December 09, 2015

All-Region Teams Embrace 3 from FIU

Winning the Conference USA title earned FIU some personal All-Region wall decorations for three players this week, just as it earned men's soccer coach Scott Calabrese the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Southeast Region Coach of the Year last week.

(And it should earn him a new contract. Got to check on that...)

Anyway, junior defender Marvin Hezel made First Team All-Region. Senior midfielder Danny Gonzalez got on the Second Team. Sophomore forward Luis Betancur made the Third Team.

 

December 08, 2015

Four Panthers Make Conference USA's Football All-Teams

The 13 Conference USA coaches select the All-Conference USA teams. Address all complaints to them.

FIU put two, seniors defensive end Michael Wakefield and cornerback Richard Leonard, on the All-CUSA First Team. I was surprised senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon only received Honorable Mention all-conference after leading FIU in interceptions, passes broken up and being fourth in tackles. Leonard also made it as punt returner after his 10.7 yards per return led the league. Wakefield's .33 fumbles forced per game were third in the conference. His .62 sacks per game placed him fourth, the same place his 1.21 tackles for loss per game did in that category.

Second Team members from Camp Mitch were redshirt junior center Michael Montero and sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint. If you go back to FIU coach Ron Turner's year-end Q&A, you'll see he thought Montero graded out well almost every game. Wint led FIU in tackles (Leonard was second) and led defensive players in fumble recoveries with two.

Now, let's mention the Honorably Mentioned: McKinnon, junior tight end Jonnu Smith, senior defensive end Denzell Perine, Leonard (as kick returner), long snapper Sam Medlock.

No Panthers made the All-Freshmen team.

 

 

December 07, 2015

Diamond Schedules & Diaz Love

Senior center Adrian Diaz wound up the only winner in men's basketball from last week.

While the team compiled a hat trick of losses to Stetson, Elon and Florida Gulf Coast, Diaz averaged 19.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocks in the three games. For this, he was honored for the second time this season as Conference USA Player of the Week.

 

2016 FIU Panthers Baseball Schedule

Date                       Day                           Opponent                                          Location                                    Time (ET)           

Feb. 19................. Friday                       at Ole Miss....................................... Oxford, Miss............................ TBA

Feb. 20................. Saturday                  at. Ole Miss...................................... Oxford, Miss............................ TBA

Feb. 21................. Sunday                    at Ole Miss....................................... Oxford, Miss............................ TBA

Feb. 23................. Tuesday                  ST. THOMAS................................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

Feb. 24................. Wednesday            MISSOURI....................................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

Feb. 26................. Friday                      SETON HALL.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

Feb. 27................. Saturday                 SETON HALL.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

Feb. 28................. Sunday                    SETON HALL.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 1................ Tuesday                  SETON HALL.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 4................ Friday                      LOYOLA MARYMOUNT................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 5................ Saturday                 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (DH)...... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 6................ Sunday                    LOYOLA MARYMOUNT................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 8................ Tuesday                  STETSON........................................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 9................ Wednesday            ILLINOIS STATE............................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 11............. Friday                      MANHATTAN.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 12............. Saturday                 MANHATTAN (DH)........................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 13............. Sunday                    MANHATTAN.................................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 15.............. Tuesday                  at Jacksonville................................ Jacksonville, Fla..................... TBA

March 16.............. Wednesday            at Jacksonville................................ Jacksonville, Fla..................... TBA

March 18.............. Friday                       at Charlotte*.................................... Charlotte, N.C......................... TBA

March 19.............. Saturday                  at Charlotte*.................................... Charlotte, N.C......................... TBA

March 20.............. Sunday                    at Charlotte*.................................... Charlotte, N.C......................... TBA

March 24............. Thursday                MARSHALL*................................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 25............. Friday                      MARSHALL*................................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 26............. Saturday                 MARSHALL*................................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

March 29.............. Sunday                    at Bethune-Cookman.................... Daytona, Fla............................ TBA

April 1................... Friday                       at UTSA*.......................................... San Antonio, Texas................ TBA

April 2................... Saturday                  at UTSA*.......................................... San Antonio, Texas................ TBA

April 3................... Sunday                    at UTSA*.......................................... San Antonio, Texas................ TBA

April 8................... Friday                      OLD DOMINION*............................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 9................... Saturday                 OLD DOMINION*............................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 10................. Sunday                    OLD DOMINION*............................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 13................. Wednesday            BETHUNE-COOKMAN................. FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 15................. Friday                       at LA Tech*...................................... Ruston, La................................ TBA

April 16................. Saturday                  at LA Tech*...................................... Ruston, La................................ TBA

April 17................. Sunday                    at LA Tech*...................................... Ruston, La................................ TBA

April 22................. Friday                      FLORIDA ATLANTIC*.................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 23................. Friday                      FLORIDA ATLANTIC*.................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 24................. Sunday                    FLORIDA ATLANTIC*.................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

April 26................. Tuesday                  at USF............................................... Tampa, Fla.............................. TBA

April 27................. Wednesday            at Louisville..................................... Louisville, Ky........................... TBA

April 29................. Friday                       at WKU*............................................ Bowling Green, Ky................. TBA

April 30................. Saturday                  at WKU*............................................ Bowling Green, Ky................. TBA

May 1.................... Sunday                    at WKU*............................................ Bowling Green, Ky................. TBA

May 6.................... Friday                      RICE*................................................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 7.................... Saturday                 RICE*................................................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 8.................... Sunday                    RICE*................................................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 13.................. Friday                       at UAB*............................................. Birmingham, Ala.................... TBA

May 14.................. Saturday                  at UAB*............................................. Birmingham, Ala.................... TBA

May 15.................. Sunday                    at UAB*............................................. Birmingham, Ala.................... TBA

May 19.................. Thursday                SOUTHERN MISS*........................ FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 20.................. Friday                      SOUTHERN MISS *....................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 21.................. Saturday                 SOUTHERN MISS *....................... FIU Baseball Stadium.......... TBA

May 25-29............ Wed.-Sun.               Conference USA Tournament..... Hattiesburg, Miss.................... TBA

May 29-31............ Sun-Tues                NCAA Regionals............................ TBA........................................... TBA

TBA....................... Fri.-Sun.                   NCAA Super Regionals................ TBA........................................... TBA

TBA....................... Sat.-Tues.                College World Series.................... Omaha, Neb............................ TBA

 

2016 FIU Softball Schedule

Date                     Day               Opponent                                      Location                                                            Time

FIU Invitational

Feb. 12                Fri.                Florida State                                Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 13                Sat.               St. John’s                                     Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 13                Sat.               Illinois                                            Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 14                Sun.              LIU Brooklyn                                Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 14                Sun.              Valparaiso                                    Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Panther Invitational

Feb. 19                Fri.                Holy Cross                                   Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 19                Fri.                Indiana                                          Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 20                Sat.               Delaware                                      Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 20                Sat.               Holy Cross                                   Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 21                Sun.              Holy Cross                                   Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

 

Feb. 25                Thurs.          Central Connecticut State       Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Felsberg Invitational

Feb. 26                Fri.                Siena                                             Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 26                Fri.                Central Connecticut State       Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 27                Sat.               Central Connecticut State       Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 27                Sat.               Delaware                                      Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

Feb. 28                Sun.              Siena                                             Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

UF Invitational

March 4               Fri.                vs. Illinois State                            Gainesville, Fla.                                               TBA

March 4               Fri.                at Florida                                       Gainesville, Fla.                                               TBA

March 5               Sat.               at Florida                                       Gainesville, Fla.                                               TBA

March 5               Sat.               vs. Florida A&M                            Gainesville, Fla.                                               TBA

March 6               Sun.              vs. South Alabama                      Gainesville, Fla.                                               TBA

March 8               Tues.            East Carolina                              Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 9               Wed.             Notre Dame (DH)                       Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 12            Sat.               Charlotte (DH)*                           Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 13            Sun.              Charlotte*                                     Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 15            Tues.            Rutgers (DH)                               Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 19             Sat.               at WKU (DH)*                               Bowling Green, Ky.                                         TBA

March 20             Sun.              at WKU*                                         Bowling Green, Ky.                                         TBA

March 25            Fri.                UTEP (DH)*                                  Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

March 26            Sat.               UTEP*                                            Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

April 2                  Sat.               at North Texas (DH)*                  Denton, Texas                                                  TBA

April 3                  Sun.              at North Texas*                            Denton, Texas                                                  TBA

April 9                  Sat.               Florida Atlantic (DH)*                Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

April 10                Sun.              Florida Atlantic                            Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

April 13                Wed.             at Bethune-Cookman (DH)       Daytona Beach, Fla.                                       TBA

April 16                Sat.               at UAB (DH)*                                Birmingham, Ala.                                            TBA

April 17                Sun.              at UAB*                                          Birmingham, Ala.                                            TBA

April 23                Sat.               at Florida Gulf Coast (DH)         Fort Myers, Fla.                                                TBA

April 24                Sun.              at Florida Gulf Coast                   Fort Myers, Fla.                                                TBA

April 30                Sat.               at Marshall (DH)*                         Huntington, W.Va.                                           TBA

May 1                   Sun.              at Marshall*                                  Huntington, W.Va.                                           TBA

May 7                   Sat.               Middle Tennessee (DH)*          Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

May 8                   Sun.              Middle Tennessee*                    Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium     TBA

May 12-14           Thurs-Sat.   C-USA Championship               Denton, Texas                                                  TBA

May 20-22           Fri.-Sun.       NCAA Regionals                         Campus Sites                                                  TBA

May 26-29           Thurs.-Sun. NCAA Super Regionals             Campus Sites                                                  TBA

June 2-8              Wed.-Sun.   NCAA WCWS                               Oklahoma City, Okla.                                      TBA

* - Conference USA game

November 26, 2015

The Night Before the Macy's Parade

What I found interesting in FIU's Thanksgiving Eve 80-72 win over Long Island University-Brooklyn, in which the Panthers came home eased up almost into second place, wasn't the 24 points that represented FIU's halftime lead or Donte McGill's game-high scoring; or the 14 second half points scored by former FIU forward Jerome Frink; or even FIU men's hoop coach Anthony Evans succinct summation of duality in the Thanksgiving Eve win.

"Defend," Evans said. "We held them to 29 percent from the field (in the first half). They hit four free throws. In the second half, they scored 50 points. Tale of two halves."

But what I found interesting was this from Evans:

"We spent the whole preseason working on offense. I thought that was something we needed to improve going into this year. We're always going to be a good defensive team because I'm a defensive-minded coach. We worked on shooting. We worked on skill development. We worked on timing of our offense, things of that nature, in the preseason also in the summer so we can be better once the season started."

Also interesting was that 6-10 Adrian Diaz played all of five minutes in the first half as FIU built that massive halftime lead. Cameron Smith handled the inside defense well, blocking two shots and altering a couple of others. McGill threw in 16 points, including six of seven from the line, previously a Panthers problem. Eric Nottage went three for three from three, yelling and making joyful noises all along the way.

 

November 25, 2015

The State of the FIU Football Union of the Snake River Canyon Ranch Spa (Part II)

Q: Which players stepped forward this year that maybe you didn't expect?

A: I think T.O., not that I didn't expect it, but probably quicker than we thought. (Redshirt junior center) Mike Montero played really well. He started every game and graded out really well. He graded out a winning grade in almost every game, I'm not sure every one, but he palyed really well. I'm very pleased with how he stepped up. (Sophomore running back) Alex Gardner, we expected it, but I didn't expect him to play sixtysomething plays a game and hold up as well as he did. We were playing him too many plays, but we really didn't have a choice.

When Napoleon Maxwell went down -- that's one we didn't mention -- that hurt because he's our biggest and fastest back. He would've really spelled (Gardner). (Fifth-year senior) Anthon (Samuel) and (freshman) Anthony (Jones)...Anthony wasn't quite ready to play early. When he got ready, we were really trying to get him in the game. He hurt his hamstring and missed two and a half weeks. When he came back, he still wasn't 100 percent. I thought A1 really stepped up with his durability.

Defensively, the defensive line guys were guys we anticipated playing well. Jephete stepped in and did all he could do.

Q: Where did you grow as a coach this year?

A: Learning to deal with frustration and staying focused. (Turner said this with a laugh.) Probably that and handling the adversity, having to make the adjustments with everything you worked on in the preseason not being able to do. Mentally, the emotional part was keeping everyone positive, keeping everyone focused. For the most part, we did. The guys worked hard and prepared hard. There was a game or two, it wasn't where it should be. For the most part, they came in and competed every day in practice hard and maintained a tremendous attitude.

Q: You mention "a game or two where it shouldn't be." In retrospect, how disappointing is the loss to FAU? I know you want to win every game and think you should win every game. But as far as games that look like...

A: ...on paper.

Q: Yeah.

A: The UMass game (24-14 loss) was worse. I think FAU is a very good team. They're not a 2-9 team. I have no idea how they're 2-9. I know they lost to Tulsa (47-44) and they lost some of those games where they had a lead and somehow didn't win them. But you look at them up front on both sides of the ball. They're a physical team, got a good quarterback and good running backs. Defensively, they're physical up front. They're much, much better than 2-9.

Of course that one hurt because it's FAU. We just didn't play as well as we're capable of playing. The UMass one was the one that you look at and say, "That one we let get away." For whatever reason, we didn't play well. We had (10) penalties, (five) of them 15-yard variety. And several personal fouls, late hits, stuff like that. And we had 10 dropped passes. That's the one I look at and say the focus wasn't where it needed to be and we did not play nearly as well as we're capable.

Q: Where do you think you failed or needed to be better as a coach this year?

A: A lot of areas, I guess. (Laughs) I don't know, tough question. Not adjusting as well to the injuries and probably trying to do too much. Not hide my frustration, but not get as frustrated and not try to do too much. I didn't do it a lot, but I did it at times. Like I said earlier, tried to do things we weren't capable of doing. Same thing talked about Alex and some of the players did. Not so much game planning, but calling he game sometimes. I knew we probably couldn't protect this, but I'd call it anyway. Or, I knew we didn't have the receivers or whatever, call it anyway. That's probably the biggest thing. On the offensive side of it. You've can't let the frustration get to you. Stay in the moment -- this is what we can do.

Q: What did you think of Alex McGough's development this year?

A: I thought Alex played really well, especially through the first 10 games. His development -- his decision-making, his accuracy, his ball placement, especially down the field, his touch. When he came in here, he was a fastball thrower every play. And he wasn't very accurate down the field. He really improved his downfield accuracy, he improved his touch. He improved his eyes. His eye discipline for the most part through the first 10 games was good. The last two games, it was not. It goes back to trying to do too much. I think he made huge progress from last year to this year in just being a quarterback. That's probably the best way to put it -- being an overall quarterback, not just a thrower.

Q: You used Anthony Jones at running back a lot this season. Obviously, that's a place where you can get him the ball easily. Is he a guy you'd rather place more on the edges?

A: His main position is going to be running back. But he's a guy we can put in there with A1 or with Napoleon and now get him out in the slot. Those are the things we wanted to do with him, but it was hard. First, we had him playing receiver, then running back, then trying to do both. We weren't getting him in as much as we wanted to because of that -- where does he fit in? So we put him in at running back and said, "OK, he's going to go in every other or every third series." Then, he got hurt. That game he got hurt (vs. Old Dominion) on the opening kickoff blocking for Richard (Leonard), that was the game we said "He's going in every other series. And we're going to give him the ball and do the things he knows and we can do." He got hurt on the opening kickoff and he went into the game early. He starte dthe game. We threw him a little screen pass. He caught it and was jogging. I said, "What is wrong?" and he was out (hamstring). I think he played three plays. He was out the next week, came back and still wasn't 100 percent. But he's a guy who'll be a huge part of what we do starting as a running back. We wanted to do some of the so-called "Wildcat," which we call "Rocket Package," but we couldn't. He's a guy we've got to make a big push to get him playing and involved.

Q: With all the injuries, did you have to burn any redshirts you hadn't planned to burn?

A: Oh, yeah, definitely. And we almost did a couple of others. (Offensive lineman) Neal Mars, for sure on the offensive line. We played him week (eight). He ended up playing mostly on field goal, but we had to get him in there. What other true freshmen played? We almost did with (running back) Collin Olsen. One game, he was the backup. He came this close to going in to putting him in and we didn't. The next week, he would've played, but he got a concussion in practice. (Cornerback) Kenyatta Anderson was one who wouldn't have played. He got a blocked punt for a touchdown, but...(Emmanuel) Lubin would've played, regardless. Kenyatta would not have. (Defensive end) Fermin (Silva) played, but he would've played anyway. Anthony (Jones) played, but he would've played. (Tight end) Mac Carey, for sure, would not have played...Milord Juste would not have played. Came that close to playing (linebacker) Sage Lewis. When I say close, I'm talking about on the sidelines asking "Should we put him in?" We did that one game with Neal Mars, "No, let's not put him in" and the next week, he went in anyway.

Those guys were great. Even with one or two games to go, they said, "If you need to put me in, I'm ready to go." (Wide receiver) Austin Maloney came close in one stretch.

Q: Will (safety) Wilkenson Myrtil be back? (Myrtil suffered a scary concussion in the third game of the season).

A: I don't know. He's made good progress the last two weeks. Right now, to be honest, that's the least of our concerns. Our concern is just getting him right. And it's going to be a little while. He's made really good progress and the last week or so or two weeks, he's looked like the Wilkenson of old.

Q: Has he been able to go to classes?

A: He has not. He went home for about 10 days. He's come back and not gone to class. He's getting a medical (withdrawal). He was doing a little better for while, then he wasn't doing very well. I've never seen one take this long, but it was pretty severe.

Q: Do you anticipate any coaching staff changes?

A: I hope not. I feel good about the guys. There's some things we have to do better, but nothing major. The staff gets along really well. They work hard. I think they do a good job. On my part, no. Hopefully, there won't be too many other parts, but you know how that goes. People come in and double their salary, it's hard to argue. I'd anticipate a couple. There usually are. Hopefully, it's just a couple.

Q: Anybody on the roster you've told not to come back?

A: No. I feel good about the roster. I like the guys coming back. I like this team. Whether or not some guys decide, on their part, they want to move, I don't know. As far as what we have, no, I feel good about the guys we have.

The positive to look forward to is we've got a lot of good young players on this team. I mean, really good. And, I guess the positive is they got experience this year. (Laughs) More than they wanted, more than they bargained for, which, in the long run, is going to help them. We've got a very good recruiting class coming in. In fact, we've got more guys who want to come than we have scholarships. It's going very well.

Q: In recruiting, any positions you want to focus on?

A: Overall, you hit every position. As the season goes, it changes a bit. Defensive line and offensive line, we've got commitments in both those spots. We should be in good shape there. We are going to look at a junior college or possible senior graduate in the defensive line and possibly offensive tackle just to get a little more experience in there if we can find the right guy. Cornerback, we might do the same thing. See if there's a JC corner out there who can come in and help us. Continue to fill the depth at all positions. Take one quarterback, at least one running back, maybe two. Get some receivers. Got to get a tight end. Defensive line, got to get two or three linebackers, already got two committed. Probably one more linebacker. Just got to find where we're going to get the spots for him.

  

The State of the Football Union of the Snake River Canyon Ranch Spa (Part I)

I sat down with FIU football coach Ron Turner for the Third Annual Football Season Q&A Eulogy Tuesday. If you're here, you probably already know that the Panthers began the season with an upset at Central Florida, ended it with losses to Marshall and Western Kentucky by a combined 115-7 and finished the season 5-7. If you didn't know that, you do now.

Turner's answers are presented here with commentary limited to the expository.

Q: One more win than last year. But the teams you beat this season had a total of eight FBS wins. Just with Middle Tennessee and UAB last year (five FBS wins each), you beat that in 2014. Overall, was this a moving forward year?

A: I think so. This was was just a very disappointing year and very frustrating year. Disappointing just because we had such high expectations coming in. I'm not disappointed in the players, I'm disappointed in the results just in the fact of I don't think we were able to do what we wanted to do. We weren't the same team halfway through the season that we were coming into it. Just because of the injury situation and the youth we had to play.

Everybody has injuries, I understand that. I've never been through anything like this. With five games to go, I’m watching the (practice) tape with the coaches and I said, ‘This feels like spring ball because we’re running new plays with new people doing them. The difference is we’ve got three days to get them ready to go.’ 

That part was really frustrating for me, personally, and us because of that. I knew coming in -- I don't know if you remember my comments -- but I said I think we have a chance to have a really good team and be really competitive in this conference if we stay healthy because we don't have a ton of depth. Obviously, we didn't. It hurt.

And it was certain positions. Offensive line got hit hard, starting with (junior guard) Jordan Budwig in the summer before camp even started. Two-year starter, preseason all-conference first team and Trenton Saunders getting hurt in the third or fourth game, missing eight and a half to nine games. All of sudden, we've got (redshirt freshmen) Kai Absheer and Chris Miller in there who are going to be really good players. They're going to be really good players, but they weren't ready to play this year. Then, they got hurt. One missed three and a half weeks, one missed four and a half. But that's four weeks of practice time they miss and all of a sudden, they're thrown back in. (Redshirt freshman) Daquane Wilkie started at right tackle (12 games) who is going to be a really good player as well, but he's not there yet. He shouldn't have been playing. That part of it got hit hard, especially at the guard position. Our tackles were fine.

And then the safety position, four guys, three of them basically for the season. Jordan Davis played one game, (missed) two because of academic suspension, then got hurt. Shemarke Spence (broken arm) didn't play any. Wilkenson Myrtil missed nine games. Niko (Gonzalez) missed four. Not only did he miss four, he had a shoulder, he couldn't work out, so then he comes back and he's...the development part of it. That really hurt. Then, obviously, our tight ends (Ya'Keem Griner and Jonnu Smith). Tight end, linebacker -- two of our starting three linebackers basically missed the season. Treyvon missed (eight). Davison (Colimon) missed 11/2.

Our two best playmakers on offense. One missed seven games and the other one, Jonnu, missed four. That made it frustrating. All the stuff we planned to do on both sides of the ball, we had to limit what we did, minimize what we did and try to play to their strengths.

Q: (Graduate senior transfer) Jephete Matilus came in and clearly did the best he could. But, realistically, his actual game experience was almost at a freshman level. What kind of dropoff was that from (junior middle linebacker) Treyvon Williams?

A: Jephete came in and gave us everything he had. I'm glad he was here. I don't know what we'd have done without him. He stepped in and did as well as he could in a tough situation. He didn't have a lot of game experience. A lot of our guys, even though they might've been juniors or seniors, in some cases, they didn't have much experience. (Offensive lineman) Edens Sineace, first year starter, he played left tackle. Then, we had to put him at guard and all that stuff.

But, getting back to (Jephete)...first time in the system. Didn't go through Spring Ball. Limited playing time -- most of his playing time was on special teams at Minnesota. And he's thrown in as a starter for eight games. Give him credit, he did as sell as he could do. But, it hurts your depth. Now, if something happens to him, you're going down (indicates with his hand moving to a lower level).

"That's the thing -- we had too many guys playing too many plays because of the injury situation. Playing more plays than they should and, by the end of the year, you're worn down. It affects your practice time. By the end of the year, we couldn't practice as much as we wanted. We couldn't wear pads as much as we wanted, even (just) shoulder pads. We had to cut the time down in practice because we had nobody. Guys were just so worn down, we had to try to get them fresh on game day.

No bye didn't help. (FIU's open week is this week.) Not that we would've gotten a lot of guys back because most of them were season-ending (injuries), but at least we could've rested some people and healed up a bit.

Q: How does that happen? Where does that fall through the cracks?

A: That's the conference scheduling. I called immediately when I saw it. Called (Senior Associate Commissioner) Alfred White immeidately and said, "Alfred, we don't have a bye." He said, "Yeah, you have one the last week." I said, "We're playing 12 straight weeks. So, we have no bye." There's two teams that didn't. Somebody else had a bye the first week and they played 12 straight. (North Texas, which started 0-7 and is now 1-10).

If you stay healthy and you get on a roll, you don't mind, you go. But even then you have to be smart, you have to be careful how you practice and everything else.

Q: What did you have to change in the offense and defense to accommodate your situation?

A: Everything, honestly. Offensively, when you lose guards and you've got young guys in there, you limit your protections, you limit some of the run schemes you do. We had a lot of stuff we wanted to do that we did in training camp and spring ball and we just said, "It's too much. We can't do it. With all the adjustments you have to make and different fronts that you see, it's just too much for these guys." So, we really had to simplify what we're doing.

When Griner went out, that had an effect. We're such a two-tight end-oriented offense. We were that 70 percent of the time when those two guys were healthy, especially on first or second down. If we weren't that, we were one tight end. We always had at least one. We even had a three-tight end package that we did earlier in the year, that we worked hard on in training camp. That went out the window quickly.

When Jonnu went down and we've got Akil Dan-Fodio...he did a tremendous job for us. He did the best he could. But, he was out of his element. He's more a F motion guy, put him in the slot, block backside, that sort of stuff. All of a sudden, he's at the point of attack trying to block and that's not his strength. So we had to limit what we could call -- "we like this, but we don't have the tight end to do this. It's not his strength." It's unfair to ask people to do something they're not capable of doing. It really affected what we had in the game plan and, on game day, what we called.

Same thing defensively. With our safety situation, our linebacker situation. We've got Jephete in there, like you said, new in the system. Davison (Colimon) out, who had great experience. We could make a lot of adjustments and do some things with him. He was our best blitzer probably. Missed the whole year, basically (hurt in the first game).

Then, it has a trickle down effect to special teams. All of a sudden, you've got guys playing and somebody else has to take their place on special teams. You've got to watch their reps. It's the culmination of everything. It takes its toll.

Everybody has injuries. But I've never seen anything like this. Going into the last game, we had 27 guys that were either starters or were going to play a lot miss games. Sixteen of them missed four games or more. Several of them were season-ending. If you total those games up, it was 138 games by guys who are going to play a lot. Budwig, 12. Shemarke Spence, 12. Davison Colimon, whatever the number. I don't know anybody that can lose four guards, four safeties, two linebackers and two tight ends and go play. Nobody. I don't care what school. I don't care if you're Alabama, to lose that many and not have a huge dropoff.

For us to be playing game No. 12, to get win No. 6, to me, it's a credit to those guys. I told them that (Tuesday). I was disappointed in the season, in teh results, in the finish, but not disapointed in you guys. Alex McGough was in here. We talked for 45 minutes. He didn't play very well the last two games as he admitted. He goes, "To be honest with you, the frustration built up and I was trying to do too much."

I told him, "you know what Alex, I found myself trying to do some things we weren't capable of doing. Trying to make some calls we probably weren't capable of doing because I'm trying to make a play." I'd love to have some of those calls back. With our normal team in there? Yes, it would've been great. I said it minimized what we did, but there were times I tried to do it anyway. And, it didn't work because we weren't capable of doing it. It's not fair to the players to ask them to do something they can't.

Eventually, I think it took its toll on everybody. But I never heard one guy complain about it. I was sitting here talking to (redshirt junior defensive tackle) Imarjaye Albury today and I was telling him about some of the injuries. He said, "Wow, I didn't realize that." I said, "You didn't realize our top four guards were out, top two out for the year, basically?" He said, "No. I knew Jonnu (was out)." I said, "You didn't realize our top four safeties were out? Three of them for the entire season?" He said, "No, not really."

(Freshman safety) Tyree Johnson goes in and, again, he's going to be a really good player. But he shouldn't have been playing. But those guys didn't know. I guess that's why they didn't complain about it!

Q: Why did the run defense just fall apart?

A: As the season went on, I think we got worn down. We didn't have our main linebackers in there. I think it took its toll. We didn't have our top safeties in there. In our defense, safeties are huge in run support.

Like most people, you play quarters coverage, they're the run support guys. The corners play outside, we had two good corners. It affected how we played. We couldn't get the safeties down involved as much as we wanted because they just weren't ready for it. So we couldn't press the corners and challenge out there as much as we wanted. Our safeties were inexperienced. When they did feel for the run, it wasn't always exactly where they should be. And they were young. They weren't as physical. No fault to them, they gave everything they had. So, we had to watch what our calls were and couldn't get them as involved as we wanted to.

And I think we got worn down. Too many reps, guys playing too many plays. And the last two weeks, we played the two best teams in the conference (Marshall and Western Kentucky). Very physical offensive lines that were senior dominated. Last week, that was the most physical line in the conference. We played two really good teams.

Q: What happened to (sophomore wide receiver) Thomas Owens the second half of the year?

A: Teams started to press him more, play him a little differently, get a safety over the top at times. Protection-wise, we got against better teams, we had to get the ball out quicker. I think Alex got frustrated, a combination of things. We just weren't able to get the plays to him. We tried. We tried going to him and making plays. We just struggled sometimes beating press man coverage. That takes a little longer to get open. His strength is not his speed, his strength is being physical, going up and battling for the ball and yards after the catch. He's a strong runner afterwards.

You catch a touchdown pass in six straight games, they're going to realize that, too. They're going to put a safety over the top and do some things that make you look to the other side. Especially when Jonnu went down. Once Jonnu and Griner went down, we didn't have that inside threat. When Jonnu wasn't as productive earlier in the year and people were saying, "Why isn't he as productive as he was last year?" I said, "Well, they're playing him. They're doing things to take him away." All of a sudden, T.O. starts making plays and Griner starts making plays and we're running the ball, it opens up Jonnu. Well, when Jonnu's not in there and Griner's not in there, they can do things to take away T.O."

(Part II in transcription)

 

November 23, 2015

Diaz Gets CUSA Love

FIU senior center Adrian Diaz put up double doubles in the Panthers loss to James Madison (12 points, 10 rebounds) and the loss to Oral Roberts (14 and 13). He did 17 and 7 against Tennessee-Martin, FIU's lone win of James Madison's Men Against Breast Cancer tournament.

For this, Diaz was named Conference USA Player of the Week.

November 22, 2015

A few thoughts on Western Kentucky 63, FIU 7

 

 

Westminster Christian wide receiver Elbre "Tony" Gaiter IV, son of former Killian All-Dade player and Hurricanes player Tony Gaiter, has committed to FIU, according to 247sports.com and Scout.com. The former didn't have him rated. The latter had him rated at three stars. Gaiter caught 28 passes for 479 yards (17.1 per catch) and nine touchdowns this season. He ran seven times for 78 yards and three touchdowns.

Let's take care of two things that aren't happening...

1. FIU dropping football or dropping to FCS. Anybody suggesting this should happen based on the results of the last few seasons or attendance reveals himself or herself to be a whiny baby who needs the Entitlement Pacifier taken away. FIU's had some truly awful years, a couple of good years and a bunch of losing seasons that run together. Your actual in-house attendance fluctuates congruently before applying other factors (noon start, lousy weather, etc.). Welcome to life as an FBS college football program that's not a traditional power.

In case you haven't noticed, schools don't tend to move from FB0 to FCS. You went 5-7 by beating some weak sisters. Again, welcome to life as an FBS college football program that's not a traditional power.

2. FIU coach Ron Turner's not going anywhere. Look at athletic director Pete Garcia's situation. He doesn't have a new contract yet (but does have an attendance bonus of $8,393 coming from FIU's 15,381 average, 117th in the nation). Firing Turner after three seasons says "That guy I fired in December 2012? Big mistake." And that might as well be asking FIU to move on to a new athletic director. 

Has a 5-7 season ever had a more depressing end than Saturday without involving an ambulance? Lightning delays alternating with rain. Barely enough people to fill the Graham Center food court, much less La Cage. Western Kentucky scored on the second play from scrimmage and what turned out to be the last play from scrimmage (and a whole lot of plays in between).

There really isn't much to say when a team ends its season getting outscored 115-7 over its last two games. I'm not going to say the team quit. That's too harsh an insult. I will say they seemed to become disheartened and locked into bad patterns (and I'm not even talking about the 4-yard bubble screens).

Injuries hurt the defense, especially the safety positions. The loss of middle linebacker Treyvon Williams, one of the defense's two batteries along with outside linebacker Anthony Wint, unplugged the defense. But so did flat play by some from whom more was expected and a soft concept.

When you like to run a lot of double tight end sets and two of the most productive tight ends in the country go down for the last four games, it hurts. Period. That's not a position of depth at many Power 5 conference teams, much less G5 teams. The inexperienced, banged up offensive line never got together. Also damaging was cautious play calling and inscrutable personnel deployment.

I'll have more later and expect to talk to Turner this week at length about the season.

November 21, 2015

Gameday XII: Trying to Tame the Wild, Wild Western

Been a busy week at Casa David (which is also a fantastic Italian restaurant in Amsterdam). As I'm just getting around to this now, I'm just letting fly with a bunch of thoughts about today's FIU football regular season finale.

*If they call one of those bubble screens with one blocker and one receiver against three defenders in the first five plays, sophomore quarterback Alex McGough should audible to a deep ball. And throw it, no matter if the receiver's open or not. And when asked about it, tell the coaches, "Same result, less beating, more exciting and chance of success."

*Play Juwan Caesar. What the heck, this could be his last college game and he's a big possession receiver body for those predictable chain-moving slants FIU will use when trying to keep the ball away from Western's point-a-minute offense. No reason for Caesar to not be out there.

*Give freshman Anthony Jones the ball before you're 30 points down in the third quarter and give running back Alex Gardner a breather. The last time we went through such a "why isn't he playing/getting the ball more?" with a prized recruit, Willis Wright got stapled to the sideline. Word was he didn't know the offense enough. Yeah, well, same thing I thought then -- if you have to draw it in the sand, on your shirt like a street football quarterback or flat out call the play then tell him what to do, do that. And get the man the ball.

*Gamble on defense. Stop playing church bingo and enter the casino. Hey, House, bring the house. Send The Company. Get the cornerbacks up and chucking. Don't sit back and get cut up like Jim.

Western Kentucky 45, FIU 34

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

 

 

November 20, 2015

Volleyball Done

Missing kills leader Dajana Boskovic, who got arrested along with a teammate Thursday night, didn't prevent Conference USA volleyball tournament host UTSA from beating No. 7 seed FIU 3-1 Friday afternoon.

FIU ends the season 15-13. Senior Lucia Castro, in addition to being Second Team All-Conference USA, was named to the conference's All-Academic team Thursday.

November 19, 2015

November 17, 2015

November 16, 2015

Men's Soccer vs. Tulsa in the NCAA Tournament

Conference USA tournament champion FIU opens the men's soccer tournament Thursday at Tulsa. The winner gets the tournament's No. 7 seed, Notre Dame, on Sunday.

"Any team that's in this tournament is going to be very difficult team to play," FIU coach Scott Calabrese said. "We're unfamiliar with Tulsa. We haven't played them in recent times as they left (Conference USA). So we're going to have to study them, prepare for them and we'll be ready."

As for if he thought FIU would get a seed, Calabrese said, "I think we're very close. If you look at the RPI, we were one of the teams right on the bubble to be seeded. It doesn't surprise me we didn't get seeded. Had we been the 16th seed, I also thought that was possible."

FIU's RPI ranked 16th in the nation. None of the four CUSA teams -- FIU and the three Top 25 teams, regular season champion Kentucky, South Carolina, Charlotte -- received a seeding.

Calabrese, the co-winner of Conference USA's Coach of the Year, has a year left on his contract. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said the school will extend Calabrese. Also, the coach and team will be honored at halftime of Monday's men's basketball game against Florida Memorial.

 

November 15, 2015

FIU Wins Conference USA Men's Soccer Title

Midfielder Patrick Lopez's goal off a header in the 75th minute gave FIU the only goal it needed in Sunday's Conference USA championship game against Marshall. The 1-0 win gave FIU it's first Conference USA men's soccer title, the third conference title for the Panthers athletic department in 2015 (Swimming & Diving, Baseball, Men's Soccer) and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Midfielder Daniel Gonzalez was named Offensive MVP of the tournament. Goalkeeper Arthur Clapot was the defensive MVP. Lopez and defender Marvin Hezel also made the All-Tournament team.

FIU's last NCAA tournament appearance was 2004, the same year as their last conference title (Atlantic Soccer Conference). The NCAA announces the tournament pairings Monday afternoon.

"(Marshall) did a good job of limiting our space around the midfield," FIU coach Scott Calabrese said. "Once we got into position, you had to make a perfect pass and a perfect run. Still, we were close to scoring in the run of play. And they were dangerous on the counter and very dangerous on set pieces. They have a couple of guys who are good in the air.

"The statistics might look lopsided, but there were times in the game when we had to sharp defensively."

As conference titles go, this might be FIU's most impressive in any sport -- ever.

Conference USA's one of the best soccer conferences in the country. The last National Soccer Coaches of America Association poll included three CUSA teams (No. 11 Kentucky, No. 17 South Carolina, No. 24 Charlotte) and Old Dominion in the Others Receiving Votes. None of them made the conference tournament final. FIU knocked off Old Dominion, 4-2, and Kentucky, 1-0. Marshall took out Charlotte and South Carolina. Of the seven teams in the conference tournament, six had been ranked in the Top 25 at some point in the season.

I asked Calabrese when he thought FIU could finish on top of this savage battle royal of soccer.

"I think there were signs early on with how well we competed with UNC and Wake," Calabrese said, referring to close losses to teams now ranked No. 4 and No. 1, respectively. "It was clear we had players who could compete at that level. As the season went on, when we fell behind and were able to fight back into games, it showed we had the desire to win."

Whether within games or in the season, Calabrese liked the way FIU answered when challenged. They lost to Charlotte 1-0 in a game Calabrese felt they controlled. That was followed by a 4-3 loss to UAB when the Blazers came back from a 3-1 halftime deficit. Less than 20 minutes from a third straight loss, goals by Gonzalez and Lopez gave the Panthers a 2-1 win against Old Dominion.

"Every good team deals with adversity," Calabrese said. "What you do with it determines your season. We always fought our way back."

At least one more fight to go.

 

 

November 14, 2015

Round 1 to Marshall. Round 2 tomorrow.

OK, you knew it could happen, maybe even felt it probably would happen, hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. Marshall took FIU to Fiftyburger and got a Shutout Shake with it.

Playing on the road against a team that's better than they are anyway and on a day heavy with feeling, the Panthers gave up big plays early and got nothing steady going offensively. Then, they got crushed.

Obviously, the soccer team can't make up for 52-0 when it faces Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., although FIU will be heavily favored. The Panthers smoked The Herd 5-1 earlier this season.

There won't be an official FIU watch party for that. There was for Saturday's game, at Carolina Ale House in Doral. I arrived early in the first quarter with Marshall up 7-0.

I've been in Miami long enough to know: heavy rain=light crowd, even indoors. There were 17 people there. That's 17 more than I saw or recognized from Athletics. Nor did I see the advertised giveaways of two basketball courtside tickets or two suite tickets for next week's regular season finale. And I heard that the circle of televisions on the game weren't on the game until after kickoff.

What's was up with that? The advertisements for the Watch Party didn't say canceled in case of rain. 

 

Gameday XI: Respect With a Smack

I know it's late. Long day, short night, Saturday morning walk to the Publix Sabor, Bob Evans on sale, walk back...

 

 

Some quick asides/observations before I get to the pack of Panthers dealing with the Thundering Herd...

1. Soccer observers tend to find the FIU men a good watch -- smart defensively, open and skilled offensively. No. 11 Kentucky's more like a futbol Floyd Mayweather: all about defense, good enough offense, regularly getting the soccer version of a unanimous decision. So, don't think there's much crying over FIU taking down the Conference USA tournament's No. 1 seed in the semifinal. Besides, especially if FIU wins Sunday, this means one more CUSA team in the NCAA tournament beyond those in line for at-large bids anyway.

2. Compared to the last few seasons, the women's basketball team looked like each player powerbombed an entire colada, David J-style, before the season opener. The obviousness of the difference in energy and alert proficiency from a largely similar roster drew a broad-based conclusion from several in the house: they just didn't play for the last coaching staff. I don't know why. But that was obvious.

3. Watching the FIU men's exhibition that counted against Trinity Baptist, this team needs every non-conference game it can get. Think of them as like The SImpsons house Lego set -- Adrian Diaz as the large frame piece and a lot of accessories whose proper places need to be found.

Now to Huntington and FIU vs. Marshall.

At first glance, we've seen this movie before (and I'm not talking about We Are Marshall). This is Monday Night Football coming to Indianapolis for the first time ever and on Halloween, 1988 (Colts 55, Denver 24). Or Buffalo, in the midst of their four Super Bowl run, walking into Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium noise tunnel with MNF for the first time in years (1991, Kansas City 31, Buffalo 6). Or, perhaps most appropriately considering the connection between a community tragedy and the football team, MNF as the Superdome reopens a year after Hurricane Katrina (New Orleans 23, Atlanta 3).

That game's instructive for how FIU can leave today with a win and bowl eligibility.

*DON'T GET OVERWHELMED EARLY -- Atlanta opened that game going three-and-out. Then, Steve Gleason blocked the punt and the Saints recovered for a touchdown, a play that's memorialized by a statue in front of The Superdome. That's when everybody watching knew "The Falcons are probably going to get their Atlanta kicked tonight."

Minutes later, Louisiana son and LSU product Devery Henderson scored on a reverse. You knew the Falcons were done. The Saints knew it. The broadcast team knew it. The crowd knew it. The Falcons probably knew it. Both my grandmothers knew it including the one who'd been dead for five years. And it was only 14-3 in the first quarter!

FIU can't give up big, momentum-building plays early. There's already going to be enough juice in that place with the traditions that go with the yearly anniversary of the 1970 plane crash that changed life on and off the Marshall campus. Add to that being the 45th anniversary and a Senior Day.

There's a time to go all in and there's a time to check up. The first quarter's time for the latter. On offense, FIU's often-infuriating dinking and dunking can suck the life out of a visiting place if they get a few first downs. Defensively, unless there's a stupidly obvious tell, don't gamble for a big play, just play sound defense. Let some electricity drain.

*RIDE THE WAVE -- How often do the Panthers get to play, home or road, in a truly rockin' house? Or be around some truly moving ceremonies? FIU should feed off all that energy, too. And might be able to sustain it more than Marshall.

*TAKE THE POINTS -- Again, don't give a chance for momentum building. Unless the Panthers simply can't stop the Herd offense, on fourth down in field goal range, FIU should take the points. Rolling the dice worked against Old Dominion and Charlotte. This isn't Old Dominion or Charlotte across the line.

*BRING THE COMPANY LATER -- Around the second quarter, start giving Marshall freshman quarterback Chase Litton some pressure hell. He's near the end of the season, but he's still a freshman. Freshmen do funky things under pressure. Also, Litton won't be expecting it. FIU's been Publix vanilla ice cream defense this year. Time to go Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet Cake from the second quarter forward.

This isn't last year's Marshall juggernaut. They've won without coming off as impressively invincible. They lost last week to Middle Tennessee State because their kickers choked.

Still, FIU's been kind of a bully this season -- beating up the weaklings as they should, wilting against equals. The Panthers also are pretty banged up and, as I wrote earlier this week, that matters with a mid-major no matter how much everybody would like to say it shouldn't (with two weeks to heal, UTEP looked eight times better against FAU than it did against FIU).

Strip everything else away, those last two paragraphs remain.

Marshall 34, FIU 20

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

 

 

 

November 13, 2015

Men's Soccer Kentucky Fries the Wildcats

Despite all the jokes about 1-0 soccer scores, FIU doesn't know anything about 1-0. The Panthers didn't win a single game by that score this season. Heck, they only managed two shutouts, 3-0 over Stetson and a 0-0 Senior Night game against New Mexico.

No. 11 Kentucky knows about 1-0. In fact, the ultra-defensive Wildcats beat FIU by that score in the regular season finale. They conceded only one goal in Conference USA play all season.

Make that two, as FIU advanced to the Conference USA title game with a 1-0 win over Kentucky Friday night. Daniel Gonzalez first half penalty kick held up for the Panthers, which play the winner of South Carolina-Marshall Sunday at 2 p.m. for the championship and NCAA bid.

Volleyball Sweeps Into CUSA Tournament

FIU's 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-15) sweep Thursday at Louisiana Tech combined with Marshall's loss to Conference USA leader Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State's loss to North Texas put FIU back into the Conference USA tournament after a year's absence.

FIU likely will be the No. 7 seed, unless Florida Atlantic zombie dances through its match with La Tech and FIU whips Charlotte. In that case, the Panthers would move to the No. 6 seed. The probable first round opponent is Texas-San Antonio, which gave FIU the what for, 3-1 (25-17, 25-27, 25-9, 25-17) at FIU Arena Nov. 1.

November 12, 2015

Pregame Friday

Roast pig. Free stuff. Games. Swimmers. Divers.

Aw, now you know it's serious at FIU when they bring out the swimming & diving team, the best team in FIU athletics. Is there any other campus that uses the water women or men to draw a crowd for football and basketball?

Friday's occasion, of course, is the season-opening basketball doubleheader for FIU women's and men's basketball, tipping off at 5 p.m. with the women's game against Florida A&M. The men's game versus Trinity Baptist is scheduled for 7 p.m., but that never holds. Bet more 7:20 p.m. 

But from 3-5 p.m., in front of FIU Arena, there's a tailgate with food, which I hear will include a roast pig (it'll already be roasted, so it won't be exactly like your uncle in the backyard). There will also be an autograph session with the last year's Conference USA champion swimming & diving team around 4 p.m. The women's hoops team will be signing autographs between games in the FIU Arena lobby.

 


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