Give me a clear Friday afternoon and I’d go for today’s athletic hat trick at Camp Mitch.
Volleyball, which won its home opener 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 28-26, 25-15) over Houston Baptist Thursday, continues with the FIU Classic against Alabama in a 3 p.m. match at The Branch. When that finishes, mosey over to the FIU Soccer Stadium for FIU vs. Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m.
Then, time to settle in for a little football.
FIU exceeded the Titanic’s maiden voyage only in that FIU gets a second one. This, too, however,
might turn into A Night to Remember.
Central Florida is experienced, more mature athletically and in their football system. Going against that with just guff and guile works only in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
In real life football games, those disadvantages get you placed as a 26-point underdog at home.
Expect UCF to test FIU’s discipline early with some misdirection runs, cutback runs, bootleg passes and other play action passes. They’ll want to see early on if FIU shows the same vulnerability to overanxious pursuit and mental boo-boos the Panthers showed last week. If the answer is yes, if FIU’s young and restless still scamper about in disregard of their role in the overall plan, the UCF host will feast on the FIU carcass with the zeal of the masses having munchies after partying at the PIKE house.
The line matchup looks most interesting. For FIU to have a shot, their front seven, particularly the front four, must dominate UCF’s front beef the way the Giants front four rampaged New England’s in New York’s two most recent Super Bowl wins. And FIU looks like it’ll have the depth to keep fresh, hydrated muscle on the field. Backed up by better linebacker play than last Saturday at Maryland –
OK, exponentially better – the Panthers could present some serious problems for the Knights in that area.
Whether it’s JUCO transfer Randy Harvey or walk-on freshman Brad Hyman-Muhammad at cornerback in the Richard Leonard spot opposite senior Sam Miller, expect them to get the Terrell Buckley-Human Target NFL treatment. Knights quarterback Blake Bortles won’t avoid Miller, especially if he gets 6-2 J.J. Worten or 6-2 Breshad Perriman matched on the diminutive Miller. No fewer points earned, however, for taking the lower hanging fruit on the other side.
An FIU win would require some massive plays on defense and special teams. A fumble return touchdown like the one defensive tackle Isame Faciane rumbled to in 2011 against UCF and the one Faciane would’ve had last year but for a truly fortunate UCF bounce off the ground, right back into Bortles' chest. Some ridiculously long punts that keep UCF starting drives at the Picasso-looking building. A couple of interceptions, a blocked field goal or touchdown return. No 6-8 Paul Crawford makes the placekick block less likely and no Richard Leonard reduces the big return chances. But getting speedy sophomore DeAndre Jasper back does help in the kickoff return department.
Last year, the offense came out flinging against UCF in one of the worst strategic moves since Napoleon decided to extend his Russian vacation. FIU eventually ran the ball down UCF’s throat, but, by then, too late. Similarly, this year, good for the Panthers if they can make the 6-yard slant look mundane instead of Herculean as they did last week. I still don’t see much happening downfield
unless FIU gets a running game going and work off play action. Lamarq Caldwell will start at running back, but freshman Alfonso Randolph, junior college transfer Talir Satterfield-Rowe and maybe freshman Silas Spearman could get more carries if redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman’s right knee is still dicey.
The run game goes a long way toward determining how long starting quarterback Jake Medlock goes.
One of three things will happen: Medlock goes the distance, UCF knocks Medlock out of the game, Medlock plays Medlock out of the game. Last week was a race between the latter two with No. 3 winning (let’s be real, though – he got no help).
As for No. 2, that’ll rely greatly on FIU improving its scheme and execution (backs blocking, receivers getting open) for dealing with the blitz. Up front, freshman Jordan Budwig started at left guard last week. The depth chart gave the only necessary commentary on Budwig’s performance: redshirt junior Delmar Taylor back over Budwig for the first time in two weeks. The freshman will be fine down the
line. Also, FIU might go with junior college transfer Byron Pinkston at Jordan White’s right guard spot instead of redshirt freshman Trenton Saunders, giving the Panthers 25 more pounds and two seasons of junior college experience at that spot.
Both teams should feel bouncy from a stadium packed with both schools’ fans and a budding in-state rivalry. UCF’s been in more of these games. The Knights should know better how to handle themselves. And they’re just better, period.
UCF 38, FIU14. But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.