Ron Turner declared the Tamiami Park grass field experiment done. The Panthers will be in La Cage Aux Chats for remaining practices.
After practice, a New York Giants scout spent a while talking with defensive line coach Andre Patterson. For the purposes of a 4-3 team like the Giants, seniors Isame Faciane and Paul Crawford work. Senior Greg Hickman, built about as squarish as defensive linemen come, might have a future working as a 3-4 nose tackle.
Saturday included a pile of situational 11-on-11 drills. Crawford sat out the drills as did redshirt freshman defensive tackle Marques Cheeks, although only Cheeks wore a Great Pumpkin jersey. Denzell Perrine and sophomore linebacker Michael Wakefield worked with their hand in the dirt in Crawford's usual spot. Redshirt junior safety Justin Halley came out of the drills with ice on his right shoulder. Senior safety Mitch Wozniak took Halley's place during the two-minute portion.
Interesting personnel deployment: for the first time, the first team cornerbacks were junior Richard Leonard and senior Sam Miller throughout practice. Freshman Jonnu Smith and senior transfer Cory White were the first team tight ends in some of the team drills. Freshmen Wilkenson Myrtil and Brad Hyman-Muhammad were the second team cornerbacks. With sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Jasper missing practice to deal with a family matter, freshman Shug Oyegunle was the first team slot receiver.
For some of practice, first team offensive tackles Delmar Taylor and David Delsoin swapped sides.
Saturday was the first practice with both Conference USA officials and live tackling.
Working short yardage, the first team defense got a hat trick -- three consecutive offsides penalties. "Defense, that's three times!" Ron Turner roared while taking a few steps toward the offenders.
The next meeitng of the 1s ended with safety Demarkus Perkins delivering his daily demolition derby collision, this time on running back Lamarq Caldwell. Caldwell's helmet flew off but Caldwell got up and accurately signalled "first down."
"He's had a lot of urgency in terms of wanting to come every single day to practice," defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said. "That started last spring really. He's just done a great job of showing leadership out there. His approach in the meeting rooms has been very focused. He's one of the few guys in the secondary who hasn't had a lot of fall off. Every day he comes out has been pretty positive."
The next play, Silas Spearman, cutting behind tight end Ya'keem Griner's block and the seal created by offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph, got around the left end for 14 yards.
Sergio Sroka hit off the right hash from 33 and 43. Sroka never got a kick off from 37 yards because by the time holder Chris Ayers got a solid handle on a good snap, he was head to belt line with the interior of the field goal block team. Austin Taylor missed from 33 new dorms wide left, then hit from 36 and 43.
Pitting the second team offense against the first team defense in 11-on-11 charged freshman guard Jordan Budwig and redshirt freshman Dieugot Joseph with blocking junior Giovani Francois and senior Isame Faciane or senior Greg Hickman. As expected, the upperclassmen stampeded through like the backfield was selling Popeye's at a discount. First play, Hickman and Francois swallowed Shane Coleman for a loss of 1. Second play, Faciane dismissed Budwig for a sack. Then, linebacker Markeith Russell blitzed for a sack.
Not the kids' fault. You've got young, inexperieneced guys trying to block players NFL scouts have been checking out. So what happened when the first team offense faced the second team defense?
Caldwell around the right side for 8. A false start. A quick hitch to wide receiver T.J. Lowder that looked left over from last year for not enough.
Back to the 2s vs. 1s. Sophomore quarterback E.J. Hilliard hit Griner on the right side for 20 yards. He followed that with a try for Jairus Williams deep that didn't lead Williams inside. That allowed Miller to recover for the interception.
Back to the first team offense vs. second team defense. Shane Coleman went for 2. Freshman linebacker Treyvon Williams nailed Coleman after 3 yards. On third down, Rhymes dropped a Jake Medlock pass with Myrtil in coverage.
The second team offense's next drive got quickly aborted by Silas Spearman's fumble, recovered by Hyman-Muhammad. Back out with junior college transfer Talir Satterfield-Rowe at running back, Hilliard converted a fourth and 2 with an 11-yard pass to Rocky Vann. Following Satterfield-Rowe getting slammed by Perkins and linebacker Luis Rosado, on third and 7, a tackle by Hyman-Muhammad held a completed pass to three yards. Sroka split the uprights from 31 yards.
The first team offense came out against the third team defense. Starting from the 38, Medlock found Rhymes for 17 yards. No more first downs after that, however -- Caldwell got stoned for 2 on fourth and 3.
The second team offense took the ball at the 22. Two carries by Anthon Samuel got 7 yards forward, the one went 2 yards backward. Taylor pushed a 34-yard field goal wide left.
Now with the previous results in the practice, you'd figure the first team offense, having trouble moving on lesser FIU defense, would be fighting to stay out of their own end zone against the first team defense. Instead, Medlock drove the team 58 yards, helped by a pass interference penalty on Leonard for treating Rhymes like an obstacle course wall on a bomb. Medlock stepped up in front of pressure on third and goal from the 5 to hit Rhymes for the touchdown.
The second team defense stuffed the offense with a sack by Wonderful Monds II, a sack by Monds and Perrine, then making Hilliard run. Given a renewed possession, the offense got a 17-yard gain from Samuel and a 2-yard gain before incompletes by Hilliard ended the possession.
The final 11-on-11s were 1:15 left, ball on the offense's 35, offense down by two. Caldwell ran for 8 yards and got out of bounds. Medlock took a sack, then got chased into a throwaway on third down. Fourth down No. 1, fourth and 5 from the 40, Medlock got it going with Rhymes again, 18 yards up the right sideline. I guess a 6-4 wide receiver looks like a warm safety blanket. Medlock's next pass, low to Lowder, got knocked away by Leonard as he and Lowder went to the ground. Lowder got up holding his left arm. Glenn Coleman came in for Lowder and caught a third and 10 pass for 5 yards to the 37.
A gutsy call, a draw to Caldwell, got 7 yards and Medlock spiked the ball. Sroka pushed through a 47-yard field goal.
Hilliard thrice extended the second team's last minute drive, first by finding Jairus Williams on third and 10 for 10 yards; by scooping up a bad snap and throwing it away on second down; then running a quarterback draw for 7 on fourth and 3. But Hilliard took a sack from the 30-yard line that moved the field goal attempt for Taylor back to 50 yards. Taylor's kick could've used those three yards, as it fell short of the crossbar.