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2 posts from November 3, 2012

November 03, 2012

Gameday X: FIU at South Alabama

It’ll be interesting to see if FIU takes as long to get off the ground Saturday as their plane did Friday. A two-hour delay got them into Mobile a few hours later than planned. The same thing happened on the way to Louisiana-Lafayette. Some at FIU don’t want to tip Allegiant Air, but rather run the tip of something sharp through Allegiant Air.

Though South Alabama’s only in its fourth season of football, it’s in a talent thick area with in-state competition for local talent from Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Alabama-Birmingham. So, they’re going to get some OK players. The only Sun Belt team to truly give South Alabama the what for is Troy, 31-10, in USA’s Sun Belt debut. Since then, the Jaguars lost by seven to Arkansas State, beaten FAU in double overtime and lost by 14 to Louisiana-Monroe.

Though coach Joey Jones said Monday, in essence, the offense is catching up to the defense, the numbers in USA’s four conference games, say the phrase “catching up” is being used looser than the belts on some ghetto kids’ jeans. USA has the worst scoring defense in conference games; and is last in total offense and pass offense. USA’s giving up a respectable 3.9 yards per carry, almost a full yard better than the 4.7 allowed by the blue and gold team giving up the most yards per carry in the Sun Belt. They’ve allowed a Sun Belt-worst 68.0 percent completion percentage and 8.3 yards per attempt. The only other Sun Belt team allowing that in conference games? Middle Tennessee. Look how FIU lit them up downfield.

Add it up and FIU should take it to USA early and often through the air off play action, after a few reminder runs. Quarterback Jake Medlock’s foot seems to be healing enough that he’s back to being a running threat. Sure, Medlock running makes all wearing FIU colors gulp air (and perhaps a shot), but Medlock’s gotten his worst hurts this year in the pocket.

Defensively, FIU looked terrific last week – one real scoring drive allowed, two fourth down stops -- against a Western offense that’s been putting up points despite their limited quarterback. South Alabama’s Ross Metheny has thrown six touchdowns and only two interceptions the last three games, but he’s only rushed for 70 yards in four conference games this season. FIU’s been hounding the quarterback lately with 10 sacks in three games after only three sacks in the first six. Put that together and I’d bet more on the Jaguars working Demetre Baker, who had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, 115 on 14 carries, against ULM. Western held FIU to six points, but the South Alabama coaches surely realize that’s so far from the norm as to be an almost irrelevant statistical anomaly for FIU this season, especially with Medlock at quarterback. The Jaguars won’t want to get into a track meet with the Panthers. They’ll want to limit possessions with long drives, as Western did, because they know keeping FIU off the scoreboard as Western did is a longshot.

Don’t be surprised if Shae Smith’s doing the longsnapping today after two weeks of Mitch McCluggage grounders leading to two game-changing touchdowns. If you’re a long snapper and you can’t sell don’t-think-about-it dependability, you don’t have a job.

Huh: there hasn’t been a punt return or kickoff return touchdown in a Sun Belt conference game this season. I’m not saying either will happen today, as South Alabama doesn’t do either particularly well and FIU’s put the dramatic peril of a Bond movie action sequence into the punt return. Just kind of something I found interesting.

I’ll stay with my preseason pick of FIU. Call it 27-13.

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


Why they're here

Promised this post earlier on Twitter. But, travel and soccer delayed it until now. So...

Today at FIU men's basketball media day, I asked several players why they came or stayed at FIU. While FIU's got a new coach, it has neither a great tradition, a "college town" feel nor great atmosphere at games.

But just like everybody's somebody's hottie, there's a reason for players from every school.

Center Joey De La Rosa, who had originally told me he wanted to transfer after the firing of Isiah Thomas: "I wanted to stick around and see how everything was going to be. I had a lot of schools calling me, but I didn't want to move to a different school. I've been doing that my whole high school career. I went to St. Raymond's in the Bronx, went to Impact Academy in Las Vegas, I went to Mount Vernon in Orlando. I didn't want to do that anymore. I just wanted to stick to the plan."

De La Rosa said it was a decision he and his family made. Pitino told De La Rosa if he wanted to be part of FIU's program, he needed to lose weight and tighten up physically, which he did.

Malik Smith, junior college transfer, who said North Texas, Sam Houston State, Bradley, Rhode Island, Tulsa and Utah State were among the schools who had talked to him: "When Coach Pitino called, it just felt like the perfect opportunity. Him coming off the Final Four (as a Louisville assistant) and just knowing the recipe of winning, I felt like it was a good situation.

"My visit was the first time I came here and I fell in love with it. Coming from Boston, where it's always cold, I just fell in love with it the first time."

Tymell Murphy, junior college transfer: "I had just come off a visit with another school. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I knew I still had time, but the clock was ticking. The call from Coach Pitino made me confident I was going to decide to come to FIU. I just felt that Coach Pitino has the experience and the situation was new to him and was going to be new to me. I felt if I'm going to make a decision to come anywhere, then a new situation is probably the best situation to go to.

Murphy, a Brooklyn native, said he'd never been to Florida. The closest he'd been was four hours in Altanta between flights.

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