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28 posts from October 2012

October 30, 2012

FIU women's soccer 2 First Team All-Sun Belt, 3 Second Team

On the eve of the Sun Belt Conference tournament, junior forward Chelsea Leiva, FIU's leader in goals and points, and redshirt junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage were named First Team All-Sun Belt. Sophomore midfielders Johanna Volz and Marie Egan and sophomore defender Nikki Rios were named to the Second Team.

For Leiva, it's her third All-Sun Belt honor, her second First Team honor. Savage's freshmen year and redshirt sophomore year ended with her being named to the Second Team. As far as individual honors, it completes a nice rebound season for Egan and Rios, who suffered season-ending injuries as freshmen.

Before Monday's practice, their last before leaving for Mobile and the Sun Belt tournament, which they'll start Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Troy.



FIU favored Saturday; a USA minute

FIU opened Sunday as a 5.5-point favorite over South Alabama and is now down to 3.5 or 4 in most places, despite the news that quarterback Jake Medlock would play Saturday (which Mario Cristobal reiterated on the Sun Belt conference call Monday). The over/under, which started at 51, has gone up to 52.5.

South Alabama, 2-6 overall, is in its first year of FBS (nee Division I) play and fourth season as a program. Recently, USA lost by 36-29 to Arkansas State, beat FAU in overtime and lost 38-24 to Louisiana-Monroe in its last three games.

"We've gotten better the last three weeks and a lot of that's due to our offense getting better," South Alabama coach Joey Jones said on the Sun Belt conference call. "We struggled offensively earlier in the year. We were rotating quarterbacks. We've gone with one quarterback and that's really lhelped us. Our defense has been playing pretty good most of the year."

And that is your USA Minute.




October 29, 2012

Medlock to play Saturday

In a Sunday night text message, FIU coach Mario Cristobal said quarterback Jake Medlock is "good to go." Then, on the weekly Sun Belt coaches teleconference, Cristobal reiterated that Medlock practiced with no problems Sunday and would play Saturday against South Alabama. 

Medlock left Saturday's game with a jacked up throwing hand and a hanging left shoulder. The team practiced Sunday, will have Monday off and return to practice Tuesday.


October 28, 2012

A few thoughts on Western Kentucky 14, FIU 6

Several years ago in Las Vegas, I made a late night trip from my room at The Venetian down to the blackjack tables. I was there for a few hands of even play, then got one on which I split aces. With what the dealer had showing, this should’ve been two hands of collecting chips. Instead, I got a push on one hand and lost the other. When the cards start going that way, I knew what to do. I immediately got up from the table and called it a night.

When bad things happen to fishermen while working an area, they’ll hang in for a bit before declaring the area has “bad juju.” They leave the area and, hopefully, leave the bad juju behind.

Unfortunately for FIU, the Panthers can’t metaphorically get up from the table when a dependable kicker becomes as reliable as Antonio Cromartie’s birth control. They can’t leave the area when their long snapper starts sending skipping stones back to the punter.

They can’t just shut it down when they get what they want and still don’t get what they want.

For the third consecutive week, FIU’s sitting on a Sunday, shaking their heads at a loss that they feel shouldn’t have been. Compound it now with looking at a future possibly without quarterback Jake Medlock, depending on how badly his right hand and left shoulder were injured on the final drive. Tough kid. Maybe too tough for his own body.

FIU wanted to get up early on Western Kentucky, hit them with a couple of big plays. And, they worked one to perfection, wide receiver Wayne Times going in motion to the right, taking the backward swing pass from Medlock, suckering Western’s secondary up and launching deep to Willis Wright. You knew Times would underthrow Wright – the last thing the passer, especially a stand-in passer, wants to do to a receiver that open is overthrow him – yet Wright still was a stride from the end zone when Western’s Jonathan Dowling stripped him from behind. Good play? Yep. Was Wright holding the ball properly? Tough to tell from my angle. Huge play?


That set the tone for the night. FIU would get what it wanted, then fail to take advantage.

Almost as big was Kedrick Rhodes fumble at the Western as he tried to gain a couple of extra yards at the Western 17.

FIU could’ve easily been up 10-3, 10-0, 14-3, 14-0 in this game. Unlike Middle Tennessee and Troy, Western doesn’t have the kind of offense that’s built to come from two touchdowns behind. They got some runs from Antonio Andrews especially when FIU failed to set the edge, and quarterback Kawaun Jakes made two completions over 20 yards. Overall, though, FIU kept Western from finishing drives. Western held the ball for 33:21, but had only 289 yards of offense and one real scoring drive. FIU kept Andrews from grinding out consecutive runs despite his 158 yards rushing on 27 carries. The Panthers kept Jakes under pressure and underperforming. Mr. Passing Efficiency looked like Mr. Just A Guy again. Jakes came in having thrown only four interceptions in seven games. FIU got one and came near a few others. He came in completing 70.1 percent of his passes and completed 66.7 percent. He averaged 12.1 yards per completion and FIU held him to 9.1.

FIU got what it wanted on defense. It even stuffed Western on a fourth and millimeters when the Hilltoppers inexplicably (OK, stupidly) eschewed a quarterback sneak for the first and ran fullback Kadeem Jones on a quick hitting line plunge. The interior defensive line took that extra second to get a great push inside and before Jones could find anywhere else to go, senior safeties Chuck Grace and Johnathan Cyprien were all over him. That stop at the FIU 3 kept the Panthers in the game instead of being down 14-3.

They gave up, really, one scoring drive…but launched that drive and kept it alive with the kind of mistakes you just can’t have. The kickoff got blown when Jack Griffin had to stutter step while the ball started to topple. That caused A) a lousy kickoff and B) an illegal formation penalty on Griffin that got added to the return. Western started just 53 yards from paydirt.

They had the drive stalled – or at least Western looking at a tough fourth down – when Jakes overthrew Rico Brown on third and 6. Problem was, just before the snap, senior defensive end Tourek Williams did the offside cha-cha. And this wasn’t one of those, free-play-high-risk throws. Jakes blew the throw on his own. Instead of going for it on fourth and 6, Western converted the third and 1 with a play action 20-yard lob to tight end Jack Doyle.

And Western would’ve gone for it, just as they ran some half-baked draw play on fourth and 4 from the FIU 28 in the third quarter. Maybe FIU could’ve held Western to no points. Maybe the drive continues, but with No matter what Western coach Willie Taggart Tweets, he clearly has no confidence in kickers who haven’t been allowed to make a field goal attempt beyond 36 yards and longest made field goal is 27 yards. Somebody should tell Willie there’s a pretty good women’s soccer team at Western. Go find himself a kicker.

Not that FIU’s feeling thinks of Griffin as Prudential these days. He made two Saturday, from 29 and 39, but missed wide left from 40. Valuable points in a defensive struggle. At least he didn’t blow an extra point for the third consecutive week. (OK, he didn’t get a chance…)

But long snapper Mitch McCluggage did blow a punt snap for the second straight week, leading to an opposing touchdown. Three bad McCluggage punt snaps, the first three of his career, have led to 16 opposing points this year. And that was a huge score, the one that put Western up 14-6. At the end, instead of one final, futile play for the end zone, FIU could’ve lined up Griffin from the right hash mark for a 38-yard, game-winner. No lock, but even as erratic as he’s been, Griffin’s odds of hitting from 38 beat the odds of E.J. Hilliard coming in cold and hitting a 21-yard pass against the Sun Belt’s best defense.

Speaking of that defense, which got its ninth sack on that final play…Medlock did what got Wesley Carroll benched last year: held onto the ball too long too often. Western sat on some of the quick stuff FIU wanted to throw and when that wasn’t open or Medlock believed it wasn’t open, here came the deluge.

“He’s trying, he’s a young quarterback, but you can’t hang onto the ball, not against a defense like that,” FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. “If it’s not there, you’ve got to tuck and run. You can’t hang back there. That protection is not designed to sit back there.”

The FIU bench drew two flags. One was on Cristobal and, whether he earned this one or not, I wasn’t surprised – mounting frustration with the Sun Belt officials this season, years of him being quickly hot and off the bench to protest calls, I’ve been waiting for that flag to fall. Call it a lifetime achievement flag. The other time, an official claimed he ran into an FIU coach.

It’s that kind of year. With three hands left to play before FIU can leave the table.


October 27, 2012

Gameday IX, Western Kentucky at FIU; women's soccer Sun Belt co-champs

The advance story on today’s game discusses Glenn Coleman and Willis Wright. I wrote most of the story Monday, intending it to run in Tuesday’s Herald. However we’ve scaled back coverage at 1-7, so I holstered it to use it as the advance. Coincidentally, i think they’ll be the keys if FIU wants to score enough to keep up with Western Kentucky.

Last year, Western ran the old USC-O.J. Simpson offense with running back Bobby Rainey. Run him left, right, up the middle – “The ball isn’t very heavy and he doesn’t belong to any union,” then-USC coach John McKay once said of Simpson’s heavy workload – throw to him and make the quarterback do as little as possible.

This year, quarterback Kawaun Jakes ranks ninth nationally in passing efficiency. Jakes is still is no Bernie Kosar – more like Frank Costa – yet works better off Western’s running game than last year, now with Antonio Andrews in the Bobby Rainey role. Western likes the double tight end look and the best of them is Jack Doyle (Cathedral in the house!), the Hilltopppers leading receiver with 33 catches, but only 9.8 yards per catch. Also, fullback Kadeem Jones plays the ever-helpful Thing role (not to be confused with The Thing except by size) by doing whatever’s necessary – the occasional needed run (5.9 per carry) or catch (three touchdowns in 11 catches), lead blocker, pass protector.

Andrews is the second-leading receiver. Jakes’ longest completion this year is 40 yards. They’ve allowed only 15 sacks. Essentially, don’t expect a lot of deep drop, long-developing plays. That’s not Jakes’ strength and if you’re running the ball well, mixing in short throws, you’re not going to be in situations where you need to do that, especially on third down. Western coach Willie Taggart, a man deservedly very confident in his own team, can make the FIU pass rush sound like a collegiate Fearsome Foursome while figuring they won’t have many opportunities to do what he says they can do.

“They’re athletic, physical. I would say by far overall, the most athletic defense we’ve faced this year,” Taggart said at his Thursday media session. “Their defensive line is really good. Its pass rush wiil  the best pass rushing D-line we’ve faced this year, that’s including Alabama. Alabama has a great defense overall and does a lot of good things, but these guys do a really good job of pass rushing, getting up the field.”

Here’s what’s most impressive about Western’s offense: they’re 48 of 91, 52.7 percent, on third down. Getting them off the field is harder than getting college graduates out of the house these days.

So, FIU’s run defense, which got trampled by Middle Tennessee’s Benny Cunningham, and linebacker/defensive end pass coverage will be tested more than any other tonight. In some ways, that’s better for FIU than its shredded secondary. If Western starts to make plays downfield, send in the clowns.

On the other side, the Hillpeople give up only 3.5 yards per carry and that’s not because of sacks – they have only 20. That’s just good run defense like they’ve played the last two seasons. They’ve got a ferocious, scary linebacker in Andrew Jackson and an excellent defensive end in Quanterus Smith, who leads the team in sacks.

Here’s why I see Wright and Coleman as even more important than they’ve been the last two weeks. I looked over the scoring drives Western’s allowed in its last six games (Austin Peay? Austin Please, I’m not counting that). There’s not much grind-it-out on the H-tops. They’ll play Patton vs. Rommel all day and be happier than a pig in Paducah. You have to, at some point, make a big strike. Not one or a few 10-15 yard plays. You have to rip off a pass over 30 yards, two 20-29-yard throws or a 20-yard run. A real thicker-than-a-Snicker chunk.

Western likes to play man coverage downfield. Troy went over the top on the Hills and had them on the ropes early. Louisiana-Monroe moved the ball well on them in a wild comeback last week. FIU should have its chances. If FIU executes early and gets up big as it did the last two games, Western’s not as equipped to come back from 16 or 17 points down. Also, I see FIU running the ball on Western a little better than it did last year. Not overwhelming Western, but maybe having just enough success to keep Western off balance.

In special teams, Andrews averages 30.4 yards per kickoff return and 14.3 yards per punt return. Opponents average 12.7 yards per punt return on the Hi-tops, but that might be a moot point – Western doesn’t punt often and FIU’s to the point of being just happy to get through the play without a muff or fumble.

Another tough call. Western 28, FIU 27.

But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.


When Middle Tennessee tied Western Kentucky Friday night, it left Middle, North Texas and FIU all at 8-1-1 in the Sun Belt and with a share of the regular season title.

That's the title of limited meaning. For the one that gets you into the NCAA tournament, the Sun Belt tournament title, a tie with North Texas and a loss to Middle leaves FIU seeded third. The Panthers will play Troy (9-9-2, 4-5-1 in conference) on Wednesday. FIU won at Troy, 2-1, on Sept. 23.


October 26, 2012

Streaking women's soccer; football pleads with, er, dedicates game to schools

Depening on what happans tonight between Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky, the women's soccer team will head into next week's Sun Belt Conference tournament either as a No. 2 seed or No. 3 seed after beating FAU Thursday night 2-1 on a pair of goals from Chelsea Leiva.

A Middle win vaults it over FIU and North Texas into the No. 1 seed and pushes FIU down to third. A tie puts Middle, FIU and North Texas in a three-way tie at 8-1-1 (25 points), but still puts FIU in third because FIU has the worst record in intrateam competition (0-1-1) among the three. North Texas beat Middle Tennessee and tied FIU, so would get No. 1. Middle would get No. 2. A Middle loss leaves FIU where it sits now, as the No. 2 seed.

No matter the seeding, the preseason Sun Belt favorites and defending champions go into the tournament as the hottest team, on a five-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten streak. The 1-1 tie at North Texas was the last game FIU (11-5-2) didn't win.

Leiva's two goals give her 10 for the season and pulled her into the team goals and scoring (25 points) lead over sophomore Scarlett Montoya (nine and 22, respectively). Freshman midfielder Madlen Weinhardt has a team-high nine assists.


FIU Stadium was half full for the home opener, back when bowls, rankings and conference titles remained in FIU's possible future. When you start from that, you know that at 1-7, ticket sales could be so slow and crowds so sparse that marketing becomes a red light district of ideas.

So it is on Thursday that FIU announced Saturday's game against Western Kentucky will be dedicated to Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Free tickets for staff, students and their families! All they have to do is fill out the form below, print it out and bring it with them Saturday an hour before the game to Gate 8. They give up information abou themselves and get free tickets. Sounds like a football version of a timeshare seminar.


Orlando speaks

I talked to FIU defensive coordinator Todd Orlando for about six minutes after Wednesday’s practice and before a meeting he had to attend.

To anybody who's not watching with T.Y. Hilton stars still in their eyes, the big difference between 2011 FIU and 2012 FIU -- or between What Everyone Thought 2012 FIU Would Be and What 2012 FIU Is -- is the defense. FIU's offensive numbers, despite no Hilton and having a true freshman at quarterback for two and a half games, are up across the board. But out of 120 FBS teams, FIU ranks 106th in scoring defense (giving up 37.38 points per game as compared to 19.46 last year); 99th in pass defense (246.75 yards per game vs. 226.62); and rushing defense (168.00 vs. 118.62). Their turnovers garnered are slightly down, 1.38 per game to 1.54. Special teams hasn't helped with the fumbled returns and kicker Jack Griffin becoming as reliable as a 1974 Chevy Vega. Still, it's the experienced defense that has failed most calamitously.

Discussing players and staff he still would be working with for at least four more games, I didn’t expect Orlando to toss anyone under the Greyhound and he didn’t. The one question I wish I’d asked is “What do you look back on even as you’re in the middle of the season and say “’I/We as coaches could’ve done this better?’”

I tried to get this up Wednesday night before my furlough started, but had trouble getting onto the blog. So, Happy Sandy School-less Friday (still can't believe schools aren't open today)...

What’s happened with the defense this season?

“Execution needs to be better off of that. We haven’t been finishing plays. Last year, if you want to compare some of the stuff we had, we finished a lot of plays. We’ve had turnovers, pressures and all that stuff. We haven’t had that production from last year. That would probably be the biggest thing.”

When you say you haven’t been finishing plays, can you give me an example?      

“Last game against Troy when – I don’t want to pick on Cheese because Cheese is not the problem – but just finishing those plays. (Cornerback Jose Cheeseborough had a chance at an interception the play after FIU quarterback Jake Medlock threw one. Cheesborough had both hands on the ball, but couldn’t bring it down. Troy scored a few plays later.) And a couple of opportunities for sacks. Even at home, had an opportunity to make some plays on some things. We’ve got to get back to getting that right.”

Is it also a matter of starting the season by giving up a bunch to Duke, then Akron and it snowballs into a lack of confidence?

“I don’t think so. Obviously, you always as a coach are worried about that part.You lose a couple of games and you don’t close out a couple of games, that’s obviously a big concern. But our kids from that standpoint are really good. They’ve been that way since I’ve been here and they’ve been that way since Coach Cristobal got here. They understand that there’s a certain way that – most of the time, it just comes down to technique. Technique and fundamentals  -- ‘hey, you know what, I’m a little bit concerned about this and I lose focus.’ Trust me, I’d be the first person to tell you that part. But I don’t see that (a loss of confidence). I don’t see it in practice and I don’t see it in games. Just for some reason, it’s happening.”

How surprising is this considering you had all these guys back and --?

“It is. But from the same aspect of it, the beginning of the season, when you look at the beginning part of it, we’re going to have played a couple of bowl teams. You’re playing them on the road. But some of the recent games, to me, we have to make sure, when the game’s on the line, especially at the end of the game, we’ve got to do our part with it. We’ve got to be able to …That’s probably the thing that’s most frustrating the last two games. We’ve had opportunities to close games out and we haven’t gotten it done.”

From an outside observer’s view, it doesn’t look like you’re doing much different schematically throughout the season. Have there been changes you’ve put in schematically during the season?

“Yes, we have. We’ve had to. Any time you go in, obviously, you’re getting into a second year where people are accustomed to what you’re doing with it. We’ve done that. That’s part of what my job is – making sure we’re doing things, self-scouting our own things, make sure we’re not becoming too predictable. We’ve changed up. Now, just got to get better at executing all the stuff with it. Sometimes, it’s not about the amount you have, it’s how you’re executing taking on blocks, getting off blocks and tackling. That’s where we have to become better, too.”

Seems like early in the season, guys were running free in the secondary, more recently, you’ve had guys there, they just haven’t made plays.

“Exactly right. In the beginning of the year, too, you played some legitimate guys. You played the Louisvilles, the UCFs, the Dukes and those guys had legitimate quarterbacks to go along with legitimate receivers. Now, our kids understand what they need to do and they’ve done a much better job, but, like you said before, just finishing those plays. Jeremiah McKinnon had an opportunity down in the Middle Tennessee game to make a play ont eh beal, Richie had a chance to make a couple of plays on the ball. They’re there, it’s just, like you said before, just getting up there and cleaning those up. And I was proud of the guys they got behind us a couple of times last game, but, for the most part, they did a good job from a cover standpoint. But it’s not the DBs, it’s collectively as a group, in terms of stopping the run and the pass.”

How frustrating has this been?

“It’s frustrating. Obviously. There’s nobody who takes it – probably myself and Coach Cristobal, you can probably ask him, you can ask the whole coaching staff (is frustrated) with it -- but obviously I’m not accustomed to this. I’m not accustomed to not being able to close out games defensively. It’s tough. It’s like anything else. It’s a hard profession from that standpoint. You move on, you keep working, just like if you’re a kid playing. You go in there and you work even harder to get it right because there is a formula to getting it right. You can’t just sit there and say ‘this is this’ and ‘this is that.’ You make it happen. If you’re struggling in one phase of it, you get back in there and find things out that can make it better. That’s what we’re doing constantly.” (High wind completely obscured his last sentence.)

How would you rate the job you guys have done coaching the defense?

“Obviously, it’s very average. From the standpoint of us coaching, if you’re looking at it coaching-wise, the results are very average. We’re always going to coach. We’re always going to teach. We’re always going to go out and get the stuff in and we’re always going to break down film with it. That part, we’re always going to be great. I’d put this crew with anybody in the country. But if you’re saying “how are we coaching?” from a standpoint of myself, not the guys on the staff, you’re talking about me as a defensive coordinator, the results aren’t coming. You answer that question. From that standpoint, there’s a lot that goes into it in terms of preparation, in terms of film, in terms of getting the information to the kids, in  terms of practicing. Now, it comes down to game day, whether we can get out there and put our kids in the best possible position to make plays. That’s my job.”

October 24, 2012

Wednesday at La Cage; Beaupre La Plongeur de La Semaine

No real news coming out of Wednesday morning's football practice. Jacob Younger's the only first team player who didn't practice. Senior running back Jeremiah Harden could be back this week, which would let them give even more of a rest to Kedrick Rhodes, who's been doing kind of a working rehab on that right ankle.

I talked to defensive coordinator Todd Orlando after practice. Maybe you won't like my questions -- yes, "what happened?" and "how would you rate your coaching this year?" were two of them -- and maybe you won't like his answers. But he didn't duck me and I don't think he ducked any questions. Around college-affiliated football, you'll find many coaches who would've gone groundhog until the spring. I'll have the transcript up either later today or Friday (furlough on Thursday).


Junior Sabrina Beaupre earned her 11th Sun Belt Diver of the Week award by qualifying for the NCAA Regionals in the 3-meter (275.45) and 1-meter springboards (292.55).

FIU men picked last in the Sun Belt's East

The other Sun Belt men's hoop coaches might know the FIU coach's name -- at least his last one -- but they don't know his players. Or, they do and they don't think much of them.

Whichever, FIU was picked last in the Sun Belt's East Division in the preseason coaches poll and had no players on the preseason All-Sun Belt teams.

P'raps his cohorts think Richard Pitino's in this situation...


The Jan. 12 FIU men's and women's basketball doubleheader at Arkansas-Little Rock will be on the Sun Belt Network, starting at 2 p.m.

October 23, 2012

This week, Day 2; Pat Bradley, Day 2 going into Day 3

As FIU limits defensive tackle Isame Faciane's snaps over the final four games, those snaps will be taken up by redshirt freshman Cody Horstman, freshman Fadol Brown and freshman Darrian Dyson. Others who should see increased playing time are freshman Davison Colimon at linebacker; freshman fullback Lemarq Caldwell; and redshirt freshman Lars Koht. Freshmen De'Andre Jasper and Nick England already have been in light rotation at wide receiver. 

Add offensive linemen Trenton Saunders and Edens Sineace, a couple of Palm Beach County young men, to the redshirt list.

"They're pretty good players, but offensive linemen, you'd like to get them in the 400-pound bench, 550-pound squat range," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said.

I'd put this in the comments, but, for some reason, my attempts to sign into the comments section now fail miserably. So, guess I have to put it here: chiapanther, that's the obvious question to ask of Orlando. And it'll be first out of the box.


Going into today's final round of FIU's 35th Annual Pat Bradley Invitational at Lakewood Rance Golf & Country Club, Daytona State's Mary Dawson leads after shooting a tournament record 67 in Monday's second round. Dawson's at an even 144, one ahead of FIU's Sophie Godley. Tania Tare and Meghan MacLaren are tied for fifth with Boston College's Katia Joo at 3-over 147. Jasmine Wade's in a five-way cluster at 10th, 7-over 151.

FIU leads the team standings by 14 shots over Boston College and 15 shots over Cincinnati. 


Coley preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year; FIU picked 2nd in East

Junior guard Jerica Coley, predictably, got the Sun Belt's Preseason Player of the Year honor in a conference coaches poll. Coley was an Honorable Mention All-America selection last year.

FIU was picked second behind Middle Tennessee State, which had three preseason First Team selections, in the East Division and got the one first place vote Middle didn't get.

Forward Finda Mansare was named a Second Team All-Sun Belt selection.  

October 22, 2012

Faciane's status; the rest brought to you by letter S (spread, swimming, soccer)

Defensive tackle Isame Faciane, who had to be helped off the field twice Saturday at Troy, will play this Saturday against Western Kentucky. Faciane and the rest of the interior defensive line need to be dominant or FIU's offense could spend the game playing Monopoly on the sideline.

Western tends to line up in the I and pound the ball, although quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw for 308 yards Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. That was the first 300-yard performance of Jakes career and of any Western quarterback since 1994. Western once again has the Sun Belt's leading rusher. This time, his name's Antonio Andrews. According to Bowling Green Daily News writer Chad Bishop, Western coach Willie Taggart said Andrews tweaked a hamstring against ULM but would play against FIU.

The line on the game opened at Western by 4.5 and quickly moved up to 7 across the board. The early line setters clearly looked at FIU's last two games (close losses in which the Panthers covered the spread), looked at Western's last two games (a close win, an overtime loss), noted the game was at FIU and set the line. Alert bettors jumped on Western quickly, forcing the line to get a bump.

In answer to a question on a previous post: I plan to talk to defensive coordinator Todd Orlando this week.

On the Sun Belt coaches weekly teleconference Monday, North Texas coach Dan McCarney used the phrase "respect the football." I couldn't help but think of this...



Junior diver Sabrina Beaupre qualified for the NCAAs in the two diving events and senior Marina Ribi broke a school record that's hung around since 2004 in Saturday's tri-meet against FAU and Florida State.

FIU beat FAU 160-134 and lost to FSU 189-101.

Ribi's 2:04.36 in the 200 butterfly erased Claudia Barsi's record. Ribi won the 100 fly in 56.78. Junior Sonia Perez's 4:21.83 in the 400 individual medley was the 12th fastest time in Division I so far this year. FIU also went 1-2 in the 200 freestyle relay. Klara Andersson, Valeriia Popova, Becky Wilde and Kelly Grace got it done in 1:38.51 to beat Danielle Meara, Courtney VanderSchaaf, Colleen Quinn and Ribi by 1.29 seconds.


Reader's Digest version: a 5-1 loss to Kentucky Sunday in which they avoided a shutout only by senior Lucas Di Croce's goal with less than three minutes left. FIU fell to 0-4-1 in Conference USA, 7-5-2 overall.


October 21, 2012

Futbol women win by a touchdown; some football stuff

FIU's lone senior, goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage, got a near-perfect sendoff -- a field view of a dominating performance that left her only having to stop three shots on goal. And Savage really didn't have to do even that in the 7-0 FIU win against Arkansas-Little Rock Sunday afternoon. She could've played goal standing on her head and FIU still would've won by a massive blowout.

The bombing didn't take five minutes to start.


Sophomore Scarlett Montoya struck 2:51 into the game. Madlen Weinhardt, who also had two assists, and Chelsea Leiva, the latter tying Montoya for the team goals lead, followed in the first 8:29. By halftime, Montoya took the goals lead back, Ashleigh Shim and Nicole DiPerna got in on the fun and FIU had a 6-0 lead. Morgan Morris scored in the second half off an assist from Shim.

FIU, 10-5-2, 7-1-1 in the Sun Belt, finish the regular season Thursday at FAU.


Sophomore defensive end Denzell Perine will redshirt to finish rehabilitating a knee. Defensive tackle Isame Faciane, who twice had to be helped off the field Saturday at Troy with what appeared to be a right shoulder problem, is being checked out today.


A few thoughts on Troy 38, FIU 37...

Quarterback Jake Medlock, still in uniform, walked across the open locker room door with a coldly incinerating stare. Mario Cristobal came out to meet me and the reporter from the FIU student paper looking drained of energy, words and happiness, like someone who had just gone through 15 rounds of spilling emotions with their spouse.

But it was senior running back Darian Mallary who verbalized the mood after victory teased FIU all game long, then tauntingly jilted the Panthers like so many Poindexters for the men of Troy.

 “Every week before the game, we think, we can change it, it’ll be different,” Mallary said. “It seems like every week, at the end of the game, it’s the same thing. And nobody understands why because we worked so hard. We don’t understand. Why is it going like this? What’s going wrong? It’s tiring. It’s really hurting. We’ve just got to figure something out just to win a game. Let’s focus on the next opponent and try to win one game.”

Mallary was one of many FIU parts and players that had But games as in “(he/they) really did this well, but…” Mallary ran for xx yards, picked up his ninth touchdown and showed, right now, he’s a better short yardage back than Kedrick Rhodes. Rhodes injuries have taken a quarter step off his backfield dancing turning it, in dancing terms, from James Brown to White Man’s Overbite.


But it was Mallary who fumbled after a 9-yard fourth quarter carry into Troy territory. FIU’s defense held the Trojans to a three-and-out, but up 37-35, any points there would’ve changed greatly the final minutes. Mallary had ripped off an 11-yarder the previous snap. Another first down, positive yards after that and kicking with the wind, senior kicker Jack Griffin would’ve had a decent shot (hey, not like it’s an extra point, right?)

I asked Mallary the last time he fumbled.

“I know it wasn’t in college. I think the last time I fumbled was semifinal in state, my senior year,” he replied. “Me fumbling, I didn’t see that coming for 1,000 miles. But it happened. I have to get over it. It hurt. This game right here, I put it all on my shoulders. I just don’t understand.”

It’s axiomatic that when teams lose close, everybody thinks of the one or two plays they didn’t make and wonder if that was the difference. Mallary thinks of his fumble. Griffin thinks of his blown extra point. Maybe Medlock was thinking of the interception he threw, a terrible decision and worse throw up the right sideline to Rhodes, who was covered, out of bounds and was decelerating out of the pattern as Medlock cocked. The next play, Troy quarterback Deon Anthony almost as foolishly, made a reckless deep pass into double coverage that’ll surely be on the mind of senior cornerback Jose Cheeseborough. Cheeseborough got two hands on the ball, but couldn’t complete the interception. Troy scored three plays later.

Sometimes, it’s doing that little extra that makes the difference. Troy linebacker Brannon Bryan made the aforementioned Medlock interception. But he also made a little noticed play in the second quarter as Glenn Coleman caught a deep slant route. Just as Coleman shifted up through the gears, Bryan got a piece of Coleman’s jersey. It slowed him just enough for Troy’s Chris Pickett to make the tackle. Without Bryan’s effort, that’s not a 28-yard gain on a drive to a field goal and 24-14 FIU lead, but an 87-yard touchdown and a 28-14 FIU lead.

Maybe Coleman’s thinking of that play. Once again, he and Willis Wright put the boom back in FIU’s offense. Troy’s safeties bit on the run early and often. Wright and Coleman feasted. Medlock didn’t miss the passes that Western Kentucky’s Kawaun Jakes bumbled against Troy.

Then, there’s the undisciplined penalties. Illegal shifts, etc. I didn’t see the Fadol Brown personal foul that nudged Troy from second and 7 on the FIU 20 to first and goal from the 9. The late hit call on Sam Miller on the biggest play of the game-winning drive was a predictable flag even if the hit on Shawn Southward wasn’t any more damaging than a typical knock-‘em-out-of-bounds bop. Here’s what coaches call “hidden yardage:” Southward should’ve been stopped about 10 yards earlier. He broke through a pack of Panthers, went toward the sideline, then Miller came in with the lateness. If the tackle gets made when it should’ve been, Southward’s stopped inbounds after 15 to 20 yards plus there’s no late hit penalty. Instead of a 27-yard gain augmented into 42 yards by the penalty and the clock stopped, it’s less than half that with the clock still moving. Troy was out of timeouts, remember.

The entire defensive front seven has to wonder what if they make a few more tackles on Troy quarterback Deon Anthony? A sack instead of a hurry, a 5-yard gain instead of a 14-yarder. Cristobal credited Troy’s blocking and Anthony’s athleticism, but said at some point, FIU’s got to get off the blocks and make a tackle. Still, hard to fault the defensive line/pass rush when they got four sacks, a number of quarterback hits and a Miller blitz induced Anthony into a dumb, desperate throw that Johnathan Cyprien intercepted.

Still, a little extra, a little more on a play could’ve been the difference.

Anthony’s a better passer than I thought. Some of his throws in the 7-10-yard range couldn’t have been made any better, perfect placement and zip. Actually, perhaps his worst throw was the one far enough behind Chandler Worthy that it was a lateral. So, when Worthy dropped it, it remained a live ball for Justin Halley to scoop and race off to FIU’s first defensive touchdown of the season. That happened in Game 8 this year. They had two after Game 3 last year.

I wasn't unhappy with the decision to run the ball on the third and long after Troy used its last timeout. Medlock had cooled off and some of his decisions were ehhh. Better to keep the ball inbounds, keep the clock rolling, get a few yards and try to pin Troy deep with them going against the wind. Which is exactly what happened

In the end, the offense put up 31 points and 428 yards of offense, but failed by producing zero points over the last 26:39 of the game and turning the ball over twice, once to set up a touchdown. On special teams, Josh Brisk punted well and pushed Troy back when he needed; and the kickoff return set up a touchdown with Richard Leonard’s 68-yard kickoff return. Special teams also set up a Troy touchdown by botching a punt snap. And then there’s that extra point. The defense got an interception, a fumble return touchdown and four sacks, but allowed a 69-yard drive to the game-winning field goal in 57 seconds by a team with no timeouts.

Good performances…just without that winning extra from anyone -- players or coaches.

When Google Maps reminded me the drive to Troy from my hotel was twice as far as I thought, over two hours, there was no way I couldn't think of this...


October 20, 2012

Gameday VIII: FIU at Troy

Really quickly before we get started: yes, I should be at next Sunday afternoon's hoop hoopla. The swimming and diving team is hosting FSU and FAU this morning. And Friday night on the Birmingham-Irondale border featured Arby's and a Miller. Felt like I should've ripped off my sleeves, found Randy and tried to cross a few things off the list. Now, about this game...

Should these two teams play Saturday? Or, should they say forget that, hit Home Depot for some grills, Troy bring the burgers, FIU bring the beer and orange soda and everybody consume while commiserating over disappointing seasons?

Troy hasn’t won on the field named after its longtime-and-still coach. FIU hasn’t won outside La Cage. Troy’s 3-3, expected to be better after coming off the worst season since 1982, and doesn’t know how long concussed quarterback Corey Robinson, the Sun Belt’s passing yards per game leader even after getting KO’d early by Western Kentucky last week, will be out. FIU’s 1-6, expected to be light years better coming off the best season in its program history, and doesn’t know how long its defense will be out.

I watched Troy’s 31-26 loss to Western Kentucky and thought Troy could’ve won that game going away, even with losing Robinson early. Not a small statement considering Western’s only two losses in the last 12 games were blowout losses to Alabama and LSU. The Trojans were up 10-0 when they blew a great scoring chance, then missed the field goal. You go up 17-0 on Western, that can horse Western into turning quarterback Kawaun Jakes loose. And that’s a case of sit back, do your job and don’t get in each other’s way fighting for the interception.

Obviously, Troy’s offense changes with Anthony instead of Robinson at quarterback (this assumes Anthony plays. The Troy people have been hush, hush, Sid Hudgens, about Robinson’s health this week). With Robinson, Troy had the Sun Belt’s No. 1 pass offense as they let Robinson throw 40 times a game and Anthony fling a couple, too, as the change of pace quarterback out of the Wildcat (or, modified single wing, as us old timers see it). In over a half of starting time against Western last week, Anthony threw 16 passes. Though Anthony’s the Sun Belt’s passing efficiency leader, that’s off the small sample size of 29 passes over six games and coming in as that second guy.

Wide receiver Chip Reeves averages 16.8 yards per catch, but that’s with Robinson throwing to him the vast majority of the time. Maybe Anthony gets hot tonight or FIU’s laissez-faire pass defense gives him temporary Archie Manning powers, but expect Anthony and Troy, behind running back Shawn Southward to do more damage on foot than in the air. But Southward isn’t the John Shaft-baaaad back Middle Tennessee State’s Benny Cunningham was. (Yeah, I was wrong on that one slightly, huh?)

FIU had some notable numbers obscured by last week’s finish. Redshirt sophomore Jake Medlock’s 380 yards passing were the second most in FIU history and the most in an overtime-free contest. Only twice before has FIU had 100-yard receivers in the same game, as they did with junior wide receivers Willis Wright and Glenn Coleman (you’ve been paying attention or looking at the game notes if you recall that the second time was in the season opener against Duke, Kedrick Rhodes and Wayne Times).

Go long on Troy. The Trojans allow a Sun Belt low 51.9 completion percentage, but also 15.3 yards per completion and 8.0 yards per attempt (just to give you a gauge, FIU’s 13.1 and 7.8, respectively). Western got wide receivers open deep up the sideline. Jakes just blew throws that Medlock usually would hit. Jakes later hit wide open receivers up the seam, a circumstance set up by Western’s dominant running game. Those could be open to FIU’s tight ends if FIU’s run game can get going. The impediment there could still be how well Medlock can move on the read option. Last week, he was fine with pocket movement, but after a couple of early keeps that looked like he was showing Middle something just to show it, Medlock wasn’t a factor in the running game. That lets defenses sit on the running backs, thus limiting their effectiveness.

Still, FIU rolled up 30 points, had a self-imposed fumble in the red zone and came less than a yard from the end zone – or got in and weren’t given it – from more points. Again, on the whole, the offense produced. The defense and special teams failed at the pivotal moments.

As I wrote in today’s advance, which appears at http://www.miamiherald.com/sports, all but one FIU game this season featured a significant swing in the last minutes of the first half and first minutes of the second half. Within those swings, lay the key to this game – third down defense. FIU’s given up too many third-and-long conversions. Five of Middle’s six third down conversions last week came on third-and-7 or longer and a third-and-15 failure got them close enough to convert on fourth down.

Troy’s statistically the best third down defense in the Sun Belt. And I can see Anthony running for a first down out of a mess. But I can also see him making some mistakes in the air Robinson wouldn’t or on throws where Corey could, but Deon couldn’t.

Another tough call. I’ll take Troy, 31-27.

But that’s one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.


A rough season for the 6-16 volleyball team got some sunlight with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-20) sweep at North Texas. Junior Brittany Spencer had six blocks. Four others – senior Kimberly Smith, fifth-year senior Renele Forde, freshman Lucia Castro and freshman Gloria Levorin – had five blocks each. Forde also had 33 assists.

October 18, 2012

Futbol stuff

The women's soccer team dusted Arkansas State 3-1 Thursday afternoon to improve to 6-1-1 in the Sun Belt and 9-5-2 overall.

Sophomore Johanna Volz, junior Nicole DiPerna and freshman Morgan Morris scored for FIU and sophomore Ashleigh Shim had two assists. Sunday, they'll try to extend their current unbeaten streak, 4-0-1, against Arkansas-Little Rock. 


I asked FIU coach Kenny Arena what he saw from his team in Wednesday's 3-2 home loss to No. 19 SMU, a game in which FIU never led yet outshot SMU 18-9 and had nine shots actually on goal to SMU's five.

"You can see we are a good team and, right now, the one thing holding us back is we don't punish teams for the mistake made against us and we are being punished for the mistakes we make," Arena said. "we need to take care of what we can. On our mistakes, tha'ts going to happen. We still can do a better job of scoring goals than we have."

Though FIU, 7-4-2 overall, is 0-3-1 in Conference USA play, Arena says he isn't worried.

"All the games we've lost have been to ver good teams by one goal," Arena said. "Two conference games, we lost on penalty kicks in the second half and they were questionable calls. That's life in a competitive conference. Also, we're only halfway through with the conference schedule. If we were getting blown out, I'd be worried. We're not. We've outshot every opponent. Last night was the first time we gave up three goals in a game."

Hurts & The Heat

According to Al.com's Wednesday report, Troy quarterback Corey Robinson hadn't been given medical clearance to take the practice field yet, much less play Saturday against FIU. It increasingly looks like Deon Anthony, not the passer Robinson is, will start Satursday.

FIU senior wide receiver Jacob Younger didn't practice again Thursday.

Saturday's 1 p.m. Eastern start suits FIU coach Mario Cristobal, who'd like more of those at FIU Stadium so the heat could help roast visiting teams as it used to for the University of Miami and the Dolphins. Once hardy South Florida fans tend to be almost as roast averse as visiting teams these days, however.


October 17, 2012

Soccer Wednesday

FIU hosts its biggest regular season soccer game in many a year the same day defender Anthony Hobbs was announced as one of the finalists for the 2012 Senior CLASS Award in soccer.

Tonight, FIU, 7-3-2 and ranked No. 7 in the South Region, hosts 8-3-2 SMU, ranked No. 19 nationally. FIU gets top goal scorer Quentin Albrecht back from a one-game suspension for getting five yellow cards. SMU's 4-1-0 in Conference USA while FIU's only 0-2-1, but, clearly, the coaching change from Munga Eketebi to Kenny Arena and being back to a full complement of scholarships agrees with FIU so far. This game could tell much about how far they've come and how far they still have to go before regaining the status the program held in the 1980s and 1990s.

As for Hobbs honor, the award goes to a Division I senior who has shown excellent acheivement in "community, character, classroom and competition." Fan voating accounts for a third of the award (you can vote at http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote/DI_mens_soccer_2012/) with two-thirds being the opinions of coaches and national media.


October 16, 2012


Injury update: Senior wide receiver Jacob Younger, who suffered a deep bruise to his lower back, didn't practice Tuesday and will see a doctor. Running back Kedrick Rhodes is day-to-day while Jeremiah Harden's still dealing with ankle and knee injuries.

The Sports Exchange's Paul Borden pointed out the irony that FIU's injury troubles have been on offense, but it's the defense that's been the biggest failure. Linebacker Winston Fraser admitted the defense's collapse has confounded him just as it has anyone who follows FIU.

In answer to what happened to freshman linebackers Leroy Owens and Jamie Willis, who were running with the second team quite early in training camp: Owens will be redshirted. Willis, who had shoulder surgery, will be "serving a year of residency" before probably rejoining the team next season.

Troy opened a 4.5-point favorite and has shot up to a 6.5 to 7-point favorite across the board despite quarterback Corey Robinson being questionable or doubtful for this week's game. FIU's 3-4 against the spread this season.

October 15, 2012

Younger OK. Rhodes? Well...Durante to redshirt; Middle's Cunningham probably out for the season

 Senior wide receiver Jacob Younger will be OK after getting injured in the fourth quarter Saturday FIU coach Mario Cristobal said Monday. But the condition of running back Kedrick Rhodes and his right ankle remain up in the air for this week. Cristobal said FIU's situation makes no difference as to how they handle Rhodes' injury.

Cristobal also said they'll redshirt freshman wide receiver Johnnie Durante; linebacker Josh Glanton; defensive lineman Marques Cheeks; and defensive end Leonard Washington.

When several FIU players slammed Benny Cunningham out of bounds on Middle Tennessee State's penultimate offensive play, Cunningham suffered a left knee injury that Middle coach Rick Stockstill expects to be confirmed as season-ending. For a true fan of football, it was a sad way to see the night end for Cunningham after he ran for 230 yards (previous FIU opponent record: 227 yards by Pittsburgh's Ray Graham in 2010) on 36 carries (previous FIU opponent record: 34 by Troy's DeWhitt Betterson in 2003). It was his second 200-yard game in the last three.

Stockstill was asked if he thought the hit was dirty.

"I don't think so," Stockstill said. "I don't think there was anything malicious. It looked as though he slipped, got off balance and got hit."

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