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2 posts from November 9, 2013

November 09, 2013

Gameday IX: Not Quite in Not-Quite-Nashville

 Middle Tennessee State quarterback Logan Kilgore’s been around longer than one of those acts you see 40 miles away in downtown Nashville, singing their butts off to sparse afternoon crowds and hoping to move up a notch (night gigs) or two (recording deal).

Kilgore gets rid of the ball – he’s taken only four sacks. He knows when to think big and doesn’t get in the way of a running attack that averages a Conference USA-best 221.2 yards per conference game behind Reggie Whatley and Jordan Parker. But Kilgore might have to make more plays than usual. FIU allows only 125.8 rushing yards per conference game, fourth best, and the Panthers don’t get the statistical benefit of a barn full of sacks as East Carolina and North Texas do. That’s actual rushing defense.

If senior defensive tackle Greg Hickman wasn’t spending the last 67 percent of the season plowing through a bad ankle, I’d really like this matchup for FIU’s defense. I think they could sit on Middle’s run, force Kilgore to do more than he’s used to doing and really cause him third down problems. Pressure up the middle does funny things to the best of quarterbacks. Coffee-hammering defensive coordinators drank Colombia and Peru figuring out how to get pressure up the middle on Dan Fouts, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Speaking of third down, here’s an interesting matchup. FIU sort of found itself on third down last week – or found itself not bumping into each other – but is still converting a league-worst 28.3 percent in conference games. But Middle’s giving up a league-worst 58.6 percent on third down. The Blue Raiders give up points, 32.6 per conference game. Their conference games involve a lot of turnovers – 4.6 per game for both teams, as opposed to FIU’s 3.7. Even though Middle’s plus 3 in turnovers and FIU’s minus 1 in C-USA games, I’m a little leery about that many turnovers in games unless it’s lopsided in a team’s favor. The malodorous air of sloppy play can envelope a team too easily.

I watched Middle’s game against UAB last week. Their offense did little until sometime in the third quarter. They got punked on the ground when they played UAB’s quarterback as if he was an actual threat to strafe them. I see them sitting on the short stuff, crowding the box this week, beating on the tight ends and making sophomore quarterback E.J. Hilliard show he can beat them in the middle and deep zones. Collect the run on the way. Of course, if a Silas Spearman pops through, he’ll be playing house music.

In answering 5 Questions About FIU from Adam Sparks, a beat writer covering Middle, I predicted 31-14 with the Blue Raiders jumping up big early and holding the lead until the end. Consistency is a problem for young teams like FIU. I’ll say 27-17, Middle.

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

Blowout Friday (not a sale)

Everybody got some. The football team hopes it doesn't continue Saturday.

Men's basketball started first. Or, rather, started slowly first. Two first half statistics say it all: four of 13, 28.6 percent, from the free throw line and 11 turnovers. Unless you're playing the Southwest High JV, the second half's just to make everything official. FIU was playing Eastern Kentucky and the men from EK didn't play. FIU got down 45-24 and eventually lost 83-61 despite double doubles from Rakeem Buckles (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Tymell Murphy (14 and 10).

A half-hour into the men's basketball game, up at Middle Tennesee State, where the football team plays Saturday, the volleyball team charged into Middle. Or, maybe, more Charge of the Light Brigade. FIU got swept 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21) to the team that was the Sun Belt's best or second best with Western Kentucky over the last few years. Redshirt junior Jessica Egan had 22 assists for FIU.

As the men's game slogged through the second half and Middle drove spikes into the volleyball team, the women's basketball season opener against Florida Gulf Coast tipped off. I got the idea afterwards that FIU coach Cindy Russo was ticked off. Marita Davydova, expected to be perhaps the second most important player on the team behind senior guard Jerica Coley, was in FIU warmup pants and a polo shirt the whole game. Russo just called it a "coach's decision" and didn't say definitively whether or not Davydova would be back in the lineup for the next game.

Sophomore point guard Taylor Shade darted around Gulf Coast and created her own shot long enough to keep FIU in it while Coley stayed cold enough to keep Quarter Pounder meat frozen in the first half. Shade finished with a team-high 18 points, but Russo said her 36 minutes were about 10 minutes too long. Eventually, Gulf Coast pulled away with a 15-0 run to end the first half and continued in the second half as FIU seemed to fade. I don't know if fatigue makes cowards of us all, but, in the second half, the Panthers looked just fatigued enough to foul. Some truly bad defense was played.

Those filing out of The Branch could've stopped by FIU Soccer Stadium ("stadium"...heh heh) where Charlotte was spanking FIU 3-0.


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