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A few thoughts from UCF 38, FIU 0

Well, I got the 38 part right.

I'm having a hard time understanding why anybody's shocked or irate about the first two football games. Let's be realistic -- this was a six-win team, maximum, with everybody healthy and eligible. Go around the country, pluck the top two wide receivers, top running back, top cornerback/return man off the roster of six-win teams. Then, have that team lose three more starters to injury -- with a steep dropoff to second string -- in the first game. With a new coaching staff and new systems.

A six-win team disintegrates into a likely one-to-three-win team. Friday night, that team played a Central Florida team that'll win eight to 10 regular season games. This isn't about players' effort or coaching, much as we all love to question play calls and strategic decisions. This is a team that's stripped down like an '82 IROC Z-28 Camaro abandoned in Hialeah.

Could FIU have won this game? Not without firearms (don't get any ideas in The Towers...). Could they have made it more respectable? Sure. But it just would've been delaying the inevitable.

Remember when I wrote about the drops in training camp, not just among the wide receivers, but among the defensive backs? What I had in mind are plays such as UCF's first third down. Blake Bortles threw late across the field, a big boo-boo in Quarterback School. FIU's Justin Halley jumped in, and dribbled a gimme pick six.

On FIU's first drive, third and 3 became third and 8 because of too many men on the field. That's the kind of early season mistake coaches make, hate, expect, yet wish they could eradicate from the universe. Then FIU completes a 7 1/3-yard pass on third and 8. The same thing happened on FIU's second possession, 9 1/2 yards to T.J. Lowder on third and 10. Ron Turner exploded at the officials over the spot or the lack of measurement.

Between those drives, UCF took a 7-0 lead on a drive that should've been a three-and-out. Bortles broke containment (a loose term for FIU the first two games) on third and 15 and scrambled for 19 yards.

Four drives into the game, that's four plays FIU could've made to score, get the defense off the field or keep the defense off the field as well as keep game scoreless and the field balanced. I didn't even include the two drops, one of which would've been a first down. Instead, after a 16-yard J.J. Worton punt return, UCF set up only 44 yards from 14-0 and the snowball began a-rollin' in the second quarter.

Turner went traditional football coach uptight on fourth and 2 from the UCF 40. He ordered up a punt. Afterwards, he defended the move the traditional way, talking percentages. To me, this is where you have to feel the game, go off chart as well as remember who or what you are. The score was 17-0. UCF had scored on its previous two possessions. FIU had driven 35 yards, propelled by a roughing the passer penalty, yes, but it was the Panthers' best drive of the night thus far. A struggling offense needed its spirits rebooted by a coaching staff showing confidence in them.

Instead, FIU punted and got a net of 20 yards when Michael Wakefield, standing inside the 5, couldn't locate the ball and it bounced near him, then into the end zone. Momentum had been available for a moment. But when FIU failed to ask Momentum to dance, UCF returned from the punch bowl and said to Momentum, "Get down on it" -- first play, Bortles deep to Rannell Hall beyond Randy Harvey (told you, they'd pick on him when needed) for 59 yards. Soon after, 24-0.

I'm not sure why sophomore cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon didn't play. I know he wasn't happy about it. He Tweeted "First college game I'm not playing in, smh I'm bout to go home man!"

Once again, the offense looked much better in the hurry-up. Quarterback Jake Medlock actually made some nice throws, particularly two to redshirt sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lowder. Still, he missed two throws to sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Jasper that count as disheartening -- behind Jasper on a blitz for what would've been a first down and just flat missed Jasper deep when he didn't realize he had time to set his feet on a scramble outside the pocket. That would've been a touchdown.

E.J. Hilliard went three for three in relief of Medlock. Unlike last week, when Hilliard looked like the right rhythm section for this offensive band and Medlock looked like Spike Jones drummer playing with Thelonious Monk, the numbers don't correlate to what happened on the field. This still needs to be an open competition, however.

(Jasper's made his preference known on Twitter. He retweeted an FIU fan declaring to Hilliard "We want E.J. Hilliard...I started that chant fool. We need you in NOW.")

On defense, what happened is what everyone knew might happen. A secondary down two starters got flambeed by a good quarterback and experienced wide receivers with size and speed. A defense that got no rest eventually got pushed around somewhat by a strong offensive line.

This isn't hard, folks. UCF has better players who are more mature mentally and physically, guided by a staff headed by a good coach in his 10th year at the school. Maryland had better players who were more mature mentally and physically. So will East Carolina, Marshall and Middle Tennessee. This isn't a Disney movie where some player or coach discovers the latent greatness in those around him. This is real life, when what greatness there is on this roster, will take time to develop. 

Kill time during games playing The Blame Game -- is this Pete Garcia's fault for firing Mario Cristobal, for halting staff and football operations work for the month after the firing or for not making sure there are enough resources for academic support? Is this Cristobal's fault for gaps left on the roster, for recruiting kids who flopped academically (spare me the excuses, footballers -- other athletes who spend just as much time as you do on their sport,  if not more, handle their business)? Is it the fault of those players once counted upon to ameliorate the pain of rebuilding and only have exacerbated it by off-the-field failures?

Whatever you decide the answer is, right now, this team is going to have to work very hard for whatever it gets. This season, the Panthers will live The Struggle.

 

Comments

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It is what it is, and David J. Neal put it as perfectly as anyone could. Sometimes we live and die on a game by game basis without looking with a wide angle lens to give us a better perspective. Long season ahead, as expected.

Go Panthers!

I couldn't agree more, DJN. Everyone could have predicted the outcome of last night's game based on the evidence that you run down. But...given that even Ron Turner must have had an inkling what he was in for, it was beyond annoying to watch the way he conducted the game: exactly as a typically conservative NFL coach who sees on a particular Sunday that he is getting his pants whipped off. You see it across that league in stadiums every week--don't vary your game plan (even if hurry up means less time before you give it over to your clearly superior opponent), hunker down and take your medicine, live to play another day. If percentages say you punt on 4th and a micron, then you punt, etc. But that is the NFL, where if parity won't save you next week, then next year's draft will. We, on the other hand, are a pissant team with a nearly non-existent fan base desperate for something interesting or at least intelligent to watch. I don't WANT to watch the two mildly serviceable experienced QB's we have going into survival mode just to try and keep the score under 50. I'd rather see that kid from California in there--once he recovers from his amputation or whatever has got HIM on IR along with the 50 or so others from this apparently ill-conditioned outfit--and let him fire downfield to his heart's content. Then maybe by next year we could have hope of watching something that hasn't had an apparent heartbeat since TY Hilton left. Did ANYONE watch how Richard Pitino had his decidedly unremarkable and unheralded players approach the game last year?

Well said DJN. Hunker down & take your "patience-pill" or "anti-pain" meds because it is going to be an extremely long season. Go FIU!

Im sorry, but it's more than just about injuries, and a new coaching staff. To me the football program has taken 3 steps back. It seems to me that THEY "The people that work in the football program" are just going through the motions. It is a horrible vive out there in the cage, the crowd just sits there, there is no sense of community, there were more people in the stands for UCF than FIU. I think when BCC comes next week in it will be the same. Bad, bad, vives. Horrible football, it is embarrassing. No new upgrades to the stadium, I had to walk a mile to go to the bathroom. After I came back from the bathroom I notice the scoreboard was 4-0 UCF, i thought it for a long time that it was only 14-0, but in reality it was 24-0, fix the scoreboard PLEASE!!!....Worst, of all, FIU has the nerve to put give posters out with #9 Kedrick Rhodes on it, i guess shooting a gun is not that serious, i guess it takes someone to get killed for any change to happen. What kind of message are you sending out about gun violence, are we not an institution of "Higher Learning"? It seems to me FIU is desperate for the football program to succeed, and it is far, far, far, far from it. I am embarrassed as an FIU alumni, and will no longer go to any games. I will stop donating money until Pete Garcia get fired. This is horrible, and you "PANTHER FANS" better stop drinking the cool-aid, and start complaining. Sad, sad, sad, F.I.U stands for Florida Incompetent University.

And while we are on the subject, who is responsible for this year's season ticket design, Helen Keller? These things look like they were run off on mimeograph. Yeah, DJN, I know FIU has bigger problems than a press box, but the whole package is simply coming unglued: lots of school have inept teams, but still manage to package it all properly. We have a (40 member) band playing to the empty stands on the wrong side of the field, the cheesy tickets, the lack of a radio presence, on and on, just not a pretty picture.

David, it is about time ALREADY to stop making excuses for this team. It is laughable to ever think this team had the potential to even sniff at 6-wins, 1-2 is more realistic. Don't use the suspensions, injuries and dismissals as an excuse for their start and performances so far... They would have been just as bad or worst even with their full squad had they not lost guys to different situations. These guys arent good. They lack talent. They lack hunger. Mostly, lack discipline. Short of getting into a brawl on the field, how they reacted to adversity as the game went on, reminded me of how this same school fell flat on its face in the face of adversity against a bigger, better school. Coach Turner should have secured himself better financially before taking this job - He will be gone soon, but it wont be his fault.. The AD and president were not thinking properly when hiring, they really thought a guy with NFL experience would turn this around? What a joke.

It is hard for any coach , no matter the caliber - To do anything with limited resources (players) not just in quantity but quality. I will say this again, this is not a team that belongs in a conference above the sun belt if they want to be competitive... They dont even belong in division. It is foolish to think so. They have 3rd or 4th tier players at best playing for them as far as local and national talent in comparison to the rest of the state univ. and, most importantly, in comparison to most its opponents. To even expect these guys to be competitive is asking for too much. It will be a hand full of years, if that - for this team to even be respectable, forget competitive.

Hopefully, they are more fun to watch at the other sports on campus

I like how checkrecruitpriorities/diagodog/embarrassed fiu alumn has to post using different aliases as he is the same person. Posted the exact same thing all combined as Jim Johnson on the Linda Robertson article. Use the same name atleast. We are on the other side as that is the home side now. Everything has to face the cameras on that side

Well put DJN.

Can I be embarrassed that an FIU alum thinks "Vives" is a word?

ViBes, man. Vibes!

So now the visitor side is the home side?

I guess tradition has been thrown out the window.

I heard someone say that Turner and his coach inherited a bad team. That isn't the case. There were big gaps in the roster. That is evident. The problem is that Garcia and Rosenberg failed to realize that Cristobal and his staff made miracles happen because of their youth, passion and determination to buck the odds. Cristobal, Miraball and the others took over the worst of the worst, poor facilities and recruited hard against top schools. They built a bowl team despite the constant battles for support from the administration. And there were no issues with kids and academics. Ron Turner is a good guy, we can assume. But did he know the issues that exist at FIU that start with Garcia? I was at Friday's game and found myself sitting among UCF fans. Why the change in sidelines, David? Al it did was sho to TV cameras that FIU's side was empty except for students in the endzone. That will dwindle as the team racks up losses. I envision no wins this season beginning with Bethune's destruction of FIU next weekend. That is a top-rated team in its conference. Who can FIU beat?

So think about it David Neal and fans...Cristobal's crew worked miracles. Does Turner's staff have the same abilities? Is Turner really committed to this team the way Cristobal was? We know the answer. Don't be surprised if he leaves this mess after one season for another NFL spot.

Look at Cristobal, Miraball and others now. Cristobal is the No. 2 coach of the No. 1 program. Miraball traded up for Marshall with a 2-0 start. Ponce is at Applachian State and....

I am sorry, but the problems here start at the top. Nothing will change until Garcia goes. Nothing. Until then, I would line up Miami Booker T., Jackson or Central against FIU and watch them destroy FIU. Actually, Booker T. would attract more fans to FIU stadium then FIU itself.

Yep. Absolutely nothing wrong with MC that a couple more years of eligibility from TY Hilton wouldn't have fixed.

I'm a proud alum of the Law School (which is a great law school) and I want to support this team. A good sports team makes the school more recognizable in the community and, like it or not, makes a degree more valuable. Three years ago, FIU was looking like one of the hidden gems in college. Now, FIU is as a bad as it has ever been.

I'm not about excuses. I'm about results. The decisions that Pete Garcia has made should result in his firing. He turns off potential donors and the national media (FIU was lambasted when it fired Super Mario).

Bethune will destroy FIU next week. Then what? Did anybody notice the size and caliber of the UCF band at half-time? FIU's band was nothing compared to this one. Yet, FIU is one of the biggest schools in the state. Something doesn't add up. How much longer will Garcia remain at the helm of this sinking ship?

Ok. I have to be honest. I keep reading these posts and comments and I just laugh at most of them. But it's about time someone looks at things objectively. There is a saying in Spanish that goes “cada moneda tiene dos caras.” One yes, Pete Garcia “Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment” has a huge ego. Bigger than life but welcome to the world of athletics! However, what some of you might not know is that Mario Cristobal played at UM while Pete Garcia was the Director of Football Operations. Mario Cristobal had no previous experience as a head coach of a Division 1 University until Pete Garcia took a chance on the young local kid. Mario Cristobal did the job he was hired to do. He developed a great football program and took the team to where it needed to be. You can tell that his dedication and passion for football is what got them their so quickly. However, this change was very much needed because MC didn’t have the experience necessary to continue the growth and development of this program. Good for him that he was hired by Alabama, he’ll learn a lot of things from Saban. Hopefully he’ll get to coach in the NFL or be the head coach of a big 10 and then maybe he could retire at FIU go back to his roots. But both the FIU football program and MC needed change. Ron Turner isn’t a bad hire. The poor guy just took over after a big break up. He has the experience MC lacked and I think he’ll take the team to the next level. It won’t be easy given the fact that it’s a new conference, a whole lot of off the field issues, and all you guys… the haters! The Miami scene is truly incredible… too quick to criticize. If Pete Garcia isn’t doing his job I have no doubt the University officials will get rid of him. FIU is now the 7th largest university in the country. They’ve done a great job thus far; we have an amazing business, law and now medical school. So I am just saying, good for MC onto bigger and better things, he’s an amazing Coach, I hope he continues to succeed. Pete Garcia, you guys give him way too much credit. A guy with an ego like that loves the attention. Forget him. If you love FIU and are a proud alumni the FIU Football program will only get better if you give Ron Turner a chance and support the team win or loose. Go to the games and show your support! Now, are you in or out?

Those season tickets look pretty bad.

You nailed it DJN. Thanks for giving us a breakdown of our program that is based on reality and not illusions. Whether we want to admit it or not, The outcomes of our first two games should have been expected and are consistent with all the changes that have occurred since last season and since losing TY. New coaching staff. New system. The loss of key players. Youngest team in college football. New conference. It's called rebuilding. If you don't understand this concept then continue to be disappointed.

We're in for a long season folks. I think most reasonable fans knew that already.

Big old Bethune gonna blow down the house of FIU. Saturday night. Blow out just like UCF. I miss Coach Cristobal. He was da man for us.

Yep, no question we would be 2-0 if only St. Mario of Cristobal were still here. Ay, yi yi, perspicacity reigns. What are the chances the band figures out where the home stands are by Saturday?

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