.
A South Alabama own goal off a failed clear of a Chelsea Leiva shot gave FIU a 1-0 win in its first Sun Belt match of the season and got the Panthers back to .500 (4-4-1) after a tough early season schedule.
Senior keeper Kaitlyn Savage got four saves in her fourth shutout of the season.
A tough season continued with a five-set loss (25-17, 24-26, 26-24, 20-25, 15-7) to Arkansas-Little Rock in FIU's home opener. For the 3-10 Panthers, senior Marija Prsa had 25 kills, tying a career high. Freshman Ashlee Hodgskin had 50 assists and 16 digs. Junior Brittany Spencer's five blocks were a team high.
The other Sun Belt Arkansas team, Arkansas State, comes in Sunday at 1 p.m.