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38 posts from September 2013

September 30, 2013

FIU on Sunday

The men's soccer team beat Penn 2-0 behind goals by Quentin Albrecht and freshman Luis Betancur. That gave them a weekend one up to go with Friday's one down, a 4-2 loss to Princeton.

The women's soccer team, having a tough season at 3-7 and having lost Friday night's conference opener against Charlotte, got some of what they needed Sunday with a 4-0 win over winless Old Dominion at Camp Mitch. Junior Ashleigh Shim scored twice, senior Nicole DiPerna and Junior Johanna Volz got the other two goals in FIU's first Conference USA win.

The volleyball team also split on the weekend, outlasting Charlotte 3-2 on Friday and getting dusted 3-0 by Marshall Sunday. Friday night, sophomore Lucia Castro led the team with 17 kills and Ashlee Hodgskin had 23 assists and had 17 Sunday.

In the NFL, Jacksonville safety Johnathan Cyprien had four tackles in Jacksonville's 37-3 loss to Indianapolis, one of which was of T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has five catches for 48 yards. Linebacker Antwan Barnes had a sack for the Jets in their loss to Tennessee. Look for Tourek Williams to get more playing time in San Diego now that Dwight Freeney's suffered yet another serious injury (that man does not have good fortune near Chargers colors). Offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann was active, but didn't play for Seattle against Houston.

And the line on Saturday's football game at Southern Mississippi dropped to Southern Miss favored by 15.

September 29, 2013

What the bettors are saying about next Saturday...

Southern Mississippi lost 60-7 Saturday night at Boise State. The last Golden Eagles victory came on Christmas Eve, 2011. Their last regular season win came Nov. 26, 2011.

And they opened 14 1/2-point favorites over FIU in next Saturday's game at Hattiesburg. Hardcore bettors reacted to that by jumping on Southern Miss enough that the line now sits at 16.

The two teams in FIU's first Conference USA game come in a combined 0-8 this season, on losing streaks of five (FIU) and 16 (Southern Miss) as programs and having been outscored 132-7 in their last two games.

September 27, 2013

Football & Service

Student-athletes at FIU, from liberos to long snappers, have public service obligations. Several football team members will be making their open Saturday a Service Saturday.

Sixteen football players -- Lamarq Caldwell, Akil Dan-Fodio, Jordan Gibbs, Ya’Keem Griner, Randy Harvey, De’Shawn Hazziez, Derrick Jones, Ian Koch, Matt Larrubia, Richard Leonard, T.J. Lowder, Jonathan Pavlov, Byron Pinkston, Fred Porter, Luis Rosado  and Cory White -- will help direct the chaos at Saturday afternoon's "Big Bowl," a Big Brothers & Big Sisters flag football event that begins at noon.

Starting at 10 a.m., over at NFL Youth Education Center, Imarjaye Albury, Glenn Coleman, Junior Delpe, Isame Faciane, E.J. Hilliard, De’Andre Japser, Markeith Russell, Dominique Rhymes, Jonnu Smith and Jairus Williams will be helping at a Pediatric Wellness Day, aimed at building and maintaining the health of our increasingly sedentary youth (and I say that as a parent of an 8-year-old who loves her swimming and gymnastics, but also her video games).

And speaking of service, current and former members of The Service will receive complimentary tickets to the Nov. 2 home game against East Carolina, now dubbed Military Appreciation Day.

Former running back in the program Jakhari Gore had no action taken on the charges against him from the incident in August. Gore's hearing was Friday morning.




Women open conference play at home. And numbers

The volleyball and women's soccer teams open Conference USA play next door to each other at home against Charlotte Friday evening.

I wrote on volleyball for Friday's Herald. If you see an athletic young woman on crutches around Camp Mitch, odds are it's a soccer player. Chelsea Leiva, Scarlet Montoya and Nikki Rios -- the top two 2012 goal scorers, one an All-Region player, and an all-conference defender -- haven't played a game for FIU this season.

Now for some more numbers. These are from the public records request I made.

Football season tickets sold for 2012, according to FIU: 10,569.

Football tickets sold overall for 2012, according to FIU: 72,878.

I think that counts each season ticket six times in the total tickets sold, which means 1,577 single game tickets were sold each game for an average paid attendance of 12,146. Much more logical. Still, that's not counting the student section, which gets in free.

Stop laughing.

Football season ticket sales for 2013 through Sept. 9, according to FIU: 10,045.

So, this year, with even a .500 season a longshot, they sold only 500 fewer season tickets than 2012, when they went into the season as Sun Belt favorites and getting a few votes in the USA Today/Coaches poll?


Individual game ticket sales for the Sept. 6 game against Central Florida, according to FIU: 1,107.

That means total ticket sales for the UCF game were 11,152. That's not counting the band, not counting the student section. Take a look at my twitter feed, https://twitter.com/DavidJNeal for oft-retweeted photos of the stadium at the national anthem that night. Yeah, late arriving tailgaters filled things in somewhat, but in the student section more than anywhere else. As I said, take a look at those photos. 11,152.


Individual game ticket sales for the Sept. 6 game against Bethune-Cookman, according to FIU: 2,618.

That means total ticket sales for that game were 12,663. Bethune brought enough of its own fans that they appeared to outnumber FIU fans that night. And the Bethune band definitely counts as a draw ("We need to get our band looking like that," opined one FIU fan, voicing the opinion of many).

Did they also count the 300-member Pride in the attendance? Because these numbers say, after an 0-2 start (two blowout losses at that) and as an underdog to a FCS team, according to FIU, it sold enough tickets to exceed the average ticket sales of a 2012 game.




September 25, 2013

Don't expect many changes at The Cage

Tough fall for a school's sports programs when the volleyball team's 6-6 record ranks as the autumn's Yertle the Turtle and men's soccer's 3-4 slots them as the salutatorians.

The football team's bye week means you'll be spared an embarrassingly honest analysis by professional bettors (the only people laying real money on non-AQ BCS conference games). Next week's FIU opponent, Southern Mississippi, is a 28-point underdog at Boise State.

There's still some news from La Cage. Or, perhaps more accurately, some "olds" as some things haven't changed.

Head coach Ron Turner said redshirt junior quarterback Jake Medlock practiced a bit Wednesday, should be fully recovered from his concussion by Sunday and, if healthy, will be the starter Oct. 5 at Southern Miss. "Jake's our starter," Turner emphatically stated.

Third-string freshman quarterabck Travis Wright still hasn't been cleared by the NCAA, so, with Israel Paopao out for the season with his foot injury, Akil Dan-Fodio is now the third-stringer behind Medlock and sophomore E.J. Hilliard.

Out of 123 FBS teams, FIU's offense ranks 123rd in rushing offense, 120th in passing offense, 122nd in total offense and 123rd in total offense. The Panthers average 2.25 yards per carry on called running plays (1.43 yards per carry overall because sacks get factored into team and individual rushing totals, instead of team passing yards as the NFL does it).

I asked Turner considering the offensive line and the lack of success with the run if he considered just spreading things out and flinging it around.

"No, because that hasn't been much better than the running game," Turner said. "At least we run the ball, we have a chance to get back to the line of scrimmage. We're throwing it, he's running backwards, which was the case last week.

"We've just got to run our offense. We've got to run our offense and start clicking. We had some opportunities in every game to make some plays. You make one or two of those plays, it's shocking how quickly you can gain some confidence. Going back to the Maryland game, the first third and 5, we told them what we're going to do: go up-tempo, no huddle and we're going to double move this corner because he's going to bite the hell out of it. He did. We ran right by him, it was a touchdown. We hit that thing and, it's crazy to say, I'm not saying we wouldn't be where we are, but at least you get some confidence. We don't hit that, we're punting the ball, they go down and score. Instead of us hitting a big play to get some confidence for a young team, we don't do it. We've had opporutnities like that in every game. We have yet to make those plays, at least enough of them to give us a spark, some confidence in the run game and the pass game.

"We're not going to panic, we're going to do what we do. We know what we've got five offensive linemen who've basically never played and are trying to come together. We're seeing good things, we're seeing improvement. It hasn't necessarily showed up on the scoreboard."

So, there you go.



September 23, 2013

"No. No. No."

That was the texted response from FIU President Mark Rosenberg -- preceded by "Good morning!" -- to this question, which I texted today at 10:32 a.m.:

"I was wondering if you had any discussions with the Board of Trustees regarding or were considering changes in the Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment or Head Football Coach positions?"



The Cost of Ending Business


On the single, Stevie suddenly shouts to The Jackson Five and they do the "Doo-do-wop" part.

Judging from the noise, Stevie could be many FIU followers proxy when discussing the athletic director and the football coach. Who, I've heard, have had a few go-rounds recently over some of FIU's department shortcomings that a few extra bucks could've avoided.

Speaking of bucks, the football coach isn't likely to be going anywhere soon unless his financial house is in unusually good order or FIU wants to swallow a big matzoh moneyball. That's if I'm reading Ron Turner's contract correctly (I'm not bothering the nearest Harvard Law 31-year attorney with this. She's got her own job).

If Turner resigns any time soon, he'll owe FIU $500,000, a year's base salary. If FIU fires Turner without cause any time before January 3, 2016 -- and I don't see anywhere in the contract that a really bad first-year record counts as being cause -- the school will owe Turner two years base salary or $1 million. Plus, FIU will have to pay another football coach.

That's a lot of jack to tie up in that position for a department whose revenue is $25.4 million, most of it coming from student fees, and has trouble drawing any kind of actual attendance to football games (I have put in a public records request for the actual ticket sales figures from the 2012 football season, last year's basketball season and thus far in 2013 football).

Especially when, by my math, the school still owes former football coach Mario Cristobal $431,386. That might be off the books, however, if the severance contract clause didn't follow Cristobal beyond his next coaching stop. That was the University of Miami for a winter minute before Cristobal landed at Alabama.

To fire Garcia costs one year base salary, $362,527 at this point. Also, FIU has to pay his replacement.

I heard that FIU President Mark Rosenberg sang praises of Garcia to a group of boosters on the Louisville trip. I've also heard there might be a Board of Trustees meeting with Rosenberg Monday over all this business, although none is posted and I'm not sure this qualifies as enough of an emergency situation to act under those rules (although I'm also sure any Board and President worth their website photos know how to skirt Sunshine Laws). If there is a meeting, I'm sure the cost of doing business -- or ending it -- will be discussed. 

September 22, 2013

A few thoughts from Louisville 72, FIU 0


Sorry I haven't posted this before whatever AM on Sunday. I haven't seen my dad in 18 months, his wife in seven years and my one surviving grandmother is 95. All were in Lexington this weekend. So, after I wrote, I figured this could wait. But I could hear the clock running.

Of course, everybody wants to talk about the running clock. That and the way FIU's offensive play-calling looked as if the Panthers were trying to run out th clock from the first quarter. And later we'll get to FIU's flight home, which, thankfully, landed safely.

I opened the postgame media session with FIU coach Ron Turner asking "Did you request a running clock in the third quarter?"

"No," he replied.

Why was there a running clock? "I have no idea. We were just playing ball. I didn't request anything, no."

So, the refs never said anything to you guys about (having) a runnnig clock? "No."

A late-coming writer got the fuller response you see in my Herald game story. Turner said he recalled that at San Jose State he did request a running clock when they were destroying a team.

Meanwhile, Louisville coach Charlie Strong said, "What happened was both coaches talked and let's just get out of here. It's just mutually agreed upon."

Two hours after the game, Conference USA coordinator of officials Gerald Austin issued his statement that's in The Herald story. Austin's statement immediately trips over a trap cord when he says Turner commented to officials about the amount of injuries he had going into the second half and FIU's limited road roster. About 90 minutes earlier, I asked Turner at the end of the session about how the team came out as far as injuries.

"I think decent. Lars hurt his wrist late. Hopefully, it's just a sprain," Turner said. "Other than that, I think we came out OK."

Hmmm...take all those comments together and what verdict do you reach?

If Turner did request a running clock...I'm torn. There's something to be said for playing out a game, no matter how it's going. That's a good life lesson, although people often take it too far and wind up obstinant not persistent. On the other hand, all that can really happen to you late in a game like this is getting hurt. It's of limited use as game experience.

Now, to the early game.

First FIU play: incomplete pass. Second play: I-formation line plunge for 3. Third and 7: badly camouflaged draw play, loss of 4. Punt.

Get the ball back. First play, poor freshman Silas Spearman III overrun for a loss of 1. Second play: Four Louisville players overrun Spearman for no gain. Two false start penalties (maybe it's something about E.J. Hilliard because the second team seemed to have the most Early Departures in the spring and training camp) and it's third and 21. Caldwell on a draw play for 5. Punt.

FIU averages a picayune 65 yards per game rushing. And you think you're going to line up, knock heads with their front seven and establish something other than your own obstinance? Child, please. That's not showing faith in your quarterback or the playmakers he directs. Give Hilliard a chance.

"I wouldn't say I was surprised," Hilliard said. "I know Coach is going to do everything in his power to do what's best for us. I think he's doing the right thing by trying to give us confidence that we can run the ball. I think his approach to the game was a good approach. You have to be able to estalbish that you can run the football in order for people to respect your ability to pass."

Hilliard's being a good soldier. Letting him cut loose early and fling the ball all over the place wouldn't have changed the outcome. But it would've kept things interesting longer and been more fun than watching Spearman, Randolph and Collins butt their heads against their own blockers for four quarters. That looked embarrassing by the second quarter.

On the execution, Louisville's too athletic and immersed in their offensive and defensive schemes for FIU.

The Panthers flew back home on Allegiant Air Saturday. Allegiant Air grounded 18 planes Saturday that either held no evacuation slide or hadn't been tested. They fly old McDonnell-Douglas MD80s from the 1980s and 1970s. This is what the team, support staff and booster contingent flies on each road game.



September 21, 2013

Gameday IV: at Louisville

It's a rainy night in Louisville. A rainy night in Indy. Feels like it's raining all over the world...

And that would be a good thing for FIU. A clean track with perfect conditions favors the better team. That's Louisville, I think we all would agree. Upsets often start in the muck.

But, let's be real. The only way FIU, the biggest underdog since Hardee's took up the fight with McDonald's after Burger Chef fell, causes the college football world to have The Big One and join Elizabeth en masse is to win a shootout on the scoreboard. Forget the run -- 65 yards per game and they couldn't get a good push on Bethune-Cookman. They're not pounding Louisville unless the stout Cardinals front seven plays on rollerblades. Today, FIU should confine the running game to the draw play, the scramble and the rollout keeper.

FIU needs sophmore quarterback E.J. Hilliard to cone out slinging like Old Testament David crossed with Sonny Sixkiller. They need a big catch-and-fly from DeAndre Jasper and maybe a bomb or two to T.J. Lowder. A big special teams play would help greatly. Last year's game -- surprisingly close in the wet -- turned Louisville's way when Sam Miller fumbled a punt after a three-and-out, the Cardinals recovered and 14-14 got to 28-14 quickly. 

Defensively, they're more likely to get a fumbled reception than an interception off Bridgewater, although they got two last year. Whatever, when the ball's not secured, the Panthers need to go for it. Louisville wants to get their run game going. The Cardinals also don't want to let FIU hang around. Expect Teddy Bridgewater to come out firing to build a lead, then the Cardinals work the run to exhaust the clock and get the ground game tuned.

This isn't hard, folks. No need to spend too much time or detail on it. Louisville's a mature football team with a very good offense, a strong defensive line and possibly the best quarterback in college football. The Cardinals own a clear advantage in all but a couple of matchups. And they're at home.

Bigger upsets have happened. Just don't expect me to predict this to be one of them.

Louisville 47, FIU 10.

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

September 19, 2013


Apparently, this needs some clarification:

When I wrote in an earlier post that college quarterback controversies can get too many peripheral people involved such as parents, relatives and friends, I didn't mean to indicate that either the parents of Jake Medlock or that of E.J. Hilliard had been critical of the other quarterback. Other players' parents have voiced an impassioned opinion, but not either quarterback's.

The QB Situation: Hilliard will start

As if things weren't tough enough for FIU going into Saturday's game at No. 7 Louisville, going in order of the depth chart from a few weeks ago...

Redshirt junior Jake Medlock -- Concussion, didn't practice again Thursday. FIU coach Ron Turner said he hasn't been ruled out officially and maybe there's still a shot he could be used as an emergency backup. But the starter will be...

Sophomore E.J. Hilliard -- Healthy, practicing with the first team throughout the week. He's wanted a shot, several players wanted him to have a shot and now he's getting a shot against a team he played well against a year ago.

Freshman Israel Paopao -- Still on crutches with an ankle or foot injury.

Freshman Travis Wright -- Out of practice most of this week while being cleared by the NCAA. Turner said Wright's test scores got flagged and he was being made to retake his SAT or ACT because of a drastic difference in his scores and grade point average. Turner explained that Wright's classroom performance fell off during personal, family issues in the middle of high school, but he's smart enough to test well and turned his grades around the last year and a half of high school. Which means Saturday's No. 2 likely will be...

Redshirt sophomore tight end Akil Dan-Fodio -- The National Honor Society member and former All-Region quarterback played tight end last season, did third string quarterback work as roster filler during spring practice before moving back to tight end this fall. Dan-Fodic's worked with the second string throughout the week. If Hilliard goes down, Dan-Fodio will take his first game snaps at quarterback since 2010 in DeKalb Redan High School.

And my fellow Hoosier alumnus didn't know about the above when he banged out the following (although he did use information from another Bloomington veteran, Jeff Sagarin).



September 18, 2013

Medlock doubtful

Wednesday's practice saw the appearance of quarterback Jake Medlock. It didn't see the actual practicing of quarterback Jake Medlock, a concussion victim Saturday.

"I haven't heard anything official yet," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "Obviously, he didn't go again today. I would say it's probably not looking good. They have not ruled him out yet. So, we'll wait and see tomorrow."

Wednesday also saw the appearance of Travis Wright, freshman out of Louisville Trinity, the backup to sophomore E.J. Hilliard if Medlock can't play. That is, if whatever problems Wright has get cleared by the NCAA.

"For the time being," Wright's cleared, Turner said.

If he's somehow ineligible, The Akil Dan-Fodio Experience will back up Hilliard. Dan-Fodio came to FIU as a quarterback, moved to tight end and hasn't taken a snap in a game as anything but a tight end.

Turner also said he didn't know when he'd decide between redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka and freshman Austin Taylor for handling the kicking duties Saturday. He might go as late as pregame warmups. Even if Medlock plays, however, redshirt freshman Chris Ayers will do the punting.

Louisville's announced a sellout.

Minutiae by Minutiae

The football home games against Marshall, East Carolina and Louisiana Tech will be 6 p.m. starts. The Marshall game will be on Fox College Sports network.

As stated in the post-practice blog from Tuesday, Saturday’s game will be on your computer via ESPN3 and on your TV via ESPN Game Plan. The watch party is at Cadillac Ranch.

Tuesday, again, Turner came off the field with something on his mind. But first we covered a few things, such as quarterback Jake Medlock's head...

“I don’t know how severe. They’re still looking at it. It is, but it doesn’t mean he’s out. He’s day-to-day. It wasn’t really severe, so we’ll see.”

...and sophomore quarterback EJ Hilliard's performance so far...

“He’s got a good grasp of what we’re doing. He manages the huddle well. He’s very instinctive, very smart football-wise. He hasn’t had a ton of opportunities. When he has, he’s done OK. I’ve got a lot of confidence in EJ if he’s the guy going in there.”

I asked what the staff does to keep the team from sinking into a marrow-deep funk. That gave
Turner his opening. After saying the staff and team needed to keep doing what they were doing, he shifted gears.

“I’m pissed at myself because I got pissed at the entire team when we have a lot of guys who care, we have a lot of guys that have a huge heart, who played their hearts out and left it on the field. A lot of guys. We’ve got a few who are undisciplined, we’ve got a few that aren’t doing what we want them to do. I get mad at myself that I got mad at the whole team when it was just a handful of
guys. So the best thing to do is we’ll get rid of those handful of guys. We’ll go with the guys we’ve got. We’ve got too many guys here who care who are busting their butts and playing their hearts out, undermanned in some cases because we’ve got too many guys who didn’t care, didn’t take care of business, who are ineligible that, possibly could’ve helped this team. I’m not sure they could help the team if they’re not disciplined enough to go to class. You don’t get ineligible because of one bad semester. They were like that when I got here. We tried to get it corrected. In some cases, they worked their butts off to try to get it corrected, but their hole was too big. In other cases, they didn’t (work hard).

“So the ones who didn’t, they won’t be here. We’ll be a better team when they’re not here. I’ve
got to do a better job of focusing on the many many guys we have that it’s important to, who are doing everything we want them to do and those are the guys we’re going to win with. And we’re going to win. It’s just a matter of when.”

As far as his apology, I asked if he was speaking of Saturday’s postgame remarks to the team or to the media minutes later.

Turner snorted, “I don’t care what I say to the media. Not the postgame remarks to the
team, because I was 100 percent on with them and 100 percent honest. But I’m mad at myself for letting a handful of guys make me make those comments to the team. The comments were exactly what I should’ve said. But I need to get rid of the guys who are making me make those comments. Because we’ve got too many guys, a lot of guys who are busting their butts. I told them today, “You watch the film. You know today who played their hearts out, that gave everything they had, who left it all on the field, that are doing everything they can do to win. And you know the guys that aren’t. Those guys who are ineligible, who didn’t do it previously, and the guys in that game that didn’t give the effort to takes to win at this level. We had a handful of them, but all it takes is one. One guy on defense who loses gap control brecause they’re lazy, not doing what they’re supposed to do, you’ve got a 20-yard run. That’s not fair to the rest of the team.”

Turner said he was up at 3 a.m. angry at himself.

September 17, 2013

New B-Ballers & Old B-Ballers

A reminder folks -- pick a name and stay with it in the comments. It's one of the few ways I can try to keep one or two people from coming off like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Now, to the new among the men's basketball Panthers...

Jason Boswell, a 6-6 guard, averaged 7.3 points per game for the Elizabeth, NJ Patrick School. Before that, Boswell threw in 17.0 points per game for Trinity Catholic in Stamford, Conn. Boswell’s rated at three/four stars by 247sports, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by ESPN.com and unrated by Rivals.com. Nice get for FIU.

Dominique Williams averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds per game at Charlotte Mallard Creek High School before averaging 19 points per game at Believe Prep. The 6-7 forward was unrated by Scout.com and Rivals.com.

Forward Jonas Page averaged 12.5 points per game for Susquehanna (Pa.) Township and is
unrated by any of the recruiting sites.

As long rumored, Hialeah Miami Lakes graduate Adrian Diaz transferred all 6-10 of himself from Kansas State back to South Florida and will sit out this season. So will Ray Rodriguez, a 6-1 star for Hialeah Gardens’ High’s 2012 Class 8A State Championship team who went to North Florida and averaged 9.1 minutes and 2.4 points per game.

With Tymell Murphy, Raymond Taylor and Rakeem Buckles, if FIU can get some outside shooting, this year's model could be as fun to watch as last year's was. Which makes that whole NCAA postseason ban a shame. Speaking of that...

After Buckles transfer request to Minnesota was denied by the NCAA, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said to ESPN that Buckles didn't know the school would be facing a postseason ban this year when he followed Richard Pitino to FIU in 2012. FIU will insist Pitino the Younger knew when he took the job in April 2012 that the Panthers probably would get an APR-prompted postseason ban in 2013-14. So, we have a few possibilities...

a) FIU's played down the potential penalties to Pitino before the hiring and only revealed them after the hiring orafter Pitino scrambled to throw a team together for 2012-13. Mario Cristobal would say there's precedent for this. He's always made reference to feeling misled as to the depth of the penalties about to crash down on FIU football when he was hired in Dec. 2006.

b) FIU told Pitino and Pitino didn't fully fess up to his recruits because, hey, what player with two years or less left is coming to a school that's looking at a rebuilding year followed by a no-postseason year.

c) FIU told Pitino, Pitino told his players and they didn't care or didn't listen. You know how young folks can be. 

Thursday, FIU will announce a partnership between FIU Health, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s Faculty Group Practice, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association through which FIU Health will provide health and wellness physicals to uninsured and underinsured NBRPA members and their spouses.


Women's hoop schedule, 2013-14

Highlights from FIU's women's basketball schedule for this upcoming season, the last for senior guard Jerica Coley, last year's Sun Belt Student-Athlete of the Year.

Season-opener and first game on Lime Court at U.S. Century Bank Arena (or Miami Mex at The Branch): Nov. 8 vs. Florida Gulf Coast.

First road game: Nov. 15, at Central Florida.

FIU Thanksgiving Classic, Nov. 29 and Dec. 1: FIU, Valparaiso, Montana State and Villanova.

29th Annual Sun & Fun Classic, Dec. 28-30: FIU, Fairleigh-Dickinson, Wake Forest and Florida A&M.

First Conference USA game: Between The Cabanas vs. Rice, Jan. 8.

The FIU Coaches Shootout: That's what I'm calling the Mar. 1 game against Old Dominion, alma mater of FIU head coach Cindy Russo and longtime FIU assistant coach and Hall of Fame player Inge Nissen.

FIU vs. FAU: Jan. 25 in Boca Raton, Feb. 1 at The Branch.

Conference USA Tournament: Mar. 11-15 in El Paso, Texas.

Medlock concussed, Hilliard might start vs. Louisville


Quarterback Jake Medlock ran with his former SST Smash-Up Derby style Saturday against Bethune-Cookman...until a fourth quarter goal line collision left him with no helmet and, apparently, a little less head. FIU coach Ron Turner said Medlock was day-to-day with a concussion of indeterminate degree. He wouldn't rule Medlock out for Saturday, but sophomore E.J. Hilliard worked with the first team and Turner declared his confidence in Hilliard.

If Medlock's out for Saturday, it does make one problem easier for Turner. You could read via social media publicly and hear through private grapevines that some players wanted Hilliard to get a shot at starting after the offense resembled a rusted Yugo the first three games. Clearly, the coaches preferred Medlock. Nothing splits a team like a quarterback disagreement, especially a college team. There's more noise from those around the players than in an NFL quarterback controversy.

For his part, Hilliard says he thinks his play so far this season has been "not what I wanted to be" and "average." He says he's matured over the last year, but still has some growing up to do.

In other quarterback news, Travis Wright, freshman out of Louisville Trinity, wasn't at practice as he got some off the field stuff cleared up. Turner said he expected Wright to be available Saturday. If HIlliard starts, Wright's the backup. Behind Wright? Akil Dan-Fodio, who did quarterback work Tuesday instead of tight end, which is where he's played the last season plus (he did play quarterback in the spring).

Safety Demarkus Perkins will be back Saturday. Sophomore outside linebacker Davison Colimon's still questionable.

Turner said he was mad at himself after Saturday's game for letting the few players, three to five percent in his estimation, dogging it or being selfish on or off the field get him upset with the whole team. So, he said, he'll excise those kids and deal with the ones staying in step. I'll have the full direct quotes later on this post.

Saturday's game will be on ESPN3.



A few from FIU's fall sports, including one that's been specifically asked about often.

Senior defensive tackle Greg Hickman's tackles for loss per game: 1.8, 17th in the nation.

Senior punt returner Sam Miller's per return average: 16.7, 10th in the nation

Men's soccer goals per game: 2.4, eighth in the nation

Passing defense: 196.0 yards per game, 41st in the nation (out of 123).

Rush defense: 242.3 yards per game, 110th in the nation.

Total defense: 438.3 yards per game, 96th in the nation.

Scoring defense: 38.3 yards per game, 114th in the nation.

Passing offense: 126.0 yards per game, 116th in the nation.

Rushing offense: 65.0 yards per game, 119th in the nation.

Total offense: 191.0 yards per game, 122nd in the nation.

Scoring offense: 7.7 points per game, 122nd in the nation.

Retention bonus due Executive Director of Entertainment and Sports Pete Garcia on Oct. 15: $72,504.

How much FIU would owe Garcia if they terminated his contract without cause before Oct. 15: $362,527.



September 16, 2013

Full men's ball schedule out

Highlights of the 2013-14 men's basketball schedule, full version just released:

The season opens with four games at the Kennesaw State Tournament in Kennesaw, Georgia (SA-LUTE!) against Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 8), Youngstown State (No. 9), Kennesaw State (Nov. 10) and Warren Wilson (Nov. 12).

The first home games on the beach court with adjacent cabanas are Nov. 14, 16 and 18 against Florida College, Texas Southern and Stetson, respectively.

An interesting run in December sees a Dec. 7 home game against Florida Gulf Coast, Dec. 21 home game against Louisville then going to Georgetown on Dec. 28.

The Conference USA opener will be at Rice, Jan. 9. The first C-USA home game will be against Old Dominion, Jan. 16.

The FIU-FAU games are Jan. 25 (here) and the season-closer Mar. 6 (there).

And, that's that.

September 15, 2013

Louisville favored by a Jackie Robinson & other things

Or a Paul Warfield.

Before we get to that, some other news from the FIU sports weekend. Volleyball's above .500 after going 2-1 in the FIU Invitational. Kimberly Smith and Ksenia Sukhareva made the all-tournament team. Men's soccer lost 2-1 at FAU Saturday night and women's soccer suffered twin 4-0 losses at Dayton and Illinois.

The first line came out on next Saturday afternoon's FIU-Louisville game: Louisville by 41. It quickly went up to Louisville by 42 in some places. The Wynn still has it at 41.5.

FIU's a bigger underdog to Louisville than Colorado State is at No. 1 Alabama (38 average, 39.5 at The Wynn). FIU's as big an underdog as New Mexico State now is to No. 13 UCLA after New Mexico State opened at +38. As of right now, they're the biggest FBS underdogs this week.


A few thoughts from Bethune-Cookman 34, FIU 13

After FIU took a hat trick of losses – on the field 34-13, in the halftime band comparison, even in the crowd count – head coach Ron Turner marched into the postgame media session with a casual “What do ya got?” Turner stopped next to the podium, not behind it like an infomercial presenter with a book to sell.

You could tell this was a man waiting to be lobbed any kind of question so he could take the answer toward whatever he really had to say. So, I pulled out an eephus pitch, asking if he was surprised Bethune-Cookman didn’t just run the ball on FIU, but outmuscled the Panthers in the second half.

Turner began, “We knew they were going to come in and try to run the ball. Yeah, I’m a
little surprised they were able to run it as effectively as they did, as consistently as they did. As I said earlier in the week, they’ve got a good football team.”

Then, you could hear Turner shift as deftly as Fangio going from fourth gear to fifth. “We got beat by a better football team tonight. I’ll tell you what I told the team: we got beat by a better football team because more of a team than we are right now. When we become a team, where everyone’s pulling in the same direction – I’m not saying guys are going against one another, but we’re not totally, totally believing in one another and totally a team yet. When we get to that point,
games like this will cease.”

I asked if he was speaking offensively, defensively, both...Turner said, “Just everywhere. We’ve
got guys thinking about other things besides what’s best for the team. More about them and stuff like that. Not a ton of them, but it doesn’t take a ton. Until 100 percent of the guys buy in, we’re not going to be the team we can be. We’ve got a hell of a lot of guys who have bought in. We’ve got a hell of a lot of guys that are trying to do what we ask them to do and are playing like a team. But all it takes is a couple. All it takes are a few to pull it down. We’ve got a couple that need to get with it.”

Of those who played most of Saturday’s game, I don’t know who Turner meant. I know he wasn’t
thrilled with some of the Twitter commentary that advocated putting E.J. Hilliard in the game earlier (if not starting him), whether those tweets were players expressing their own feelings or retweeting those of friends/fans. Yet Hilliard didn’t get into Saturday’s game until Jake Medlock lost a helmet during a fourth quarter play down 34-7, thus bringing in Hilliard to handle the fourth down and the touchdown.

Jake Medlock played offense and, after a first punt by Chris Ayers, punted until that helmet-losing play. Desiring a rugby-style punt and also probably to put the fear of a fake in Bethune’s head, FIU used Medlock. He averaged 35.4 yards per punt with a long of 58. The run near the goal line and another scramble earlier looked like 2011 Medlock, where he figured why elude a tackler when you can have a close, violent relationship with him.

Apparently, freshman Austin Taylor outkicked redshirt freshman Sergio Sroka in practice this week. Taylor hit an extra point and had his second one blocked.

Someone else asked Turner what the staff could do to get the players more focused blah, blah, blah. “Keep working hard, doing what we believe in," he replied. "If someone’s not with us, get him out. Get him out. Now, there’s only a handful. There were more. Some of them aren’t here. Obviously, we’ve still got a couple. So get the guys in this room that believe in what we’re doing, are going to do it our way. We’re not going to change what we do because what we do works. We’ve got a hell of a
staff. Our systems work. We’ve got a good plan, and we’re going to stick with it. It will work. It will work. When, I don’t know. The three things we talked about: accountability, toughness, discipline. We haven’t been accountable to one another, 100 percent. We haven’t demonstrated the kind of toughness, physical or mental, that you have to have to win at this level. And our discipline on the field and off the field. It’s never going to be good on the field until it’s good off the field. We’ve still got some issues there. We’re going to get it right, but it’s not there yet.”

Seemed like a good time to ask about senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane, who finished with two tackles, both for losses, and a blocked extra point in three quarters of work. Faciane spent the first quarter benched while fellow New Orleans-area behemoth Darrian Dyson started in his place, not as effectively.

“That’s what I’m talking about, discipline,” Turner said. “One of our seniors, a captain our first game. For discipline reasons, didn’t play in the first quarter. As soon as that happened, I said, “We’re going to be in trouble.” Accountability, to a man. We don’t have that yet. We have a hell of a lot of them. But not to a man.”

That’s a lot of certainty about the approach after losing three games by a combined 115-23 and getting rolled at home by an FCS team. That's probably necessary to sell this to a group of young men you didn't recruit.

(Oh, this week, one of FIU's past arrested players asked me to remove the blog post describing his arrest because "it's been up long enough." As if this were somebody's personal blog, an adjunct to their Facebook page. This is still a part of the Miami Herald, the media outlet of record in this town. Blog posts come down if there's an error, not because they don't reflect well on someone.)

What FIU learned about itself and the option from the Maryland scorching seemed to have limited effect. They still bit too hard and chipped their teeth when what they bit into wasn't there. Bethune did their scouting, too. They saw redshirt sophomore defensive end Lars Koht jumpy and befuddled against Maryland’s option and ran some at him once he came into the game. On the drive to a 21-7 lead, they got 10 on a third down option run at Koht on the FIU right side. On the next third down, a third and 3, before the Wildcats came at Koht with an option to FIU’s left , he jumped offside to give Bethune a first down.

Mostly, though, FIU got pushed around up front. By the third and fourth touchdown drives, Bethune just kept running option plunges and quarterback keepers.

First play of the game, FIU calls a play with a bomb pattern and Medlock found T.J. Lowder for 42 yards. Second play, Lamarq Caldwell for a loss of 1. Third play, Caldwell for 1. Fourth play, Medlock leave the pocket with 250-pound defensive tackle Rony Barrow breaking through protection like the zombies in Thriller coming through the front door, then throwing the ball away under pressure from linebacker Nesley Marcellon.

One series summed up some of FIU’s offensive problems. FIU doesn’t have the offensive line teamwork to run the ball, even against light fronts such as Bethune’s, yet there’s an insistence on trying to run it. I admit, I thought they’d be able to do it on Bethune. But, they couldn’t and FIU always found itself in third and longer-than-you-want.

A few longtime reporters profess to be experts on offensive guard play. A few actually are. Some of them even happen to be in the first group who think they are. Most of us know our depth of knowledge puts us just a few steps beyond the kiddie pool end. I’m in that group. But I’m wondering where junior college guard Bryan Pinkston ranks in development after seeing redshirt freshman guard Trenton Saunders spend most of Saturday night a half-step behind Bethune junior Rony Barrow and often holding onto Barrow for Medlock’s life.

That kept Medlock from doing what he does well and did on the touchdown to Lowder: stepping up
into the pocket, giving everybody another half-second to get open while causing defenders to pause for that half-second and hitting an open receiver. FIU’s receivers need that. Other than deep patterns, Panthers receivers just don’t get open consistently. Walk-on Fred Porter got his first start of the year. He had two catches for 16 yards.

Medlock declared before camp he felt comfortable with this offense with its similarity to what he ran at Jacksonville Fletcher High. He hasn’t looked it in three games. Of course, no other part of the offense that helps make quarterbacks look good can say they’ve done their part. Perhaps they’ll perform better with Hilliard. Perhaps not.

Those looking for a sunny side for FIU should note: the academic suspensions of Richard Leonard, Glenn Coleman and Willis Wright make this their redshirt season. They could all be back next year. And senior cornerback Sam Miller had a 42-yard punt return, a 41-yarder to set up FIU's second touchdown and an interception that led to, well, Tim Burke's 92-yard interception return touchdown for Bethune.

As for this year, well…there’s Louisville (ooo, that’s going to hurt) and then a bye week
before starting Conference USA play at turnover factory Southern Mississippi. The next home game won't be for almost a month, Oct. 12 Homecoming against Alabama-Birmingham. If that wasn't Homecoming, judging from Saturday, the unveiling of my father-in-law's headstone that same weekend might have a bigger crowd.

If you’re going to stay along for the ride, I offer the advice of Senator Blutarsky: I suggest you start drinking heavily. Judging from the tailgates, you are.

By the way, Kedrick Rhodes had a 29-yard touchdown run for West Alabama against McNeese State tonight.


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