April 28, 2014

Texeira C-USA Player of the Week; Pitching Zeroes; On The Beach

As predicted on this blog yesterday, Conference USA named FIU freshman Stephanie Texeira its Player of the Week for the second time this season. Texeira went four for five with four walks, five RBI, two home runs, a 2.000 slugging percentage (that's Babe Ruth-on-a-1980s-video-game numbers) and a .900 on-base percentage.

BASEBALL

Also as predicted on Sunday night's blog post, FIU retook the national lead in team ERA, which is now down to 1.93 for the season. Mike Franco ranks sixth with a 0.95 ERA and freshman Cody Crouse is 25th with a 1.35 ERA.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

Two years ago, when FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia mentioned FIU adding a sand volleyball team, he crested on "giddy." His reasoning: the sport's a natural for a school in a town with popular beaches and FIU could be a national power quickly because the sand Panthers wouldn't be scrambling to make up everybody else's 10 or 100-year head start.

Such was the theory, so has it been danced. FIU's seeded No. 5 going into the American Volleyball Coaches Association national championship for sand volleyball, which is still what the NCAA classifies as an "emerging sport." CBS Sports Netowrk will show a delayed broadcast in late May.

Should FIU as a team or one of the pairings come back with the biggest trophy, you can predict the trophy-snuggling photos: Garcia, several other athletic department administrators, FIU President Mark Rosenberg, all getting around the team and the trophy with the enthusiasm of taking selfies with a new baby. 

Why, then, doesn't the department put enough bucks behind the sand volleyball and volleyball programs so that it doesn't have to do the gofundme.com thing? It's not embarrassing for the programs -- they're doing what they have to do. That's what coaches and ahtletes do. It reflects on the school and the athletic department that those programs have to do the electronic version of pleading car to car at 107th Avenue and 8th Street. FIU's doing the reverse Strom Thurmond -- instead of giving child support, but no name or claim to a daughter, FIU's giving name and is happy to claim, but are almost deadbeat dads.

Schools consider Division I athletics marketing. It's about getting the school name and positive impressions of the university out there. It works, too. Applications went up when the football team went to bowl games. But these words go back to what I wrote in the fall and the winter -- details in operation and presentation form an initial impression of your school to those who haven't been around it daily. Failure there presents a negative impression.

This is too basic to be a detail. Those who want to show love after the team wins should show love beforehand by showing the money.

 

April 22, 2014

Moving Out, Moving Up, Coming (or Not)

With sophomore Jerome Frink, 6-6, requesting his transfer, FIU loses its starting front line from the 15-16 2013-14 team -- Frink, starter of all 31 games this season and 25 of 32 as a freshman, seniors Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy. Frink averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field.

Even with 6-10 transfer Adrian Diaz and 6-7 incoming freshman Harold Givens, FIU might have as much quality size on the perimeter (6-7 guard Dominique Williams, 6-6 guard Jason Boswell) as up front.

GOLF

FIU remains fourth, 16 shots behind leader Tulane, going into the final round of the Conference USA Golf Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren rebounded from her opening round 4-over 76 with a 1-under 71, FIU's best second round score. Freshman Camila Serrano's even par 144 two-round score puts her fifth overall, seven shots behind medalist leader Texas-San Antonio's Fabiola Arriaga.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING

What's more bothersome to FIU fans? That Mario Cristobal is the top ranked recruiter for 2015 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com? Or that FAU already has four commits for 2015, including two three star prospects and four-star running back Jordan Scarlett from University School, and FIU has none of note after the decommitment of Northwestern high defensive back Antonio Howard?

UPDATE

FIU volleyball on GoFundMe is $295 toward a goal of $6,000.

 

March 14, 2014

Got a $1 million for women's sports?

What Senior Associate Athletic Director Bobby Staub didn't get to tell the Athletics Committee meeting two weeks ago, FIU's athletic department announced Friday: a campaign to raise $2 million for projects having to do with the softball, golf, track, sand volleyball, tennis and swimming & diving teams.

As I put on the blog a week and a half ago, FIU says they've got $1 million of the money raised.

Softball and golf will get new locker rooms, a lounge and golf gets a new putting and pitching practice area. Track's throwers, now practicing in that field between The Branch and the soccer field (no improvements for that, same as it ever was), will get a practice area with the appropriate cages and rings. Sand volleyball and tennis get new locker rooms. The water women get a new scoreboard over at the Biscayne Bay campus pool.

 

February 24, 2014

Ramble On

While the stick and ball teams take a break from using their bats on visiting teams like they owe FIU money, swimming and diving prepares to leave for Atlanta and the Conference USA meet.

(They won't need to do any Internet panhandling, but the volleyball team is still at http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball, $195 toward their goal of $6,000. While you're on the site, you can contribute to the Oswego State Synchronized Skating Team's trip travel to nationals. Or the Coppin Academy Girls Basketball team trying to raise $6,000 to attend a summer camp.)

Lack of diver depth hurt FIU in the Sun Belt meet and could do the same here after senior Sabrina Beaupre takes the 10-meter platform and at least one of the two springboards. She's favored in all three.

In the pool, C-USA's tougher than The Belt and FIU no longer has Madame Butterfly, Marina Ribi, to pick up points in that dastardly stroke. Still, junior Johanna Gustafsdottir ranks first in the 200 backstroke and second in the 100 back. Senior Sonia Perez Arau comes in with the best 400 IM time in the conference. Klara Andersson is a close third in the 50 freestyle, which she won at last year's Sun Belt meet.

And FIU will bring home a relay win or two. I'm thinking 400 medley and 800 free. Just noticed -- the common thread in every school record relay is Gustafsdottir swimming the first leg. That makes sense. She's strongest in back, the first stroke of a medley relay. Her next strongest stroke is free. Classic relay set up uses the second fastest to lead off with the fastest anchoring.

I'd be shocked if the water women can give the athletic department its first Conference USA title. Defending champion Rice is still strong and East Carolina looks like a possible problem. That leaves baseball and softball -- track? Name the last conference champion without a coach -- and both of them get blocked. Rice owns baseball while UAB and Tulsa tussle over softball.

No, the baseball team isn't outscoring the football team after eight games. They were after three games (25-23) and four games (30-23). But if you just count scoring against Division I/FBS opponents, it's closer than you think after eight games: 78-63 for football.

When I saw FIU football coach Ron Turner at FIU Baseball Stadium with his family Saturday on the concourse on the first base line. I thought, "Boy, he'll go anywhere to see some offense." The Sunday juxtaposition couldn't have been more ripe -- FIU sports and centertainment head Pete Garcia attending hte baseball game with Butch Davis, the currently unemployed former coach at the Universty of Miami.

Now, if Davis wants back in coaching, he's got to cleanse himself by working somewhere else for a year or two. Obviously, FIU would be a fine place for that. Maybe Davis has changed his mind about FIU. He certainly could've joined his buddy Garcia a year ago and a few candidates (or their representatives) said they were told, "don't bother, this is Butch's job." Garcia's fits of temper and rash decisions would do Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts proud -- thus why some in the department call the second floor area housing Garcia's office "The Tower of Terror" -- but firing Mario Cristobal without a card like Davis to play exceeds Garcia's Yosemite Sam quotient.

 

North Carolina was on the hook for Davis' money, so nothing about that green affected Davis taking FIU's green. A theory I formed while writing about Saturday's 10-0 baseball thumping of Stony Brook: Davis learned the horrible academic situation facing FIU football in 2013 and decided to let someone else deal with that academic barf. If I knew about it in December, 2012, why wouldn't Davis?

This weekend's baseball stories were easy to write. FIU won three blowouts, scored early in each one and I didn't have to spend any time waiting to talk to coaches or players or transcribing their quotes. I did talk to Stony Brook Friday night starter Frankie Vanderka, one of the better pitchers FIU will see in non-conference play, about what pitch Julius Gaines drove for a home run and what he thought of FIU's lineup. On Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't going to waste the Stony Brook coach's time asking him his opinion of a team that just waxed him by 10 runs.

I'd have liked to talk to Aramis Garcia, hitting .500 over the first eight games; or freshman JC Escarra, with a team-leading .577 on-base percentage; or Josh Anderson, last year's team leader in doubles with 22, already with five this year and 14 RBI.

Alas, FIU coaches and players were unavailable for comment to the media. I'd been told before Friday's game that would be the case. Officially, it was Turtle Thomas' decision so everyone could remain focused on baseball without any distractions. Logically, that dog didn't hunt. Postgame interviews are, you know, postgame and about 18 hours before the next game. They take less than 10 minutes total time, two or three players and Thomas combined, once they start. There wasn't media, only a medium -- me -- for three of the first five games (as well as Friday and Saturday). And the Panthers looked none too distracted in winning their first five games. Also, Thomas does answer questions from FIU media relations after the game.

Of course, this came from above Thomas. Thomas' bosses are Garcia and Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub. This was a predictable reaction to the Dennis Wiseman story, but mostly because I'd long ago heard that neither was too pleased about a series of public records requests I've been making since December on a broad range of things. Sometimes, I just feel there's information I should have. Sometimes, I'm curious. Sometimes, I smell something.

Marketing's now Staub's thing, by the way. He's now the most motivated salesman in FIU athletics. In addition to his $110,000 salary, Staub gets $1,000 bonuses for football season student attendance being above $20,000, then another grand if over $30,000; basketball season student attendance over 5,000, then 10,000; basketball season tickets over 500 and over 750; baseball ticket revenue over $15,000 and $20,000; football ticket and sponsorship revenue (excluding Pepsi) over $1 million and over $1.5 million; sells the naming rights to FIU Baseball Stadium or five other new athletics assets; and sells all the suites for one season for football and basketball.

By the way, the victory song for FIU during the Turtle Thomas era used to be "New York, New York." Not sure why, but it's become custom since 2008. Now, under directions from marketing, it's Kool and the Gang's "Celebration," both the highest charting and worst Kool and the Gang single ever. Feel the cliche.

Oh, I forgot, The Master Plan Development for Camp Mitch from Feb. 14 still shows a soccer field surrounded by a track as a Future Development. Not even Funded or Likely Funded. Future Development.

To let you know how far into the future that might be, also in that category is Stadium Upper Bowl Expansion. That'll be about as useful as a weave store for skinheads until Ron Turner turns into Dr. Alchemy followed by Staub turning into P.T. Barnum.

That would be something completely different.

 

 

 

February 18, 2014

Golf, gold, decisions

Frehsman Camila Serrano took medalist honors with an 8-under 208 and FIU's 859 team score gave them a 12-stroke win over Kennesaw State in the Amelia Island Collegiate.

Sophmores Meghan MacLaren and Sophie Godley swapped spots (third and fourth) after McLaren shot a 3-over 75 to close and Godley put forth a 6-over 78 in the final round. Serrano held on for the win only after beating Daytona State's Tiffany Chan in an 18th hole playoff (literally an 18th hole playoff -- they played the 18th four times).

FUNDING VOLLEYBALL

http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball. They're up to $195 as of right now. Their goal is $6,000.

WISEMAN

As several of you hasve asked, from my end, here's what went into deciding to do today's story on Dennis Wiseman.

A young woman sent Tweets to several different people about Wiseman, his past and Saturday. I don't know Wiseman. His last year at FIU ended the academic year before I started my first run covering FIU. I might have had occasion to write his name in 1990 as a key departure from the baseball team from the previous year. I didn't know about what happened at North Miami High. When it happened, I was a Panthers/NHL reporter enjoying the time off between the Panthers getting knocked out of the playoffs that spring and the Stanley Cup Final. If I did read it in our Local section back then, I long ago dumped it from my memory banks.

Anyway, after seeing the woman's Tweet, I searched several public records on Wiseman. I found the progression of the case through the court system and his registration among several other facts. I also found what was written on the case after Wiseman's arrest. With information from these places, I called my immediate superior and laid everything out with "Here's what we have. What do we do with it?"

After all, this isn't some coaching change, schedule change or a recruiting commit. That's stuff you get out with all necessary haste, if you can. Blog post, hit it, it's out. I can make those decisions on my own. For stories like this, I can have my opinion, but it better be expressed in discussions with editors before that opinion is acted on one way or the other.

That editor told me to wait while he went up the chain of command. It's obviously a sensitive topic, on at least two levels. He came back with, "Write it." I called the FIU media relations department, asked who was in charge of selecting Wiseman and said I would like to speak with that person. Soon after, I was told he'd been on the football team plane several times so I also asked to speak to Pete Garcia. The answers to these requests are in today's paper.

I got Wiseman's cell phone number Monday night, called and left a message with my cell phone number. We waited until 10 p.m. before moving ahead with the story, sans comment from Wiseman. My cell phone stayed on until 1:30 a.m. He didn't call. (Wiseman called me this morning. As he wished the conversation to stay private, that'll all I'll say about it.)

I had nothing to do with the headline or story placement. Aside from blog posts and a few stories posted directly online, I haven't written a headline or picked the page/space for a story since the Indiana Daily Student.

February 17, 2014

Golf clubbing Amelia Island competition; FIU athletics kickstarter

FIU's got three of the top four indivduals, shot a team record 11-under 277 in the first round and head into the final day of the Amelia Island Collegiate with an obese 13-stroke lead on second place Kennesaw State.

Freshman Camila Serrano sits atop the team and tournament leaderboard with an 11-under 133 after two rounds. Sitting in third and fourth overall, five and seven shots back respectively, are sophomores Sophie Godley and Meghan MacLaren.

The tournament, at Fernandina Beach's Amelia National Golf Club, ends with a third round Tuesday. 

FUNDRAISING

Over on http://www.gofundme.com, you can find the volleyball team $5 into a campaign to drum up $6,000 in donations with a 10/20 drive -- each athlete asks 10 friends to donate $20. Track and field took to the site last July to raise $15,000 to help pay for "the new upgrades to our facilities," specifically the soccer field/track renovation that was to start in November. Track has raised $2,200 of a $15,000 goal. 

I'm all for the Kickstarters of the world. I think they're brilliant uses of the Internet. But there's a difference between a director with a unique concept or an inventor with a new bobrick and the athletic team of a large, public university.

That two of FIU's teams have to resort to this electronic panhandling says the school needs to get better at tapping some moneyed pockets. By comparison, the groups from UCF I found on the site were club teams, pure extracurricular activites without scholarships.

 

November 21, 2013

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.

 

November 17, 2013

We Are...Heavily Favored; Volleyball Senior Night

Marshall has scored over 60 points once, over 50 another three times, 49 in another game and 45 last week against Tulsa. The offensive line coach, Alex Mirabal, and the offensive coordinator, Bill Legg, left FIU without the warmest of feelings for the school.

Can't wait to see what the over/under will be on the 6 p.m. Fox College Sports game, FIU's last home game of the season. The opening line is Marshall by 33.

VOLLEYBALL

Senior Night saw FIU sweep North Texas 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-22) behind 14 kills by junior Martyna Gluchowicz and 13 by sophomore Lucia Castro. FIU ends the regular season 12-16, 6-8 in Conference USA.

The volleyball team plays Middle Tennessee State Thursday in the Conference USA tournament. Middle swept FIU during the regular season and hasn't lost to the Panthers since 2010.

PAST FOOTBALL

Former FIU defensive end Tourek Williams started for San Diego agian and made the game's first tackle against the Dolphins, a long walk from where Williams' high school alma mater, Norland.

This wasn't in the e-book about the 2012 season.

Former FIU starting linebacker Winston Fraser had an interesting run of Tweets on Nov. 7:


"I remember hitting a doobie every morning jus to eat and get right before I hit the field." 

"Regardless of how much I used to blaze...I still understood the defensive playbook better than anyone...even some of the coaches."

"I (past tense of expletive misspelled) up my senior tryna be a leader and (guano). Killing myself to try to help the next (racial slur masquerading as term of endearment)."

"I shoulda just focused on me and made my plays like when I was ballin my junior year."

 

 

November 10, 2013

Victory Sunday

Sunday beat Friday.

After collapsing Saturday against Youngstown State, FIU men's basketball hung on to beat Kennesaw State 66-58 to get their first win of the season and the first win under head coach Anthony Evans. Rakeem Buckles had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Ray Taylor put in 15 and distributed five assists. Tymell Murphy had three steals. FIU, 1-2, can get back to even with a win against Warren Wilson Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the volleyball team (11-5, 5-8 in conference) took out Southern Mississippi 3-1 (24-26, 25-22 cubed). Sophomores Lucia Castro and Gloria Levorin led the Panthers with 20 and 13 kills, respectively, Senior Kimberly Smith had five blocks and sophomore Adriana McLamb had 24 digs. 

In the NFL, former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien recovered Tennessee's onside kick to clinch the first win of the season for Jacksonville in addition to his three tackles. Former defensive end Tourek Williams made his first NFL sack a true highlight by chasing down Denver quarterback Peyton Manning for a strip sack that set up a San Diego touchdown in the Chargers 28-20 loss.

November 09, 2013

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.

 

October 28, 2013

Weekend leftovers

The College Football Performance Awards embraced redshirt junior safety Justin Halley for his two interceptions and freshman tight end Jonnu Smith for his two catches for 54 yards with honorable mention nods this week.

Actually, Smith got the notice for his 38-yard touchdown slalom through failed tackles and nice downfield blocks.

It's one thing when fans Tweet "Dear Medlock, transfer" and "Every deep ball thrown by Jake Medlock is underthrown, including last week. Pretty bad" (the latter from noted blog follower/message board poster ChiaPanther).

It's another thing when players retweet that, whether they're playing or not.

MEN'S SOCCER

Goals by junior Roberto Altiero (two), junior Quentin Albrecht and freshman Marvin Hezel gave FIU a 4-1 win against Kentucky. They're 6-8, 2-4 in Conference USA, planting them sixth among C-USA's 10.

Altiero, a transfer from South Florida, and Albrecht account for 13 of FIU's 27 goals this season.

WOMEN'S SOCCER

A weekend split of 1-0 games -- win at FAU and loss at Middle Tennessee -- left the women's soccer team at 7-10, 5-4 in Conference USA (leading the East Division) going into Thursday's season finale at home against Marshall.

By the way, FIU's overall record on the Conference USA website is wrong. Then again, these are the same folks who had North Texas as the Sun Belt champion in 2012 (yes) and 2011 (nope -- FIU beat Western Kentucky for the conference title) in their season preview release.

VOLLEYBALL

Another weekend split -- 3-1 loss to East Carolina, 3-0 rout of Louisiana Tech -- and FIU's 10-13, 4-6 in conference. They have two home matches left: Sunday against Rice, Nov. 17 against North Texas.

 

October 20, 2013

Golf, women's soccer up; volleyball down; football underdog

FIU leads the golf tournament that began Sunday at Sarasota's Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. Approrpriate that, seeing as how the tournament is the 36th annual Pat Bradley Invitational, the tournament named after the World Golf Hall of Fame member and first great sports figure to attend FIU.

A 287 has FIU four strokes up on Maryland and the second best first round in the tournament's history, beaten only by FIU's 284 four years ago.

Freshman Coralia Arias led FIU with a 3-under 69 and is second overall to Missouri's Taylor Gohn's 5-under 72 and tied with Southern Mississippi's Brandi Rodriguez. Sophomores Sophie Godley (fourth, 2-under 70) and Meghan MacLaren (seventh, 1-under 71) are also in the top 10 for FIU.

The tournament continues Monday and Tuesday.

WOMEN'S SOCCER

After a third straight overtime game resulted in a 2-1 loss to East Carolina (6-8-2, 3-4) Friday, FIU (6-9, 4-3) waxed Rice (5-7-2, 3-4) 5-2. Alyssa Robinson had three assists, Marie Egan had two assists, junior Ashleigh Shim had two goals. Talia McMurtrie, Kim Lopez and Nicole DiPerna also scored for FIU, which has 15 goals in their four conference wins and one in their three conference losses.

FIU still leads Conference USA's East Division by one point over Charlotte, 12 points to 11 (three points for a win, one for a tie, zero for a loss).

VOLLEYBALL

Sometimes, you get the broom (Friday's 3-0 win against FAU) and sometimes the broom gets you (Sunday's 3-0 loss at Tulane).

FOOTBALL

Louisiana Tech (2-5, 1-2) lost 28-13 to North Texas Saturday. But they're 5 1/2-point favorites over FIU for next Saturday's game at La Cage. No odds have been placed on the scoreboard or, for that matter, all the necessary electronic equipment in FIU Stadium being up to snuff for 60 minutes.

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."

September 30, 2013

FIU on Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

September 27, 2013

Women open conference play at home. And numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop laughing.

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

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

OK.

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

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

Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Yeah.

 

 

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 14, 2013

Game Day III: FIU vs. Bethune-Cookman; volleyball takes two

 

Time to get it together, FIU. Let Saturday be your day of atonement for last week’s home opener.

I’m not talking about the football team, much as they might feel the need for redemption after the Central Florida skunking. They’re not at a good stage of the program right now and nobody looking with anything other than FIU beer goggles thought it would be different. Anybody saying they lack “hunger” or need to “care more” needed to stop watching Rocky movies after Rocky I. Put down the
try-hard myth. Vince Lombardi’s considered a great motivator, but Lombardi himself said you can have all the motivation in the world to beat Joe Louis, but what does motivation matter once you run into the reality of Louis’ superior speed, punching ability and skill?

No, I'm onto things like...time to get the FIU Stadium scoreboard together. A 2008 stadium shouldn’t have a scoreboard looking and working like it came from Fishers High by way of Sanford & Son
Salvage. An paint-flaking scoreboard with a faulty video screen flashing scores like “87-0” and “4-0," as happened last week for extended stretches, does nothing for the idea that progress lives at FIU.

Time to get FIU Stadium together. Enclosing it removed the Carmel High School look. Now how about some new signage that doesn’t look more faded than my $10 1996 Tom’s Restaurant t-shirt? And properly equipped restrooms? I’m not even going to discuss the press box.

I'm betting the stands say it's time to get the marketing together. The only name listed on the athletic department’s staff directory in marketing is a graduate assistant. Going into your highest profile sport’s season so anorexically staffed equates to going into a game with one healthy wide receiver.

On the field, as they said in GoodFellas, everybody takes a beating sometime. There’s not much shame in that. But these other things don’t take any time, money or energy not available to FIU. Do it right.

Now, on the field, FIU should be able to be able to muscle an undersized Bethune front line, especially if they spread the Wildcats defense out enough to limit the run support from the safeties and outside linebackers. Also, quarterback Jake Medlock hasn’t been Mr. Precision lately so working the run, rotating backs unless one gets truly hot, seems not only the most productive but prudent approach early.

Bethune loves the run, but threw the ball 20 times in each of its first two games. Last season, the Wildcats averaged 20.6 throws per game. I don’t think they throw it as much here unless they get behind big early. They’re not a big time of possession team, averaging 32:27 per game last year despite being a 9-3, run-based team. So when their offense gets on the field in this heat with a
defense spending the night battling FIU’s size, I’d expect them to call plays with defensive rest in mind more than usual.

Too, I see the Wildcats having success on the read option and on quarterback scrambles. Expecting
FIU’s containment issues to disappear in Game 3 is foolhardy and, once confusion enters the Panthers defensive huddle, the pace of Bethune’s offense could keep them reeling.

I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams put up some points (the over/under line of 47 feels
low). Besides moving the ball, I also can see each offense getting a layup score from a fumble. Bethune has committed 24 fumbles and lost 12 in the last 14 games. FIU’s lone touchdown this season came off a fumble recovery and they’ve lost two themselves, leading to 10 opponent points.

Go to special teams and you find the same stalemate. Neither team does anything special. FIU wasn’t happy with placekick snaps last week. Bethune’s placekicks and punts apparently look like a One Direction concert with festival seating – four field goals blocked last year, two punts blocked last year, two extra points blocked this year. That could be the difference in the game.

I’ll take FIU in overtime 31-28. But, that’s one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong.

VOLLEYBALL

FIU swept both Tennessee-Chattanooga and South Dakota State, 3-0 each Friday, and finished the FIU Invitational 2-1. Senior Kimberly Smith banged home 12 kills in the first match and 15 in the second along with six blocks. Senior Jessica Mendoza had 14 digs in the afternoon, 16 digs and three service aces at night

September 11, 2013

Siogging through the midweek muck

Did you know the volleyball team plays three matches over two days, Thursday (College Friday) at 6 p.m. against Jacksonville, Friday at noon against Tennessee-Chattanooga and 7 p.m. against South Dakota State? Well, now you know.

That flows right into Saturday and the 6 p.m. football game against Bethune-Cookman. That is, if you don't make the drive up to FAU for the men's soccer game at 7 p.m. FIU's tied for 10th in the nation in scoring at 2.75 goals per game, led by Roberto Altiero, tied for 11th in the nation at exactly a goal per game.

As for the football team that would like to average 2.75 touchdowns per game...wearing the Home Depot jerseys during Wednesday morning's practice were redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, sophomore outside linebacker Davison Colimon and redshirt junior safety Demarkus Perkins. FIU head coach Ron Turner said Rhymes has a bad AC joint in his shoulder and is questionable for Saturday. Colimon and Perkins could play in an emergency situation, but ideally could use another week of healing.

Redshirt sophomore running back Shane Coleman will be back, which will give sophomore Lamarq Caldwell, a battering runner, more of a rest. You'll still see freshman Alfonso Randolph in there, though.

If you ever wondered about Bethune's name or Mary McLeod Bethune herself, click on the links and educate yourself.

In honor of the Josephs -- FIU backup left tackle Dieugot and his brother, Bethune reserve offensive lineman Josue Joseph -- we close with...

 

 

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.

 


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