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38 posts from November 2013

November 30, 2013

A few thoughts on FAU 21, FIU 6

"Yes, I will be here next year. I will be here next year," redshirt junior quarterback Jake Medlock said when I asked him directly about 2014.

I'd heard from three different places that Medlock was leaning toward transferring. I asked him if ever considered transferring.

"No. I can't leave these guys. I came in here with David (Delsoin), Donald (Senat), Jordan (White), Greg (Hickman) and all of them. They're my boys. They always have been since Day 1 and always will be until the day I die."

Medlock left FAU Stadium the same way he left it last year -- resembling a health insurance advertisement. The finger he broke on his throwing hand hasn't healed. The shoulder injury he suffered last year at FAU still isn't right. And he's got messed up ribs after spending too much of the evening under FAU's pass rush.

Medlock also could've been leaving as the winning quarterback again without receivers dropping touchdown passes like they were last year's team GPA. Those plays -- T.J. Lowder had two, Rockey Vann had one, Dominque Rhymes dropped an underthrown (but still on the numbers) end around bomb -- demonstrate the difference between speed guys/athletes and speed receivers/athletic receivers. Lowder might want to spend the offseason cuddling up with the Juggs machine. While praising his effort two weeks ago, before Lowder dribbled a slant with room to run against Marshall, Turner did say Lowder had some drops at UTEP. 

FIU actually did an OK job on FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson's running. Johnson broke out for a 17-yarder, but based on FIU's previous failures at containing run-first quarterbacks, 64 yards on 17 carries isn't bad.

FAU worked the play action game, however, and that's been a problem for FIU all season. Here's where not having Richard Leonard and Sam Miller, who was injured for what would've been his final game, on the corners hurt the Panthers. Without those two, you had Randy Harvey, who got targeted as the season went along; Brad Hyman-Muhammad, a freshman walk-on; and Jeremiah McKinnon, whose status fluctuated throughout the season because of off-field problems. Besides, on the field, McKinnon's often on the scene yet essentially a bystander. He doesn't take away the ball or the man. Maybe with a full season playing and practicing, he'll develop into the kind of playmaking cornerback you sense sits somewhere inside him.

Kicker Austin Taylor got his first true too-deep-to-return touchbacks of the season. 

By the way, Turner didn't sound like a man planning on going anywhere other than recruiting and doing some season wrapup stuff. I do think he was surprised at the way things work -- or don't -- at FIU. I also think he wants to see what he can do with a full offseason, a staff that he isn't cobbling together in a rush (which, frankly, seems to be The FIU Way considering the timing on athletic department decisions) and a full season of recruiting. Also, as I wrote earlier, I don't see his NFL options extending much beyond his family and if he leaves here, he's got to pony up a year's salary. That'll come out of his pocket. Just because NFL franchises print money doesn't mean tbey're into dishing out $500,000 just to free up a quarterbacks coach.



November 29, 2013

Gameday XII: 12th round, last round

Woke up out of a turkey-stuffing-and-mimosa coma with still mounds of a fat story to write and -- SON OF A GLITCH, I NEED TO DO ONE LAST PREGAME BLOG!

Let's make this quick because I've got other work to do: FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson leads the Owls in rushing. Johnson doesn't exactly have the speed of an Oklahoma wishbone quarterback but as Marshall's plodding backup quarterback proved last week on that 45-yard touchdown run that took about 44 minutes, that doesn't matter.

FAU's strength is defense. FIU's weakness is offense.

FAU 34, FIU 9.

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



November 27, 2013

Louisville tickets, swim meets and QB questions

Limited single-game tickets for the Dec. 21 men's basketball home game against defending national champion Louisville will go on sale -- at a jacked up price, of course -- Monday at 9 a.m. via http://www.FIUSports.com or calling 305-FIU-GAME.

Courtside seats that usually go for $100 will be $150. The usually $10 lower bowl reserved seats will be $30. The usually $5 (when it's open) upper level festival seating will be $20. Give the school credit for trying to milk all they can out of the one home game with any appeal beyond the schools involved or hardcore hoops geeks.

Before you start to put Florida Gulf Coast in that category, consider college basketball's status in this town. FIU's selling general admission tickets to The Branch's version of Uptown for that one, too, just in case.


The fifth-place team performance at the Mizzou Invite last week got FIU up to fifth in the mid-major rankings by CollegeSwimming.com and 39th in the nation overall, both program highs. Rice and East Carolina rank higher among Conference USA schools.

If FIU ever shores up weaknesses in the sprints and diver depth and doesn't lose more swimmers to the burnout common in this sport, the pool Panthers will start to hurt some feelings.


It appears tight end Cory White will apply to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, arguing his 2011 redshirt sophomore season being wiped out by injury shouldn't count on his elibility clock.

Jake Medlock will start this week against FAU. It could be his last start at FIU. Word around the campfire is Medlock will transfer after this season. Though Medlock and the offense against Louisiana Tech made an abandoned Packard plant look productive, I'm hearing there's something truly malodorous about E.J. Hilliard getting the start against East Carolina. 

Those asking about this year's academic ineligibles...they can be officially redshirted and, if they become eligible again, play next season. If they don't become eligible, time to pay for school or enter the real world.


November 25, 2013

The Status of Marita and McBeath

While the Naismith Award folks name Jerica Coley to their Early Season Watch List on the women's side, the FIU Compliance folks seem to have trouble figuring out whether or not the women's basketball team's second best player, Marita Davydova, is eligible to play.

Here's the statement I received from FIU's non-sports media relations:

"FIU's Athletics Compliance Office identified a potential question regarding women’s basketball student athlete Marita Davydova’s eligibility status. At the time, the University took the proactive step of withholding Marita from further intercollegiate competition until her eligibility status could be confirmed. Based on the information present at this time, it appears that Marita will be eligible to represent the university in intercollegiate basketball competition pending ultimate approval of the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff. Given that the issue involves the eligibility status of a currently enrolled student-athlete, there are no further details that we can provide."

Hold on NCAA Reinstatement staff? To be reinstated, you have to be booted. And why should her eligiblity status be a question now? Shouldn't this have been cleared up long ago? She didn't just get here. She was a Third Team all-conference center last year. 

Then again, why should the eligibility of a point guard who has been on your campus over a year and a half be an issue (Ray Taylor)? Either he is eligible or he isn't. And, if he isn't, why was he given a scholarship the last two years?

Sounds like Compliance needs to get into compliance with its job description.


Columbus linebacker Nick McBeath decommitted from FIU, he announced via Twitter Monday night. McBeath's got several other options and might head for a school with a stronger academic reputation (don't jump down my throat. For the many good things happening academically, let's not act like FIU's Stanford-by-the-Turnpike).



Medlock gets CFPA love again & other tidbits

For the third time in the last four weeks, the College Football Performance Awards gave redshirt junior punter Jake Medlock an honorable mention nod for his punting.

Medlock averaged 43.2 yards per punt with a long of 61 on his nine punts in Saturday's loss to Marshall. I think he'll also return to starting at quarterback. Turner, who was non-committal Monday, said even if Medlock plays quarterback, he'll still punt.

I asked about the end of half line plunges, which, to me, serve no other purpose than to possibly get someone injured. Why not just kneel down?

"I don't have a good answer for that," Turner said. "We said, "let's just run it one more time instead of taking a knee.' If we had it to do it again, probably should've taken a knee."

He also said that, next year, ineligible players won't be allowed around the program until they're eligible again. This year, for example, cornerback Richard Leonard and wide receiver Glenn Coleman have practiced regularly with the team as scout team members. That won't be allowed next year.

Former FIU wide receiver Greg Ellingson caught two passes for 29 yards as his Hamilton Tiger Cats ("Ticats, eh?") lost the Grey Cup to Saskatchewan 45-23. MVP for the game was former Dolphins running back Kory Sheets after he sped to 197 yards on 20 carries. Sheets sat on the bottom of the Dolphins roster after being signed off San Francisco's practice squad, then suffered a season-ending injury on a kickoff return drill the following training camp. The Dolphins released him a year later.

November 24, 2013

The Report

Download Consultantreportposted12013

This is the famous/infamous/much-discussed consultant's report prepared several years ago. Read if you wish.

And FIU finally announced the five-year contract extension of President Mark Rosenberg.

And FIU opened as a 28-point underdog for Friday's game at FAU. The line's now up to 28 1/2. 

A few thoughts on Marshall 48, FIU 10

Too bad that the enmity toward the apathy toward the football team and the enmity toward the athletic department results in scenes like Saturday's Senior Night ceremonies. See my Twitter feed for the photos. Certainly, it gave the football team a sense of how athletes in other sports who work just as hard feel on their Senior Nights, attended by relatively few. Still, seemed kind of sad.

Anyway, good thing Marshall traveled well or the attendance would've been even more embarrassing. Unlike the East Carolina game, the students never really did come in from the tailgates for the giveaway goodies. I'll be interested to see what audited numbers FIU has turned in to the NCAA. Word out of the athletic department is they didn't meet their goals last year, but should this year. That means some company ponied up the bucks to bring FIU up to snuff.

As for the game, Marshall looked like it remembered it saw the video from FIU's win against Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles scorched FIU often working against linebacker coverage off play action. Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato and tight end Gator Hoskins beat any two quarterbacks and four tight ends put together on Southern Mississippi's roster. The five runs by Kevin Grooms on the drive to Marshall's first touchdown established a run threat that The Herd exploited throughout the game.

Now, FIU's offense...Turner said after the game they didn't go as conservative as it seemed in the first half. There were some run/pass options, he said, that the defense dictated should be a run. OK, but I saw sets and motion that gave away some early down play calls as a run. It just seemed the play calling confined sophomore E.J. Hilliard to throwing in obvious passing situations. The defense knows it'll be a pass, and Hilliard still doesn't always make decisions quickly enough. To quote The Violent Femmes, add it up. You get seven sacks.

There were plays to be made in the passing game, especially on first or second down. Hilliard missed some throws. Redshirt sophomore T.J. Lowder dropped a couple including one second quarter slant on which he could've run to Kendall for what could've been a score that would've put FIU back in front. But that's happened enough with Lowder to where you have to say that's just who he is right now.

Also, I keep forgetting to ask about these pointless end of first half line plunges that do absolutely nothing other than give Lamarq Caldwell fewer yards than hits.

Big ups to defensive end Denzell Perine for his one-man three-and-out on the first possession of the second half. Perine dropped Marshall running back Essray Taliaferro twice for no gain, then swatted away the third down pass.


JoGus wins again; team 5th at Mizzou Invite

Before I get to the postgame blog off Senior Night, let me pull your coat about FIU at the Mizzou Invite.

The team finished fifth in the 11-team field, behind Arkansas, Utah, Missouri and UCal-Davis and ahead of West Virginia, Southern Illinois, Northern Colorado, Nebraska, Saint Louis and Colorado State. That's a good placing, especially finishing only 10 points behind fourth place Cal-Davis.

I don't know if junior Johanna Gustafsdottir minds when I put "JoGus" in a blog headline. I just know it takes up less space than her last name, which I've learned to spell as she's becoming the best swimmer in FIU history, if she isn't already. She's certainly the best backstroker. Gustafsdottir took her second event at the Mizzou Invite, the 200 backstroke, Saturday night in 1:55.74. Senior Sonia Perez Arau, FIU's second best scorer this meet, finished third in 1:57.35 to give her an individual Mr. Owl Tootsie Pop Meet -- a one, a two, a three.


Perez Arau and Gustafsdottir started and anchored, respectively, the fifth place 400 freestyle relay team, which cranked off a 3:22.99, behind only the record 3:21.67 at February's Sun Belt Conference Championships by Gustafsdottir, Klara Andersson, Dani Albright and Marina Ribi. Andersson swam the third leg and Jennifer Alfani saw the second.

In the platform diving, senior Sabrina Beaupre got a fifth. When I talked to her several months ago, Beaupre said she was excited about the switch to Conference USA because C-USA had platform diving. 

November 23, 2013

Gameday XI: Not Kane, Dillon nor George Preston...

Before I get to why today's game against Marshall reminded me of lines from two 1970s sequels, Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Let's Do It Again, here's some stuff I didn't have room for in The Herald advance story.

When I asked senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane for his favorite FIU Stadium moment, he actually didn't bring up his 51-yard fumble return touchdown against Central Florida in 2011. I did. I found it interesting he didn't immediately go to that moment when he scooped up a fumble and outraced a UCF lineman so badly, the guy pulled up around the 20. That play tied the game 7-7 with a few seconds left in the first half in front of a packed house and turned the momentum in a 17-10 win that pushed FIU to 3-0.

Faciane laughed, "That was my highlight moment. That took the cake. I think I went deaf running that play. All I heard instead of (breathy crowd noise imitation we all do) was "eeeee," like a straight ringing. I was so out of breath, I couldn't even celebrate right. They tackled me before I got to the sideline."

When I asked Sam Miller, the son of a Sam Miller who'd been coaching high school football a long time when the senior cornerback was born, the most important thing he learned, he said “As a freshman, get your priorities straight. Have everything in line in life. Everything doesn’t revolve around football. I had to see a bigger picture, not just with my work ethic with football, but with life and the classroom.”

I asked defensive tackle Greg Hickman how he's grown the most during his four years at FIU.

"I think I became more coachable. Very coachable," Hickman answered. "My leadership skills...I didn't have the good people skills growing up." He smiled, "Here, I was not "The Man" anymore, I have to fit in and do my job like everybody else."

When I asked him about playing with his injured ankle, a flawed load-bearing piece of the body, Hickman said, "I think I would’ve sat down for a game or two if I had the time to waste. But this is my senior year, when every down matters. I have a dream and a goal that I want to accomplish, so being hurt isn’t an excuse.”

The NFL's a possible future for Hickman and Faciane. Not so for fifth-year senior middle linebacker Markeith Russell. Russell doesn't have NFL size, speed, quickness or instincts. He's got an NFL heart and persistence that'll serve him well in the white collar world he'll soon enter. Each game, he's having to be helped off the field two or three times, ground down by being in the middle of a defense on the field too often even before factoring in the lack of depth.

"When I see a guy do that, he goes down and two or three plays later, he's back, I'm a ltitle suspicious," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "I don't like that stuff. In his case, it's legit. He's legitimately hurt. He probably should not go back in, but he's going back in. In a lot of cases, you're 1-8, those are "1-8 injuries." Not with him. He couldn't even walk to get to the plane. To get through security to the plane (after the UTEP loss last week), it took him 10 minutes. He couldn't walk. His body is a mess. He's out here today. He'll be out there Saturday giving it everything he's got."

I wrote earlier in the season and I'll say it again now -- this team's losses aren't about effort. They're trying. And, as much as I love to question play-calling and conceptual approach, as much as I still question whether this entire coaching staff fits in South Florida, no college coaching staff could've gotten more than three wins from this roster. Not Nick Saban's Alabama staff. Not Bo Schembechler's staffs at Michigan. Not Woody Hayes staffs at Ohio State. Not the staff at Miami of Ohio with Bo Schembechler working under Woody Hayes. Not the 1994 Cleveland Browns staff with Bill Belichick, Nick Saban and Kirk Ferentz.

This was a roster stripped down by losing 30 seniors from last year, stripped down further by academic issues in play before the staff got here then supplemented by one of the lowest rated recruiting classes in the nation (for what those ratings are worth -- some of the best contributors are freshmen). Even before you install completely new offensive and defensive systems, what do you expect?

Which brings me to this game and a scene from Let's Do It Again. Jimmie Walker's gawky, ectomorphic boxer Bootney Farnsworth, days from facing muscular punching machine 40th Street Black for the title, asks his manager what's going to happen.

"He's going to beat your brains in, kid."

This defense would be hard pressed to hold Marshall under the speed limit when fresh. Quarterback Rakeem Cato averages 7.9 yards per attempt. Their top three rushers this season average 5.2, 9.4 and 5.5 yards per carry. Wide receiver Tommy Shuler catches one of every three Cato completions. He's the possession guy. The next two top receivers, Devon Smith and Gator Hoskins, average 18.9 and 16.3 yards per catch, respectively.

That's a team breaking off Bunyonesque chunks of yardage. Last week, Marshall lost the turnover fight to Tulsa, 5-1. The Herd still rampaged for 619 yards of offense and 45 points.

Anybody expect FIU's offense, which could be quarterbacked by both Jake Medlock and E.J. HIlliard Saturday and ranks dead last in the nation, to keep up with that? Didn't think so.

That brings me to the Bad News Bears in Breaking Training line. After scouting the Houston team they're about to face in the Astrodome, a Bears player tells William Devane's Mike Leak, "I'd say pray for rain, but we're playing indoors."

Which is FIU's chance of staying in this game. A rainy evening won't help the crowd (will anything?) but if you're hoping for a miracle, the first thing you hope for is bad weather. That's slips, drops, fumbles, turnovers, a randomness that injects more chance into the game. It also tends to dampen scorching hot offenses.

Or not. The famous Doug Flutie Hail Mary ended a rain-soaked shootout at the Orange Bowl.

The line's 33. The over/under has dropped to 54. I'm thinking Marshall can't wait to rest players with a big game against East Carolina coming up next week, especially if the field's bad.

42-10, Marshall. But that's one black man's opinion. I could be wrong.


November 22, 2013

Perez Shows Out in the Show Me State

For the second consecutive day at the Mizzou Invite, an FIU swimmer broke her own school record. For the second consecutive day, senior Sonia Perez Arau beat what had been an FIU record time.

This time, Perez won.

Perez took the 400 individual medley Friday in 4:09.59, breaking her own school record of 4:10.54 set in February's Sun Belt Conference championships. Thursday, Perez finished second to teammate Johanna Gustafsdottir in the 200 IM as both broke Gustafsdottir's school record.

Gustafsdottir's 54.38 got her a fourth in the 100 backstroke. The junior from Iceland opened the night leading off the 200 medley relay team that, with junior Klara Andersson, freshman Jennifer Alfani and freshman Jenny Deist, came home in 1:42.76, good for seventh place and six tenths of a second off the school record set at February's Sun Belt meet by Gustafsdottir, Andersson, Valeriia Popova and Kelly Grace.

Gustafsdottir closed the night by leading off the 800 free relay team that included Perez, Farrugia and Courtney VanderSchaaf. Their 7:21.36 was good for third in the race and in FIU history. FIU's B team -- Becky Wilde, Andersson, Alfani, Deist -- scored a seventh in 7:35.21.

In the 200 free, Nadia Farrugia finished 13th, but dropped her personal best to 1:50.91, the fourth fastest in FIU history. Another 13th place finish came from Andersson, 1:04.32, in the 100 breaststroke. Sabrina Beaupre finished 10th in the 1-meter diving competition.


Who's Eligible Here? Who's in Charge Here?

If fifth-year senior point guard Ray Taylor was found to be ineligible for this season -- he didn't play in Thursday's win over Bethune-Cookman, FIU's sixth in a row, after eligibility questions arose -- FIU might have to forfeit the four wins in which Taylor played.

Taylor declared for the 2012 NBA Draft in March 2012. He withdrew his name after the April 10, 2012 deadline for doing so and transferred to FIU later. Thus, the question.

From the 2011-12 NCAA Manual:

"In men’s basketball, an enrolled student-athlete may enter a professional league’s draft one time during his collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided:
(a) The student-athlete requests that his name be removed from the draft list and declares his intent
to resume intercollegiate participation not later than the end of the day before the first day of the
spring National Letter of Intent signing period for the applicable year. (April 10 in 2012 -- DJN)
(b) The student-athlete’s declaration of intent is submitted in writing to the institution’s director of
athletics; and
(c) The student-athlete is not drafted."

There's a Compliance Department that doesn't fall under athletics, but is listed among the athletic department's staff. The NCAA puts the responsibility of Compliance on a much bigger back. From this year's manual:

"The president or chancellor is responsible for approving the procedures for certifying the eligibility of an institution’s student-athletes under NCAA legislation. The president or chancellor may designate an individual on the institution’s staff to administer proper certification of eligibility. Certification of eligibility must occur prior to allowing a student-athlete to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition (see Bylaw 14.01.1). A violation of this bylaw in which the institution fails to certify a student-athlete’s eligibility prior to allowing him or her to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition shall be considered an institutional violation per Constitution 2.8.1; however, such a violation shall not affect the student-athlete’s eligibility, provided all the necessary information to certify the student-athlete’s eligibility was available to the institution and the student-athlete otherwise would have been eligible for competition."

A statement from FIU media relations -- not athletic department media relations -- e-mailed to me at 12:15 Friday said:

“Late Thursday afternoon, the University received information related to men's basketball student-athlete Raymond Taylor's eligibility status.  As a result of the information presented, the University has elected to withhold Ray from intercollegiate competition until the impact, if any, this information has on his eligibility status can be determined.  A review is being conducted and will conclude as quickly as possible.  Given that the issue involves student-athlete eligibility, there is no further information that we can provide at this time."

I've asked and am waiting to hear about women's basketball 6-3 center Marita Davydova, the second most important player on the team coming into the season, who hasn't played yet, wasn't dressed at the home opener, was left behind on the last road trip and looks perfectly healthy. Translation: last year's Third Team All-Sun Belt center is probably ineligible, too, which would be a huge hit to the women's team.

Former Compliance director Val Sheley has been fired in the last month, although not over these two issues. The assistant director in charge of APR? To be determined.

So, there's no director of the Student-Athlete Academic Center since Dr. Phil Moses took a job in North Carolina months ago. He made $105,000 a year. And two major positions in Compliance sit open. Sheley made $102,000 a year. Neither of these fall directly under the athletic department, so that's not the department saving money. It is, however, the department looking bad.

Not a good look for a school whose two highest profile athletic programs, football and men's basketball, demonstrate serious academic and compliance problems.



What Taylor's Eligibility Question Could Mean

If fifth-year senior point guard Ray Taylor was found to be ineligible for this season -- he didn't play in Thursday's win over Bethune-Cookman after eligibility questions arose -- FIU might have to forfeit the five wins in which Taylor played.


November 21, 2013

6 for men's hoop, 6x6 for Jerica Coley

I guess Tymell Murphy's OK.

The senior forward came out of Monday night's win against Stetson looking a little hoppy and was a game-time decision. Murphy scored 24, including 13 of 14 from the line (why you practice free throws, folks) and came down with 11 rebounds in FIU's 82-67 win at Bethune-Cookman. The sixth win in a row for the men's basketball team included 17 points and 15 rebounds for senior forward Rakeem Buckles.


Now the Panthers take their winning streak to South Carolina, coached by Miami native Frank Martin (FIU '93). To see the basketball Cocks, the school's offering free food to students, a Gamecock towel giveaway and double Loyalty Points for attending the Sunday afternoon game. Huh...

The women's team has spent the last few days in the Boston metropolitan area. I hope they got a chance to soak up some history (Revolutionary War, War on Busing, etc.), enjoy some fall colors before the town goes totally gray and black, hang out with some of their chronological peers from the many local universities. I hope they did that because the basketball's been rough.

FIU's 0-4 after an 89-69 loss to Boston College Thursday. Senior guard Jerica Coley put up 28 shots, never a good sign for FIU. Coley went four of 10 from three-point range and 12 of 12 from the line in putting up 36 points. Redshirt freshman Brianna Wright actually scored FIU's first seven points. The Eagles landed right on FIU's head, jumping out 15-4 and leading 51-32 at the half.


Two school records set at Mizzou Invite

A stunning 1-2 domination of the 200 individual medley highlighted FIU's first day at the Mizzou Invite hosted by, naturally, the University of Missouri.

Junior Johanna Gustafsdottir and senior Sonia Perez Arau took the top two spots on the podium in the 200 IM with times of 1:58.27 and 1:58.65, both of which beat Gustafsdottir's school record of 1:59.14, set at the 2012 Sun Belt Championships.

Gustafsdottir began the night by leading off a school record performance in the first final of the night, the 200 freestyle relay. Gustafsdottir, freshman Jennifer Alfani, junior Courtney VanderSchaaf and junior Klara Andersson got home in 1:33.58, edging the 1:33.99 by Andersson, Valeriia Popova, VanderScaaf and Marina Ribi in February at the Sun Belt Championships.

The 18-year-old Alfani's already the fourth fastest butterflier in FIU history after blowing out a 55.89 in finishing 10th. Andersson whipped off a 23.48, just .24 off the school record she set at last year's Sun Belt meet. Alfani cranked a 23.41 in the prelims Thursday afternoon.

The 400 Medley relay -- Gustafsdottir, Andersson, Alfani, freshman Jennifer Deist -- finished seventh in 3:46.28. Senior diver Sabrina Beaupre finished seventh in the 3-meter diving. 


Volleyball upsets Middle at C-USA tournament

Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky ruled the Sun Belt volleyball courts in 2011 and 2012. Since FIU last beat Middle, in 2010, Middle hasn't just won five straight matches -- it's swept the five matches 3-0.

So when Thursday's Conference USA Tournament opener for No. 11 seed FIU opened with No. 6 and tournament host Middle whipping off a 25-18 first set win and followed with Middle overcoming a 12-5 FIU lead to take set No. 2 29-27, it looked like another one-two-three-and-out for FIU.

Instead, the Panthers pulled off a 3-2 (18-25, 27-29, 25-20, 25-22, 15-11) upset. FIU faces No. 3 seed Tulsa Friday at 5 p.m. The match will be on the Conference USA Digital Network.

Thursday, FIU found itself down 6-2 early in the third set. Considering the macro trend of history and the micro one of the match, a Panthers collapse would've been predictable, even understandable. Instead, they went on a 7-0 run begun by a Gloria Levorin kill off a Jessica Egan assist and ending with a Martyna Gluchowicz kill. Another 5-0 run pushed their lead to 18-10 on the way to taking the third set.

A 4-0 fourth set run gave FIU a 9-5 lead and the Panthers stayed in front until the match was tied, 2-2. An even third set got opened up with a 5-0 run to 14-9 featuring a kill by Gluchowicz and a kill and a block by Levorin. The same combination that began the match-turning third set run, Egan setting up Levorin, did so for the final point.

Gluchowicz and Castro each had 17 kills while Levorin had 16. Egan racked up 48 assists. Gluchowicz also came up with a team-high 17 digs.


Looking for BAM!

Not to be confused with Bamm-Bamm.

The Comments section buzzes with arguments about  next year's recruiting class. Rivals.com indeed has FIU rated 65th in the nation, tied with Rice for first in Conference USA based on verbal commits. 247sports.com, which has former Rivals.com writer/analyst Chris Nee, ranks FIU at No. 83 overall and fifth in Conference USA.

Truth is, the 50 years past deal in Dealey Plaza is less a mystery than ranking recruits, recruiting classes and especially recruiting classes based on verbal commits. Kids can change their minds on Signing Day. Kids can lose their minds once they get away from home. The light goes on for one young man, the fire burns out in another. Johnathan Cyprien, T.Y. Hilton and Tourek Williams, two star guys entering FIU, start in the NFL. Larvez Mars and Willis Wright, FIU's four-star recruits, crashed.

FIU's offensive skill position commits, however, demonstrate one certainty: the Panthers need for nitro.

FIU's got fast guys. Speed, however, doesn't always add up to in-game explosiveness. The Panthers don't get cheap touchdowns the way they did last year with Wright and Glenn Coleman off play action passes, in 2011 from Kedrick Rhodes or 2008-2011 from Hilton. Fault scheme, fault quarterbacks who've spent the season struggling, but also fault a lack of true playmaking ability at the running back and wide receiver positions.

(It's worth noting here that the player known as The Playmaker, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, wasn't a speed guy even at the University of Miami yet averaged 16.9 per catch there and went on to average 15.9 yards a catch as a No. 1 possesion guy in the NFL)

Hialeah running back Henry Bussey, averaging 10 yards a pop, was discussed in an earlier post. Javonte Seabury, the Orlando Timber Creek High wide receiver/running back/free safety, is a 20 yards per catch guy. 


Jarviel Hart, a Frostproof wide receiver, gained 331 yards (23.6 per catch) and scored five touchdowns on only 14 catches and ran for 146 yards on only 13 carries (11.2 per carry).

The numbers for one of FIU's commits, quarterback Alex McGeough, fell off drastically this year: 47.3 completion percentage after 57.3 in 2012, 979 yards after 1,541, a 5/4 touchdown interception ratio after 20/4. McGeough had a reason. Aside from him, the only offensive starter returning was a lineman.

Jacksonville Fletcher quarterback Luke Medlock, current FIU quarterback Jake Medlock's brother, wasn't a high percentage thrower -- 42.2 percent, 62 of 147 -- but threw for 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns against six interceptions. It's not uncommon for high school quarterbacks to punt also, but the Medlocks do it to a next stage starter level. Luke was the Class 8A-7A Second Team All-State punter in 2012. This year, Luke averaged 36.0 yards per punt with a long of 53.

Luke, Jake or both could wind up being this generation's Tom Blanchard or Tom Tupa, college quarterbacks who went on to good NFL careers as punters.




November 19, 2013

A little something about (and for) the effort

In another Throw It All Against The Wall promotional move, the athletic department is making this week's game with Marshall the "FIU Football and Thanksgiving Grab and Panther Payday/Salute to First Responders."

Phew. Need a breath and a drink of water after that title.

It's another giveaway night for students, similar to the one that packed every break in the fourth quarter of the East Carolina game, down to the stuff being dangled to lure students in from the tailgate: four scholarships; vouchers for textbooks or Panther Dining; $50 Cadillac Ranch gift cards; vouchers for a 50-inch flat screen TV, iPad, iPod shuffle and an iTunes gift card.

And, students who don't win, well, you've been raised in the "We're all winners!" era. So, after the game, the raffle ticket can be turned in for an envelope with McDonald's coupons and FIU Gift Cards. Obviously, they want the student crowd to hang around for the entirety of the game (and television telecast).

Oh, and they want the kids to bring some friends. Students get two guest tickets for free.

Because you can't go wrong these days giving it up for the military, cops or firemen -- unless you misuse "Born in the USA" as all too many still do, including the Dolphins every home game -- first responders showing up with a work ID or in uniform get free admission.

I asked Turner today is it frustrating to get the performances of the last two weeks after seeming to take a step forward against East Carolina, the best team in Conference USA not named Marshall. That launched him on a sudden soliloquy.

"The frustrating part is not so much how we're playing it's just that...our guys are giving everything they've got. I looked at the film on the plane coming back from UTEP and I looked again on Sunday morning. I was looking more for effort than technique, assignments, that kind of stuff...

"I didn't see a lack of effort. I didn't see guys not trying. I didn't see guys not competing. If you see that, then you have no chance. I saw guys battling their asses off. I saw guys competing. We traveled with 25 defensive players. I'm not making excuses, I'm telling you fact. We're allowed to take 70 guys (as an entire team). We haven't taken 70 guys on a trip this year because we don't have 70 guys who are ready to play. So we traveled with 25 defensive players. That's barely over two deep. We traveled with six defensive linemen for four positions."

Those would be Greg Hickman, playing on a very bad ankle since the third game; Isame Faciane; Leonard Washington; Darrian Dyson; Denzell Perine; and Michael Wakefield.

"Those guys are playing way too many plays. Way too many plays. This team came out and ran the ball 55 times. That was smart of them. They knew we had six defensive linemen. We tried to roll them as best we could. We had to move (Hickman) inside to outside back to inside, move guys around. Those guys are warriors and they're giving us everything they've got. (Middle linebacker Markeith Russell) is giving us everything he's got. And playing way too many plays. We just don't have the depth. We don't have the bodies.

"If it was lack of effort, then I'd say we've got major, major problems. As long as we continue to give effort, it is what it is. We're going to continue to go out to play as hard as we can play and I can live with that.

"It's not easy when you're having the scores we're having, having the record we have and to keep coming out here every day and competing and playing and they're doing it."

Turner complimented seniors like Faciane and Hickman for not shutting it down with potential NFL careers ahead of them. In talking to Hickman for a story later this week, he admitted had he not been a senior, he would've sat for a few games to give the ankle time to heal. But, he figures he doesn't have much time left at FIU so he should play every snap possible.


Winless Women Lose at Harvard

Not everybody enjoys going to Cambridge.

FIU's women's basketball team lost 64-52 to Harvard after holding a 32-23 halftime lead. A 22-8 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half took the Panthers from 11 in the black to three in the red and a 10-0 Crimson run over 1:03 late in the game buried FIU.

Jerica Coley had a game-high 24 points on nine of 27 shooting from the field, but had six turnovers to go with her six assists. Taylor Shade went one for seven from the field in 30 minutes with no assists and two turnovers.

Monday night, Tuesday morning

No hanging drummers Monday night at The Branch. The athletic department threw another postgame party, though, which helped pack the students into the lower portion of the arena for the win against Stetson.

Early in the game, FIU's movement without the ball on offense could be described as "statuesque" and not the way you'd use the word for fashion models. It was Taylor who eventually got things and people moving.

"In the beginning, I thought we were stagnant because they were playing a 3-2 matchup," FIU coach Anthony Evans said. "It was kind of a switching zone. We were stagnant because we didn't see the normal cuts, the normal post ups that we were looking for. So we had to go to the third and fourth option. Also, if we defend and get out in transition, we don't have to sit in the half court all the time."

Evans sat Taylor down 2:51 into th second half as FIU's 37-30 halftime lead was down to 37-34. Evans also sat Rakeem Buckles down for all but four minutes of the first half, dissatisfied with Buckles' defense. Also, he felt it gives the team a chance to develop a chemistry without Buckles because they can get too reliant on him. Taylor said something similar about rebounding.

"Everybody's just used to him collecting all the boards every time a team misses," Taylor said. "With him not being on the court, it's 'Oh, Rock's not here to rebound.' You've got to program yourself to go back and get the board.

Asked if Buckles' school record-tying eight blocks makes up for a six-point night offensively, Evans laughed, "No. No. He got the eight blocks, that's OK, but naw, naw, naw. I'm proud of his effort in the second half and he played close to what I was asking. So I'm happy with that."

On Dennis Mavin, who had four steals, three assists and two key three-pointers, Evans said, "We can always count on Dennis defensively. The more he plays the more confident he's become. He hit two big shots. He hit a big shot in the last game (Saturday's win against Texas Southern) to put us up two."

Taylor said he hadn't been happy with his finishing at the rim, so he came into early to work on it. 

This is definitely a more athletic team overall than last year's. Defensively, they leave too many open lanes to the hoop. But, as Taylor pointed out, if the season were a game, they'd still be early in the first half. There's time to get it together.


FIU coach Ron Turner said both E.J. Hilliard and Jake Medlock likely will play this week against Marshall. Medlock was limited in Tuesday's practice after injuring a finger Saturday against UTEP.

Turner called Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato "as good as we've seen all year," ranking him with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Turner also took the time to extol the Panthers overall effort and persistence in a sudden soliloquy I'll transcribe for later posting.



November 18, 2013

Of Medlock & A Marshall Plan

Once again, redshirt junior Jake Medlock, who got yanked as the starting quarterback at UTEP, proved to be more consistent as a punter. The College Football Performance Awards gave Medlock a national Honorable Mention after averaging 46.7 yards per boot on his seven punts and cranking off second longest punt in school history, a 70-yarder.

So Medlock will be punting, at least, Saturday against Marshall. Oh, by the way, the club seats for that game, which cost faculty and alumni $66.67 per ticket per game and other season ticket holders $83.33 per ticket per game, will be four for $20 for alumni. That's $20 for four tickets or $5 per ticket. The package includes hot dogs, chips and sodas or beer as they try to get more than a few fans in for the Fox College Sports television cameras.

That's the smell of desperation sweat.


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