October 21, 2013

Stuff like this and that...

Sophomore linebacker Patrick Jean, who has spent the season working with the second and third string, has quit the team for personal reasons. According to sources close to FIU, Jean has a family situation that'll be taking up a fat chunk of his time. He's staying in school, however.

Jean appeared in five games this season, compiling 1.5 tackles for loss and sacks among his 12 tackles.

BOWLING

Thursday at 11 a.m. is the Marlins Park press conference to officially announce The Miami Beach Bowl, owned and operated by the American Athletic Conference. Conference USA will be in the rotation for the other tie-in with the AAC. Expect several elements of FIU to be as involved in this bowl. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia was among the folks who helped fill this date for Marlins Park.

GOLF

Freshman Coralia Arias held close to her first round score Monday in the FIU Pat Bradley Invitational. Her even par 72 left her at 3-under 141, one shot off the lead shared by Daytona State's So Young Hwang and Missouri's Taylor Gohn.

As for the rest of FIU...oh, baby, they weren't hot today. Sophomore Sophie Godley shot a 2-over 74 to fall to 11th. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren plunged from seventh to 26th, pulled down by a 6-over 78. And now you see part of the reason FIU dropped from the lead to third, one stroke beyind Maryland and five behind leader Daytona State going into today's final round at Sarasota's Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.

October 16, 2013

Scoreboard!

Here's some clarification on the scoreboard issue from the FIU athletic department:

The retrofit for the four-year-old scoreboard will cost $132,000. While an uncommunicative transmitter caused Saturday's snafu, the UCF problems (showing "87-0" and "4-0" as the score, black line down the middle of the scoreboard) came from a short in the scoreboard that showed an incorrect score whenever there was a change of possession.

 

October 06, 2013

A Two-Loss Weekend

Junior Johanna Volz's overtime goal gave the women's soccer team a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon against Louisiana Tech to get 4-8 and 2-2 in Conference USA. The men's soccer team crushed Marshall 4-0 Sunday to even the overall record at 5-5 and the Conference USA record at 1-1. The swim team gave FAU the what for Saturday.

OK, volleyball went zero for Texas, losing 3-0 each to Texas-San Antonio and UTEP.

In the NFL, T.Y. Hilton blazed to five catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns for Indianapolis. Jacksonville lost again, but safety Johnathan Cyprien had a team-high 12 tackles, all solo.

The opening line on Saturday's Homecoming game against Alabama-Birmingham is "pick 'em."

October 05, 2013

Gameday V, 2013: A philosophical question...

If two objects fail to move toward each other, can they actually clash? It's a worthy question given the offenses involved in today's contest, which isn't Loser Leaves Town, but would be Loser Leaves FBS if we were playing by English soccer league rules.

To what can we compare FIU, which hasn't scored a point on an FBS foe in over a month, vs. Southern Mississippi, whose last win came 16 games ago or sometime around the time Brett Favre's eligibility expired?

1981 Patriots-Colts? No Tom Brady-Peyton Manning era-defining showdowns in those days. The Patriots won only two games that season. So did their AFC East rivals, the Baltimore Colts -- the two games against New England.

1983 Houston Oilers vs. Tampa Bay? Dubbed "The Repus Bowl" by Sports Illustrated, fodder for the brilliant sports comic strip Tank McNamara, at least both teams came in with 1-11 records. Tampa Bay won 33-24.

Is this like some mythical match of William Jennings Bryan vs. Bob Dole? Hamilton Burger vs. George Costanza? The Coyote (Eatibus Anythingus) vs. Tom?

This game does match the No. 123 (out of 123) FIU offense against the No. 118th ranked offense of Southern Mississippi. At least with Tropical Storm Karen idling in the Gulf of Mexico like your grandmother insisting on parking finding a spot no farther than six spots from the mall door, the weather looks like it won't add to each team's scoring troubles. The forecast is for a high of 89 degrees, isolated thunderstorms, 30 percent chance of rain. Otherwise, we'd be looking at a game decided when one quarterback sees his pass blown back into his hands and he's tackled for a safety: 2-0.

I asked a couple of players what the team leaders have done to keep the team from crashing over the last two weeks. That's a long time to have the zero size of 72-0 at the top of your team resume.

"Energy in practice. Having fun," quarterback Jake Medlock said. "We were thinking way too much. You can see the first four weeks, we were thinking too much. Last week, we came out and had fun. Today, you could tell we're having fun again and we're executing. Instead of stressing, worrying about making a mistake -- if you make a mistake, you make a mistake, it's part of the game. You come back and learn from it. This was one of our better practices we've had all year."

As for Southern Miss, "We've both had long losing streaks, but we look at it as we're 0-0. It doesn't matter what the record is, right now we're 0-0 going into conference."

(Medlock and Southern Mississippi middle linebacker Alan Howze are practically related -- Howze dates Medlock's fiancee's best friend.)

Defensive lineman Greg Hickman said, "Most of the team leaders live together in the dorms and we had our own leader meetings lately. We've just been relaying the message of how important it is to finish these last eight games as strong as possible. We've been trying to make practice more fun so everybody can be into it."

Elaborating on it, Hickman said, "You get in a stretch of the season, your body's getting tired. We're just coming out, talking trash to each other, trying to bring enthusiasm back so everybody can get their mind off their soreness and on preparation."

I asked him how much they looked at the Louisville game film. Hickman said he'd just watched it again to remind himself how it felt and that he never wanted to feel that way again.

Southern Miss is no Louisville. The Golden Eagles turn the ball over -- a lot. They committed three turnovers at Boise State and improved their turnovers per game average to 3.75. They fumble the ball -- a lot. The Golden Butterfingers have 10 fumbles this season and lost five, although four were in one game against Texas State. They throw interceptions -- with alarming frequency. And the Golden Eagles' 10 interceptions are spread evenly, with no game featuring less than two. When they hear "something's got to give," they apparently believe it's implied that "something" is "Southern Miss."

I don't like either team's ability to run the ball, although FIU likely will insist on trying right into the fourth quarter because this game will be close. I follow the old W.C. Fields line "If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then, quit -- there's no point in being a damned fool about it."

Southern Miss has players banged up while FIU's getting healthier coming off its first of two bye weeks this season. And those turnovers...feels like there's a pick six or a scoop-and-score in there for FIU somewhere.

I'll stay with my preseason pick of FIU. But I'm saying 17-10.

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

SWIMMING & DIVING

The first swim meet of the season -- and the last home swim meet until Dec. 19 -- is today, noon, at the Biscayne Bay campus against FAU. They show up for everybody else's meets and games. They deserve a few folks schelpping over to show up for theirs.

October 03, 2013

First C-USA Player of the Week; on suspensions

FIU's first Conference USA Player of the Week of the year is a Golfer of the Week, sophomore Meghan MacLaren.

MacLaren's 6-over 222 put her fifth in last week's Golfweek Conference Challenge. This week, freshman Coralia Arias led FIU to a fourth place (out of 11) at the Old Waverly Invitational. Her 2-under 214 landed Arias sixth individually.

FOOTBALL

Without hearing more than I already have, I won't speculate about the cause of the suspensions of cornerback cousins Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon. The "texting former coaches" cause put forth in the comments section of this blog doesn't jibe with either logic -- players text and gripe about current coaches to former teammates and coaches all over the nation, it's part of our kvetchy culture -- or with what I heard happened involving Leonard or McKinnon two weeks ago.

 

 

First C-USA Player of the Week; on suspensions

FIU's first Conference USA Player of the Week of the year is a Golfer of the Week, sophomore Meghan MacLaren.

MacLaren's 6-over 222 put her fifth in last week's Golfweek Conference Challenge. This week, freshman Coralia Arias led FIU to a fourth place (out of 11) at the Old Waverly Invitational. Her 2-under 214 landed Arias sixth individually.

FOOTBALL

Without hearing more than I already have, I won't speculate about the cause of the suspensions of cornerback cousins Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon. The "texting former coaches" cause put forth in the comments section of this blog doesn't jibe with either logic -- players text and gripe about coaches to former teammates and coaches all over the nation -- or with what I heard happened involving Leonard or McKinnon two weeks ago.

 

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 17, 2013

Numbers

 

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 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.

 

September 09, 2013

Stuff & No Sense

The soccers both won over the weekend, the men 4-3 at Florida Gulf Coast, the women 2-0 at home against Cleveland State. Volleyball had a paper-rock-scissors FIU Classic, beating Houston Baptist, which routed Alabama, which routed FIU, which rolled North Carolina-Wilmington.

The football team got a verbal commit Friday from Oviedo Hagerty offensive tackle Breht Joly, 6-4, 320 pounds. He's unrated by 247sports.com, ESPN.com, Scout.com. Rivals.com puts him at two stars.

 

The depth chart for this Saturday's game contains few surprises on the FIU side. Mitch Wozniak is listed as the starting strong safety over Demarkus Perkins. After Friday's loss, FIU coach Ron Turner said he thought sophomore outside linebacker Davison Colimon would be back soon and Colimon's still listed atop one of the outside spots. Of course, that's where Colimon sat last week before Derrick Jones Jr. played in his place before both teams went to the understudies.

Two years ago, it caught the eye of both me and The Courier-Journal that the line on Louisville-FIU moved six points south over the course of the week. That's a massive move. Today, the first line on FIU vs. Bethune-Cookman  started FIU as a three-point favorite, then it swung 180 degrees within five hours to Bethune by three.

An FBS team is a home underdog to an FCS team...huh.

 

 

 

September 06, 2013

Gameday II, 2013

Give me a clear Friday afternoon and I’d go for today’s athletic hat trick at Camp Mitch.

Volleyball, which won its home opener 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 28-26, 25-15) over Houston Baptist Thursday, continues with the FIU Classic against Alabama in a 3 p.m. match at The Branch. When that finishes, mosey over to the FIU Soccer Stadium for FIU vs. Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m.

Then, time to settle in for a little football.

FIU exceeded the Titanic’s maiden voyage only in that FIU gets a second one. This, too, however,
might turn into A Night to Remember.

Central Florida is experienced, more mature athletically and in their football system. Going against that with just guff and guile works only in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

http://www.firecold.com/videos/classic-toon-operation-rabbit

In real life football games, those disadvantages get you placed as a 26-point underdog at home.

Expect UCF to test FIU’s discipline early with some misdirection runs, cutback runs, bootleg passes and other play action passes. They’ll want to see early on if FIU shows the same vulnerability to overanxious pursuit and mental boo-boos the Panthers showed last week. If the answer is yes, if FIU’s young and restless still scamper about in disregard of their role in the overall plan, the UCF host will feast on the FIU carcass with the zeal of the masses having munchies after partying at the PIKE house.

The line matchup looks most interesting. For FIU to have a shot, their front seven, particularly the front four, must dominate UCF’s front beef the way the Giants front four rampaged New England’s in New York’s two most recent Super Bowl wins. And FIU looks like it’ll have the depth to keep fresh, hydrated muscle on the field. Backed up by better linebacker play than last Saturday at Maryland –
OK, exponentially better – the Panthers could present some serious problems for the Knights in that area.

Whether it’s JUCO transfer Randy Harvey or walk-on freshman Brad Hyman-Muhammad at cornerback in the Richard Leonard spot opposite senior Sam Miller, expect them to get the Terrell Buckley-Human Target NFL treatment. Knights quarterback Blake Bortles won’t avoid Miller, especially if he gets 6-2 J.J. Worten or 6-2 Breshad Perriman matched on the diminutive Miller. No fewer points earned, however, for taking the lower hanging fruit on the other side.

An FIU win would require some massive plays on defense and special teams. A fumble return touchdown like the one defensive tackle Isame Faciane rumbled to in 2011 against UCF and the one Faciane would’ve had last year but for a truly fortunate UCF bounce off the ground, right back into Bortles' chest. Some ridiculously long punts that keep UCF starting drives at the Picasso-looking building. A couple of interceptions, a blocked field goal or touchdown return. No 6-8 Paul Crawford makes the placekick block less likely and no Richard Leonard reduces the big return chances. But getting speedy sophomore DeAndre Jasper back does help in the kickoff return department.  

Last year, the offense came out flinging against UCF in one of the worst strategic moves since Napoleon decided to extend his Russian vacation. FIU eventually ran the ball down UCF’s throat, but, by then, too late. Similarly, this year, good for the Panthers if they can make the 6-yard slant look mundane instead of Herculean as they did last week. I still don’t see much happening downfield
unless FIU gets a running game going and work off play action. Lamarq Caldwell will start at running back, but freshman Alfonso Randolph, junior college transfer Talir Satterfield-Rowe and maybe freshman Silas Spearman could get more carries if redshirt sophomore Shane Coleman’s right knee is still dicey.

The run game goes a long way toward determining how long starting quarterback Jake Medlock goes.
One of three things will happen: Medlock goes the distance, UCF knocks Medlock out of the game, Medlock plays Medlock out of the game. Last week was a race between the latter two with No. 3 winning (let’s be real, though – he got no help).

As for No. 2, that’ll rely greatly on FIU improving its scheme and execution (backs blocking, receivers getting open) for dealing with the blitz. Up front, freshman Jordan Budwig started at left guard last week. The depth chart gave the only necessary commentary on Budwig’s performance: redshirt junior Delmar Taylor back over Budwig for the first time in two weeks. The freshman will be fine down the
line. Also, FIU might go with junior college transfer Byron Pinkston at Jordan White’s right guard spot instead of redshirt freshman Trenton Saunders, giving the Panthers 25 more pounds and two seasons of junior college experience at that spot.

Both teams should feel bouncy from a stadium packed with both schools’ fans and a budding in-state rivalry. UCF’s been in more of these games. The Knights should know better how to handle themselves. And they’re just better, period.

UCF 38, FIU14. But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.

 

September 05, 2013

We name names...and knees

I have in my hand a list numbering 57 card-carrying communists!...No, wait, that's not it...58 Commissioner's List honorees from FIU lauded by the Sun Belt Conference for having at least a 3.5 grade point average during the 2012-13 academic year.

Baseball: Nathan Burns, John Caballero, Charles Cormier, Julius Gaines, Aramis Garcia, Mike Gomez, Roche Woodard, Ty Sullivan.

Men's Basketball: Steven Miro, Manny Nunez.

Women's Basketball: Alexsandra Bodlovich, Marita Davydova, Katrina Epnere, Zsofia Labady, Carmen Miloglav.

Women's Golf: Shelby Coyle.

Women's Soccer: Shelby Bowden, Crystal McNamara, Ashleigh Shim, Sara Stewart.

Softball: Alexandra Cassals, Jennifer Gniadek, Corinne Jenkins, Marisa McGregor, Rachel Slowik.

Tennis: Giuletta Boha, Nina Djordjevic, Michelle Sabado.

Swimming & Diving: Sabrina Beaupre, Mary Boucher, Kelly Grace, Chelsie Kidd, Jennifer Lee, Dorothy Miller, Colleen Quinn, Marina Ribi, Courtney Vander Schaaf.

Men's Track & Field/Cross Country: Miguel Delgadillo, Ross Hope, Eli Monzon, Daniel Puentes, Orlando Rodriguez, Aubrey Smith.

Women's Track & Field/Cross Country: Maria Alea, Isabel Betancourt, Elenor Edwards, Daniela Espino, Jessica Gehrke, Lauren Gonzalez, Tiffanie Hernandez, Bianca Morrison, Antonia Simms, Desmika White, Lashae White.

Volleyball: Lucia Castro, Jessica Egan, Gloria Levorin, Kimberly Smith, Brittany Spencer.

FOOTBALL

Defensive end Denzell Perine, who had to be helped off the field during Saturday's loss to Maryland and returned to play a solid game until the final whistle, Tweeted that he had knee surgery but would still be able to play Friday against Central Florida. 

 

September 03, 2013

Sun Belt Honors FIU Student-Athletes

FIU announced Tuesday that 125 athletes were honored by the Sun Belt Conference for achieving grade point averages at or above 3.0 during the 2012-13 academic year.

That number is slightly down from the 131 for 2011-12, but the 58 that got onto the Sun Belt Commissioner's List (3.5 and above) jumped from 38 to 58. Female racers led the way -- women's track & field/cross country had 11 and swimming & diving had nine. Baseball had seven.

Football had the most in the 3.0-3.49 range, 11, while swimming & diving had 10. Women's soccer and track had nine each.   

September 02, 2013

Diverse Balls

First, there's football. Sophomore defensive end Michael Wakefield got an honorable mention from the College Football Performance Awards folks for having seven tackles, three for a loss, a sack and a fumble recovery in FIU's 43-10 loss to Maryland Saturday.

The opening spread on Friday's home opener with Central Florida put FIU as a 23-point underdog. Hours later, that number already had moved up to 24 1/2 points.

Sunday night's verbal commitment from Orlando Timber Creek WR Javonte Seabury pushed FIU up to 77th nationally and third Conference USA in 247sports.com's national rankings of the 2014 class. The ranking is based on verbal commitments, of course, so could be quickly irrelevant in one direction or another come Signing Day.

Then, we move to the pitch where both soccers split. At home, the women beat Stetson 2-0 on Friday, then took a 4-0 drilling from Florida on Sunday. Out in Southern California (everybody say "ahhhhhhhh"), the men opened their season with a 2-1 loss at Loyola Marymount on Friday and beat San Diego State 5-3 on Sunday.

Friday, the men are up at Central Florida and the women host Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m., a convenient athletic tailgate before the football game.

Friday afternoon, men's coach Kenny Arena said, "(The staff has) been a little more hands on early this year. Going on the road is great for chemistry, but, ideally, we wouldn't want that many road games early in the season."

Volleyball opened the season 1-2 at the Gamecock Invitational. Redshirt junior Ksenia Sukhareva got named to the all-tournament team. This weekend, amidst the flurry of activity at Camp Mitch, the FIU Classic starts Friday morning at The Branch.

 

August 31, 2013

Gameday I, 2013: College Park Daze

Before we get started, must notice that the women's soccer team got its first win of the season, 2-0 over Stetson, Friday night at Camp Mitch. Junior Ashleigh Shim and sophomore Madlen Weinhardt scored for FIU, which will host Florida Sunday.

Tough start to the weekend for FIU's roadies: volleyball lost a five-setter to High Point and got swept by host South Carolina at the Gamecock Invitational. Around the time that was ending, the men's soccer team was just getting started against Loyola Marymount. They didn't start scoring until already down 2-0, Roberto Altiero scoring off a Nelson Milsaint setup, and lost 2-1.

Thinking about FIU football as I rolled across the federally funded 95s of Maryland to the home of close friends I haven’t seen since double-dipper Steve McNair was the Ravens quarterback, I thought of British racing driver Nigel Mansell again.

Mansell’s first race week for Ferrari, the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix, went so disastrously that he told his wife and children they’d make the British Airways flight home that would leave before the race ended. Surely, the car would break down early. He wrote in his autobiography that he shared his feelings with the pilot, an acquaintance who offered to tarry a bit if the Mansells seemed to be running behind.

Instead, the car behaved as it hadn’t shown it could. Mansell drove its wheels off. The BA flight left late, but without the Mansell family. Nigel left the next day with his family, the points for a first place finish and cuts on his hands from the sharp handles on the trophy.

Like Mansell, there’s no reason FIU should win this game. In practice, they’ve looked like what they’ve been since the spring – novices in the offense, sloppy in all three phases of the game – only less so as they’ve slowly improved. The quarterbacks get the ball out a fraction faster now but still doesn't look like they're friends with this offense yet. It's a relationship in progress.

“We’ll keep it simple, early,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “Your first year in a program, there are a lot of things you might want to do and you can’t. So we’ve got to take every situation – first or second down, third down, red zone, whatever it might be – and say “What are the things we do well in our base offense?” and do those.

“Once we master those and do those well, then we can expand and game plan. We probably won’t be able to game plan as much early as I’m used to doing just because the guys aren’t ready for that yet. We’ll have enough to attack defenses and do what we want to do. There will be a lot of things I’d look at on film and say, “Man, this would be good” and put it on the back burner for later, maybe later in the year we can do it or it might not be until next year.” 

Schematically, FIU’s lack of complexity on both sides of the ball leaves this as a matchup of who plays a cleaner, crisper game and who has the better athletes. The answer to both questions, logically, should be Maryland.

Yet…the Terrapins quarterback, C.J. Brown, wasn’t exactly Ken Anderson back in 2011 before missing
the entire 2012 season. Why should Brown, in his first game in almost two years, be any better than the sub-50 percent percent passer he was then? True, he didn’t have a Stefon Diggs in 2011. Brown also doesn’t have a single pass thrown under real pressure in almost two years. And I think FIU might get a good inside pass rush push, which no quarterback likes.

That’s why I see Maryland using Brown’s running ability and an abundance of misdirection, cutback plays and reverses to take advantage of FIU’s youth and enthusiasm at outside linebacker and corner. They’ll try to make someone other than Diggs beat them. Wide receiver Deon Long might be up to the task.

On offense, if Lamarq Caldwell can a) average 4.0 yards a carry early in the game and b) hold onto the ball, FIU will be able to get some long drives going that’ll calm down the Krabby Patty Cake crowd. This fan base loves its Terps, but isn’t in love with head coach Randy Edsall.

An inexperienced FIU offensive line gets a Maryland defensive line that’s also largely unproven. I asked offensive line coach/run game coordinator Steve Shankweiler what he wanted to see from his offensive line.

“I just want them to play with some composure,” Shankweiler said. “It’s the first time for all of them except maybe for one. I’m not even talking about being a starter, I’m talking about playing. Just maintain your composure. Don’t chase ghosts – a three-technique is a three-technique. Don’t try to see too much. We’ve got the game plan very,very simple, which hopefully will allow them to play aggressively and not have to think as much. That’s the way we’re going to be most of the year. We’re
going to try to develop in this program a physical toughness. You do that when you’re confident. It’s going to take some games for us to get that confidence level.”

In the Terps 3-4, inside linebacker Cole Farrand is the leading returning backler, but senior cornerback Dexter McDougle is second among returnees. When your cornerback’s that high among returning tacklers, your front seven was getting blocked and/or you’re allowing too many completed passes. I think FIU might catch Maryland napping with a bomb either early in the game or when the Panthers start backed up inside their own 10.

An upset requires a positive special teams play – downing the ball deep, a turnover, a Seth Thomas-cleaning hit. Let’s see how that facet plays with a punter and a kicker in their first games and a placekick holder who hasn't done it since high school (but clearly was best in practice). Without junior Richard Leonard on returns, a guy like freshman Shug Oyegunle might show everybody that he’s got wiggle to go with his speed.

A much better FIU team went on the road in last year’s season opener and got spanked by a better ACC opponent than the Panthers face today. FIU committed ill-timed fumbles, blew field goal snaps, tackles, generally played disastrously.

I don’t know that this team won’t play just as poorly. But I also don’t know that Maryland won’t lay an egg. Or a pile.

Call it 34-14, Maryland. That’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.

August 30, 2013

The other team with a bunch of new guys

FIU’s football team, for all its turnover, looks to have the stability of Letterman in late night compared to FIU’s men’s soccer team, which opens its season Friday night at Loyola Marymount.

The 28-man 2013 soccer roster includes 15 newbies – 12 freshmen and three transfers – in second-year coach Kenny Arena’s version of Extreme Makeover.

“Last year, Kenny came here, he had to deal with whatever he had,” senior midfielder Gonzalo Frechilla said. “He didn’t have enough time to get the players he wanted. This year, he brought the players he thought were going to help us out. They’re definitely good players.”

One of the three transfers Arena managed to snag, junior Roberto Altiero, led South Florida in goals last season.

“My first year (at South Florida) we got to the Elite Eight. My second year, we made the national tournament, but lost in the second round,” Altiero said. “I decided to come here because after talking with Coach Kenny, I thought he would make a pretty good team.”

Frechilla said the communication among the new brew was non-existent in their preseason loss to Lynn, but much better in the 2-2 preseason tie with Barry.

Arena didn’t do a total renovation. Junior forwards Quentin Albrecht and Colby Burdette, last year’s top two goal scorers, and 2012’s leading setup man, sophomore Daniel Gonzalez, all remain.

Arena’s first season at FIU, the first without scholarship restrictions in several years, the team made Bruce Arena’s son look like The Golden Child early. It took Game No. 6, a 2-1 loss against No. 21 Furman, for the Panthers to experience anything but victory. After that, however, victory proved a fleeting thing as FIU went 0-7-1 in Conference USA on the way to 8-8-2.

The changes in Conference USA might give FIU some relief. Central Florida’s still on the
schedule as a non-conference opponent, but annually strong SMU isn’t. FAU, clobbered 5-0 by FIU in 2012, now count as a conference opponent. The Panthers still have to go to Kentucky, site of a 5-1 trampling by the Wildcats last year.

“We have a lot of freshmen. These two games, we have been keeping the ball a lot,” Altiero
said. “We have some good technical players. We have to keep working a little more on the defense. I think from the midfield to the forward spot, I think we’re pretty good.”

Frechilla said, “During preseason, we had a team barbecue where all the freshmen coming in did a skit to help get to know each other. It helped a lot. They opened up after that.”

August 27, 2013

Startup Week

A flurry of starts this week: first week of classes, men's soccer starting on Friday in LA at Loyola Marymount, volleyball starting Friday against High Point at the Gamecock Invitational and, of course, the football team facing Maryland.

At least two transfer running backs who fans hoped to see and insiders knew throughout camp might not be seen won't be starting anything for now. Anthon Samuel, the Opa-Locka native who transferred from Bowling Green after running for 998 yards there last year, won't join the team this season.

"He's ineligible this year because he's a transfer," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "He switched his major to one that has a lot of morning classes. He's not going to be with us in the fall. But we'll see where he is in the spring."

Ironically, Samuel's Monsignor Edward Pace High teammate Travis Greene, will start at running back for Bowling Green in the opener.

Then, there's Jakhari Gore, Frank's smaller and slower cousin.

You have to wonder if Frank (or, anybody in the family) ever laid the "Your name is mine!" realization on Jakhari the way Paul Scofield's Mark Van Doren does to Ralph Fiennes' Charlie Van Doren in Quiz Show. While Frank does the family name proud as a respected guy who overcame numerous impediments to gain a college degree and NFL stardom, Jakhari...hasn't. And that could be said before whatever happened Friday night. Turner wasn't blowing smoke when he said Monday Gore probably would've been a roster drop anyway despite his name and local high school greatness (on the field).

According to the arrest affidavit description:

Friday, "at about 11:23, the victim came to FIU to visit (Gore). A verbal altercation ensued outside of the University Park Towers Dormitory. At this time, (Gore) snatched the keyes from the victim, preventing her from leaving. (Gore) began walking away from the victim and convinced the victim to follow him up to his dorm room.

"Once inside, the victim stated that (Gore) grabbed her forcibly behind her head in an attempt to have her perform oral sex on him. The victim pushed (Gore) away, but was still held in (Gore's) dorm room against her will, preventing her from leaving. The victim followed (Gore) back downstairs, thinking that she would retrieve her keyes. (Gore) then took control of the victim's vehicle and drove away with the victim inside of the vehicle. (Gore) was transported to the FIU Police Station for questioning on (Sunday). Post-Miranda warning, (Gore) refused to give a statement and stated, "I will give my side of the story to the judges and my attorney." (Gore) was processed at the FIU Police Station...then, transported without incident to (Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center)."

August 26, 2013

Depth and losses

The first football depth chart of the season. Let's take a look, shall we?

Quarterback: Jake Medlock, E.J. Hilliard, Travis Wright because Israel Paopao has what looks like a high ankle sprain. Othewise, Paopao would be No. 3.

Running back: Shane Coleman, Lamarq Caldwell, Alfonso Randolph, Talir Satterfield-Rowe, Silas Spearman. Anthon Samuel is listed last. The uncertainty on his waiver might be matched by uncertainty about his head (I haven't seen much of him since his concussion).

Fullback: Caldwell, Jordan Gibbs, Jorge Lorenzo. For when they use a fullback and feel like using a fullback instead of moving a tight end back to fullback or just going three-wide or one-back, double tight end.

Wide receiver: Clinton Taylor, DeAndre Jasper, Dominique Rhymes, Fred Porter. Taylor's had a good camp and got the reps when T.J. Lowder went down with a shoulder injury.

Wide receiver: T.J. Lowder, Shug Oyegunle, Jairus Williams, Richard Burrows. Notice, overall, the smaller speed guys (Taylor, Jasper, Lowder, Oyegunle) got placed ahead of the long-limbed skyscrapers (Rhymes, Williams). If that remains the case, FIU might put a pinch more spread into its overall offense.

That also means Glenn Coleman's size and physicality supplement to his speed could be missed. 

Tight end: Cory White, Jonnu Smith, Zach Schaubhut, Ya'keem Griner, Akil Dan-Fodio, The Tight End Field. It's not just depth chart games that say White, the transfer from the University of Miami, and freshman Smith have passed last year's tight ends, Schaubhut and Griner. White and Smith have been getting the most first team reps.

Left tackle: David Delsoin, Dieugot Joseph. There's a big dropoff between the two, just on experience -- Joseph just converted from defensive end in the spring.

Left guard: Delmar Taylor, Jordan Budwig. The freshman Budwig was taking the first team reps Monday and throughout last week.

Center: Donald Senat, Byron Pinkston, Michael Montero, Danny Nunez. Montero, wearer of a Home Depot injury jersey for two weeks, lined up with the second team Monday with Pinkston at right guard.

Right guard: Jordan White, Trenton Saunders, James Cruise. I'm not sure White's OK. He spent Monday on the sideline while Saunders trotted through things with the first team.

Right tackle: Aaron Nielsen, Edens Sineace, Julian Rodriguez.

As for the defense...

Defensive end: Michael Wakefield, Paul Crawford, Cody Horstman, Darrious Cook. Tall Paul needs to get it together. NFL scouts checking out FIU for Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman also will form an opinion on him.

Defensive tackle: Greg Hickman, Lars Koht.

Defensive tackle: Isame Faciane, Leonard Washington, Imarjaye Albury. You'll notice the absence of Darrian Dyson and Marques Cheeks. Cheeks has been wearing the Great Pumpkin jersey lately. Not sure if Dyson's issues are academic or behavior, but he's as conspicuous by his absence on the depth chart as a guy his size is on the sideline.

Defensive end: Denzell Perine, Paul Crawford, Wonderful Monds II. FIU sources confirm would-be starter Giovani Francois definitely is injured, but could be back for the home opener against Central Florida.

Linebacker: Luis Rosado, Caleb Vincent, Jordan Guest.

Linebacker: Markeith Russell, Treyvon Williams, Josh Glanton, Leroy Owens. Betting pool to liven up the season for hardcore fans: pick the game when the freshman Williams takes the starting job from Russell.

Linebacker: Davison Colimon, Derrick Jones, Jr., Linebacker Field.

Cornerback: Sam Miller, Randy Harvey, Sam Gervais, Wilkenson Myrtil.

Cornerback: Brad Hyman-Muhammad, Jeremiah McKinnon, Randy Havey, Xavier Hines, Richard Leonard. At least Leonard's on the depth chart. Obviously, if he's cleared to play this week or after the first four games, he'll be atop this position.

Free safety: Justin Halley, Mitch Wozniak, Jordan Davis, Antwoine Bell.

Strong safety: Demarkus Perkins, Terrance Taylor, Deonte Wilson, Vontarius West.

Kicker: Sergio Sroka, Austin Taylor, Cody Hodgens. This could be a fluid position...

Punter: Chris Ayers, Karson Dietrich. ...so could this one, although I'd bet more on the kickers changing. Ayers established a big advantage early.

Long snapper: Brandon Taylor, Sam Medlock. No surprise.

Placekick holder: Zach Schaubhut, Chris Ayers. Schaubhut showed better hands than Ayers and, as a former quarterback, puts the threat into fake field goals or botched snap fire drills. Ayers arm recalls Garo Yepremian's.

Punt returner: Sam Miller

Kickoff returners: Sam Miller, DeAndre Jasper. 

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Confirmed that star senior forward Chelsea Leiva suffered a knee injury that might prove to end her season before it begins. Each of her previous three years, Leiva led FIU in scoring on the way to All-Sun Belt honors.

 

Welcome to the Working Week

A few tidbits to take you into Monday, the start of the first week of classes and parking cussin' and fussin'.

Early bettors are all over Maryland for Saturday's football season opener like thigh tats on Rhonda Ratchet. FIU opened as a 15-point underdog. Now, the line's up to 20. The over/under dropped from 54 to 49.5. Daggone, are people hitting the pawn shops to get down on this game? That's a large line movement from opening to kickoff, much less opening to five days before kickoff.

FIU's "radio" call of games once again can be accessed only through fiusports.com. Pete Pelegrin will do the play-by-play. Officially, the color analyst is "to be determined." This close to the season opener? Sounds like Pelegrin will be doing one of those 1940s Major League Baseball (or this decade's Florida Panthers) multi-tasking radio jobs where you do play-by-play, color, commercials, interviews and battle with dry mouth. Allowing that fans don't follow sports via radio the way they used to without being in the car, hunting for lawn gnomes and nobody's tossing more than Chiclets money, if that, at FIU to do the games, this doesn't look good. Radio coverage of football and basketball is a basic in Division I. This is about the image of the school. With getting the name of the school out there being the football team's main raison d'etre, not being on a radio station with a broadcast team kind of undercuts the purpose.

Not playing in the women soccer's season opening loss to Arizona Friday night were preseason all-conference player Chelsea Leiva and last year's second-leading scorer Scarlett Montoya. Injuries to those two would kneecap the season. Maybe not a red card, but definitely a yellow card for a team that has a chance to continue it's run of 10-win seasons.  


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