So, where were you when the lights went on?
You likely weren't in FIU Stadium, where fans were as scattered and sparse as FIU offensive competency. I counted about 50 people -- it was tough seeing all the way down to the southwest corner -- in the south stands between anthem and game. I'm sure there were Saturday classes with more students than the student section at kickoff or late in the second quarter. Go check the photos on my Twitter feed.
Apathy's worse than anger. I've heard alumni with anger over the football program. But, now, many have donned the attitude of apathy so prevalent among the students. That's a problem.
Not that Saturday's game counted as entertaining on anything more than a "Well, it's football" level. In one stretch of five plays, there were three fumbles, each more comical than the one before it. I half expected to see one side whip out seltzer bottles and spray the other with it, Tom & Jerry style. First and goal from the 4 turned into a 35-yard field goal attempt.
Saturday's offensive slippage (like on a banana peel) isn't on one person. It was a team effort. The line neither gave Jake Medlock time consistently nor did it pry open holes for either Silas Spearman or Lamarq Caldwell. When Medlock had time, he often threw badly or hesitated until the trigger moment passed -- on the fourth down play in the third quarter, tight end Ya'keem Griner came open on a rollout and Medlock held for just long enough to get hit as he threw. That play notwithstanding, receivers rarely extricated themselves from coverage to give Medlock something he could confidently fire toward. The offense lacks developed playmakers, which turns every drive into a march to Moscow. It's not just about speed. Hey, the wide receiver nicknamed "The Playmaker," Michael Irvin, didn't possess blazing speed even at the college level.
(By the way, talked to a guy with blazing speed, T.Y. Hilton, during the third quarter. He said even before the Colts lost Reggie Wayne to the season, he was getting double coverage. When he complained about it on the sidelines, he said his teammates told him it was his own fault for scoring in every preseason game, thus drawing attention to himself).
Ron Turner admitted there was thought of replacing Medlock with sophomore E.J. Hilliard. I don't know what that would've done, but after 69 yards of offense in the first half and 3 of 9 for 34 yards and one interception in the air, I wondered if Hilliard would make a third quarter appearance.
FIU's blitz recognition as far as protection didn't exist. The offense accounted for three fumbles, only one of which came from contact. That's two too many non-contact flubs coming out of a bye week. That points to ill focus and, lackluster coaching.
FIU's punt team continued to be excruciating. In addition to averaging only 35.6 yards per Chris Ayers punt, the unit got a delay of game penalty, a penalty for lining up illegally and another penalty for clocking the returner before he had a chance to field the punt. That's half of FIU's six penalties on bad mental errors. Again, an indictment of the players' focus and the staff's coaching.
Defensively, FIU allowed five field goals and a touchdown. Also, they should've had a touchdown of their own. Denzell Perine and Markeith Russell reprised the Mike Hegman-Thomas Henderson hug 'em-strip 'em play that gave Dallas a brief 14-7 lead in Super Bowl XIII against Pittsburgh. The play was whistled dead with the ball on its way to Russell's hands. The score at that point was 9-0, Louisiana Tech, in the second quarter. It changes the game if FIU's up 14-9 in the third quarter or down only 20-12 in the fourth.
But you can't complain about a bad call -- and FIU didn't afterwards -- when you don't play well.
Oh, Pet Peeve Time...Am I the only one who wonders what the heck coaches are doing when, instead of taking a knee at the end of the first half, they run a line plunge as FIU did Saturday night and has done before? LaTech was out of timeouts. A kneel down would've done the job. Instead, FIU pounds its workman grinder back for one more play.
This is a violent game involving many guys whose bulk threatens to overwhelm their skeletal structure, especially at this age. If you run a play in that situation, you're either trying to score or you're engaging in coaching onanism.
Inconsistency is characteristic of young teams so maybe this dump wasn't surprising after two games moving forward. Another week of this, though, could see true humiliation visited upon the Panthers.
East Carolina, which has put up 50 points or more three times this season, comes to La Cage next.