September 22, 2015

Five Gets Men's Soccer No. 24

No. 2 North Carolina is 6-0-1. No. 15 Wake Forest is 6-1.

Only those two bastions of collegiate soccer excellence can claim victories over FIU, now ranked No. 24 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll after its fifth consecutive win, a 7-2 slaughter of FAU Monday night in a game delayed by three days (which was probably four years too little for the Owls).


September 21, 2015

Swimming Ace Scalia Will Not Return

Silvia Scalia, Conference USA Freshman Swimmer of the Year and a big part of FIU's glorious 2014-15 season, decided not to return to FIU this season.

Scalia set school records in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as being part of three school record relay teams. She won Conference USA titles in the 100 and 200 back and 400 freestyle relay and looked like the successor to Johanna Gustafsdottir as FIU's best all-around swimmer.

Good to see Gustafsdottir on campus, doing an internship as she finishes her degree. 


September 20, 2015

A few thoughts on FIU 39, North Carolina Central 14

The questions after FIU eventually put away FCS victim North Carolina Central concerned junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil, who left a quiet FIU Stadium on a stretcher, arms strapped to his sides after a collision with a teammate left him knocked out.

FIU coaches were told Myrtil suffered a concussion on the play. He had movement in his limbs. That's a relief to hear. At least quarterback Alex McGough moved last week after he took a head shot. Myrtil lay still. If you're of a certain age, every time you see that, Mark Buoniconti comes to mind. the son of Dolphins Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti's last college football tackle stopped a first down and stopped his ability to walk -- ever again. Luckily, Myrtil seems to have a head injury that'll heal.

As for the game, FIU took a businesslike approach afterwards. They were remind me of young men who went to work, did their job well enough and now will go back to suburbia to kiss the wife, hug the kids and check the fantasy football waiver wire.

They liked their big plays and offensive balance (306 first half yards split 153-153 between rushing and passing). Holding any team, even an FCS school, to 209 offensive yards considering the offenses and number of plays run these days, should get a gold star (and a cookie). They had to like their three interceptions, especially considering who made them.

Each FIU opponent attacked the safeties. Sophomore safety Niko Gonzalez attacked a dart into the ground by NC Central quarterback Malcolm Bell. Gonzalez's interception turned into Anthony Jones' first college touchdown, a 26-yard sprint through a nice right side hole. Thumbs up for Gonzalez. When's the last time you saw a linebacker intercept a Hail Mary? Sophomore Anthony Wint did at the end of the first half. In Jordan Davis' first game of the season, he blanketed an outside receiver up the right sideline and made his end zone interception so in stride, the official signaled "touchdown" before being his comrades assisted him in realizing which end he was standing in and who had the ball.

But FIU also saw its offense drive into the red zone and come away with two field goals on the first two possessions. That doesn't get it done next week against Louisiana Tech. Also, for the second consecutive week, half the opponent's points can be put on the offense's account. McGough said NCC's Pick Six was a bad read on his part. I've been waiting for that play since the third quarter of FIU's win against Central Florida. There's not much variance in the rhythm of those plays and if the target gets telegraphed, well...


As for the defense, linebacker Anthony Wint said, "I feel like we could've played a lot better on defense. That one drive they had that they scored on, there were a lot of easy corrections we could've made, a lot of mistakes I made myself that we've got to fix before next week."

That 72-yard, 1:04 drive that cut FIU's lead to 26-14 scarred an otherwise smooth defensive visage. The Panthers allowed the Eagles' running backs 61 yards on 16 carries, 40 yards and 10 carries coming during garbage time. Once less mobile backup quarterback Quinn Billermann entered the game after Gonzalez's interception, the Panthers didn't have to worry as much about quarterback containment.

Perhaps more disconcerting was that NC Central decided to remove FIU's running backs from the running game and did it much of the night. LaTech's a better defense all around than NC Central, to bathe in understatement.

But, to take, you must give to restore balance in the universe (unless you're The Steel Curtain, The Most Interesting Man in the World or Citibank). So, the Eagles left open McGough's quarterback keep off the read option as well as the deep ball.

That give gave more than the Eagles planned when they lost cornerback Ryan Smith as he broke up a potential touchdown pass to sophomore Thomas Owens that McGough sent via Spirit air instead of regional jet. Then the Eagles lost their other cornerback, Mike Jones. It was redshirt junior Tony Tate several yards in arrears on Dennis Turner's 64-yard scoring bomb from McGough.

FIU got points by taking advantage of what NC Central gave. No matter the opponent, that's the game.

Five touchbacks Saturday for Austin Taylor gave him one more than his 2013 season total and one fewer than his 2014 season total. Two missed extra points Saturday matched his two-season total of that rare event.

Word has it somebody will throw a block on punt or kickoff return next week. I'm still working to confirm this.

FIU Stadium's now got a radio booth on the north side housing both radio broadcasts. Now, they don't have to take up a suite or two to know they won't be rained off the air.

A half hour before the game, Sweetwater cops came rolling through the tailgate, ordering through the car loudspeaker to break it up and go home or into La Cage. Apparently, the theory is if there's no tailgate party going on, folks will come inside FIU Stadium instead of staying outside to enjoy themselves. This is what's done up at Central Florida.

Of course, this ignores the fact that FIU didn't invent enthusiastic tailgating with wonderful libations and people watching. Come game time at many other schools with legendary tailgates, students who want to enter the stadium for the game do so and those who don't, don't. It's about the attractiveness of what's inside, not the elimination of competition outside the stadium.

Which is pretty much what happened Saturday, judging from the foot traffic back to the dorms after Sweetwater's finest rolled through. Official attendance was 16,567. Actual attendance was about a third of that. A good start to the season compared to 2013 and 2014.

September 19, 2015

Gameday III, 2015: No More Shines, Billy

It's weird to track the growth of an FBS program by how it matches up with its FCS schedule-fillers, but, well, FIU.

FIU's 2013 loss to Bethune-Cookman could be summed up as Bethune knowing what it was doing with a more seasoned lineup while the Panthers could barely get out of their own way to get the ball snapped. After the snap, the Panthers tried. But trying without enough talent or scheme knowledge just inspires English poets to climb out of their beer and scribble something ("...into the valley of death rode the 600...").

Last year's loss to Bethune began the 2014 season but really felt like the final colon cleansing of 2013. I heard Bethune came in with the attitude toward FIU that could be summed up as "Go, get your shine box."

Now, FIU's a young adult in college football age. FIU no longer has the makeup of an FBS team vulnerable to a good FCS team. No more shines, Billy. Then again, the odds of Serena Williams losing in that particular U.S. Open match was 300-1 in some places, so they'll play this game just to make sure. 

During his weekly media session, North Carolina Central coach Jerry Mack was asked if FIU was closer to Division II school St. Augustine (72-0, NC Central) or FBS perennial bowl team Duke (55-0, Blue Devil bloods).

"They're still an FBS opponent," Mack said. "They still have more scholarships, more facilities, more things than we do. But they're not a Power Five team. We match up a little bit better. They have some things and some personnel issues we feel we can take advantage of."

That sounds like a reference to FIU's safeties. In a 72-0 win, you show who you are in the first half and who you want to be (and how much class you have) in the second half. Quarterback Malcolm Bell threw the ball 20 times in their annihilation of St. Augustine. North Carolina Central's first possession lasted four plays, all passes that took the Eagles 38 yards to a touchdown. Second drive, two runs to Idreis Augustus, Bell incomplete on third down. Third drive, eight plays to a touchdown, split four and four. Fourth drive, five plays, alternating passes and runs, before a field goal attempt.

You get the idea. When they could choose, UNCC chose to be balanced. Their running backs bring more boogie than bull, thus pitching their runs right into the FIU defense's wheelhouse. And that's where the fast Panthers can hit you like Bonds, McGwire & Sosa carrying bats and juice. You're better off running at them, not away from them. 

I don't think Bell gets much passing time against FIU, which is dying to start piling up some sacks. He's a dual-threat quarterback, which everybody, especially FIU, hates because college teams tend to do a poor job on pocket containment. Jordan Davis should improve the run support from the safety position, although I can see North Carolina Central using Davis' enthusiasm at returning to the lineup (academic shortcomings -- pronoun trouble?) against him with play action passes behind him.

Along the offensive line, my Spidey sense says there's something up (or down) with left tackle Dieugot Joseph and fifth-year senior guard/tackle Aaron Neilsen. I'm not sure if Joseph's hurt or there was just a general dissatisfaction with how many times Indiana's defensive line got past FIU's left side security checkpoints.

My request to speak to Joseph Wednesday was rejected, though the powers that be didn't know the topic was redshirting. That's usually a signal something's burning in the kitchen. I get the feeling we'll be seeing something like Edens Sineace and Kai Absheer on that left side.

Whatever, I think they're going to dominate the line of scrimmage, controlling the ball with the run, opening up the passing game for Alex McGough. FIU coach Ron Turner said they like to play man coverage, so this should be the chance for Dennis Turner, Thomas Owens and maybe Anthony Jones to get downfield and McGough to practice throwing long. Once McGough cools off, there might be a change to senior quarterback Trey Anderson, just to get him some more live fire. 

As I head into my normal closing, which has always been an homage (ripoff) to disc jockey/professor/ex-girlfriend Tracy Fields, who turned 55 this month, it really seems simple: FIU's got better athletes and those athletes know what they're doing.

FIU 38, UNC-Central 17.

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

September 17, 2015

W(Hoops), Here It Is...

As the FIU Arena roof drips near me...

The men's basketball schedule got lost on the way to my e-mail boxes yesterday. Which is why it's not until today that you see the below:


Nov. 13 -- Trinity Christian; Nov. 15 -- Florida Memorial; Nov. 20 -- at James Madison (JMU Men Against Breast Cancer Classic); Nov. 21 -- at Tennessee-Martin (JMU Classic); Nov. 22 -- at Oral Roberts (JMU Classic); Nov. 25 -- LIU-Brooklyn; Nov. 30 -- Stetson.


Dec. 4 -- Elon; Dec. 6 -- Florida Gulf Coast. Dec. 14 -- at North Florida; Dec. 19 -- at Northern Illinois; Dec. 22 -- at Binghamton; Dec. 29 -- Florida A&M.


Jan. 3 -- FAU; Jan. 7 -- at Western Kentucky; Jan. 9 -- at Marshall; Jan. 14 -- Louisiana Tech; Jan. 16 -- Southern Mississippi; Jan. 21 -- at Texas-San Antonio; Jan. 23 -- at UTEP; Jan. 28 -- Charlotte: Jan. 30 -- Old Dominion


Feb. 4 -- at Alabama-Birmingham; Feb. 6 -- Middle Tennessee State; Feb. 11 -- UTEP; Feb. 13 -- UTSA; Feb. 18 -- at North Texas; Feb. 20 -- at Rice; Feb. 27 -- at FAU


Mar. 3 -- UAB; Mar. 5 -- Middle Tennessee State; Mar. 8-12 -- Conference USA tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. 

These Smelled

Coming to you live from courtside at the FIU Invite...

Teams know they might have to deal with players barfing on the sideline during the game. Fans know they might have to deal with truculent toilets at older stadiums malfunctioning. But visiting teams don't expect a Big Ten stadium that's been renovated by a well-funded athletic program to take an explosive dump on your sideline, as Indiana's Memorial Stadium did to FIU last Saturday.

A pipe blew, sending sewage and little bits of toilet paper (presumably used) into an area behind the FIU bench before the game. The area was sealed off with cones and, fortunately, none of the action made it that far outside the FIU sideline.

The area undoubtedly smelled like the statistical call made by Indiana's stat crew that robbed FIU defensive end Michael Wakefield of a first quarter sack.

On the game's opening drive, Indiana went for the first down on fourth and 6 from the FIU 29. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld dropped back, had time, then moved around to buy more time, then ran out of time. Wakefield dragged down Sudfeld, who fumbled at least 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Indiana recovered at the 50, a moot point as FIU took over on the change of possession.

This was originally in the official play-by-play account as "Sudfeld...rush for no gain, fumble forced by Wakefield...recovered by the 50-yard line." That ridiculous description wasn't reflected in the end of quarter stats, which stated Sudfeld had two runs for -25 yards. Note how Sudfeld's other first quarter loss involving a fumble was recorded in the play-by-play as "Sudfeld...rush for loss of 4 yards to the FIU 35, fumble by Sudfeld...recovered by IND at FIU 35."

Clearly, Wakefield had sacked Sudfeld, who never gave up his intention to throw. The postgame stats counted this play as a forced fumble, but not a sack or even a tackle for loss. When FIU appealed this to Indiana, the Hoosiers conceded only that this was a tackle for loss.

Anybody in sports media for more than a decade could do six Patron shots on top of two hits of Molly and tell you what happened: a home statistic crew didn't want to tag the offensive line with a sack after the Hoosiers gave up zero sacks the first week against Southern Illinois.

And coaches tend to turn into electron microscopes when going over official stat sheets. Just as FIU's coaches, especially defensive coordinator Matt House and defensive line coach Tem Lukabu, undoubtedly noticed this fib, so would Indiana's offensive line coach make noise if the pass protection lost its clean season sheet when some fudging -- then standing stubborn on that fudging around -- could keep it.





September 16, 2015

Hoop TV & Other Ball Stuff

Is it the return of the beach court? Got an Isaac Hayes complex, something against black coaches with shaved heads? Because Conference USA's announcements of the first televised games feature only one game each for FIU men's and women's basketball.

More TV time will be coming for the Panthers in the 60 (at least) additional games to be shown by the American Sports Network, which means there's a chance they might be shown in Miami as well as Massachusetts.

The Sunday, Jan. 3 still-recovering-from-New-Year's-Eve game between FAU and FIU will be on Fox Sports Neworks at 3 p.m. FSN also gets Rice at FIU on Feb. 25.



Players you won't see this week: wide receivers Shawn Abrams and Juwan Caesar, both of whom were in the Home Depot orange jerseys. And I've been remiss in not reporting sophomore safety Shemarke Spence's broken arm.



September 15, 2015

Men's Soccer & Volleyball On Fleek (Did I Use That Correctly?)



Volleyball -- Thursday vs. Bethune-Cookman, 1 p.m.

Volleyball -- Thursday vs. Central Florida, 7 p.m.

Women's Soccer -- Friday vs. UC-Irvine, 7 p.m.

Volleyball -- Friday vs. Seattle, 7 p.m.

Football -- Saturday vs. North Carolina-Central, 6 p.m.

Volleyball -- Sunday vs. FAU, 1 p.m.

Women's Soccer -- Sunday vs. Florida, 1 p,m.

The men's soccer team took care of an Ivy League quinella over the weekend, dumping Penn and Princeton to stretch their winning streak to four games. The 4-2 Panthers impressed enough folks to move up to just outside the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25, 27th with 29 voting points. FIU's two losses were on the season-opening road trip to No. 3 North Carolina and No. 7 Wake Forest.

On a weekend during which senior Lucia Castro surpassed 1,000 career kills, volleyball won the Stetson Invitational with wins against Stetson (3-2) and Mercer (3-0). Senior Gloria Levorin slammed 19 kills and made 11 blocks for the 6-2 Panthers.

Thursday and Friday's Panther Invite features FIU in three matches over two days, timed perfectly for skipping class or taking in an athletic contest before starting the weekend.


McGough A-Go-Go for Saturday & Other Returns

After practice, FIU coach Ron Turner confirmed the sighting I posted earlier: sophomore quarterback Alex McGough handled the first team reps throughout practice Tuesday and should start Saturday in the home opener against North Carolina-Central.

"By the time we landed (from Bloomington), he was back to the normal Alex," Turner said. "He had a little headache. He went through the concussion protocol, concussion impact and everything was normal."

Returning to the lineup after two games of academic ineligibility will be safety Jordan Davis, adding length, physicality and experience to that position. The last two assets can't be understated. Indiana plowed the row against FIU, North Carolina-Central likes to run the ball and FIU's lack of experience at safety has been exploited each of the first two games.

By the way, last man on the Juggs machine after practice? Junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil.


McGough practicing

Sources in the suite classrooms at La Cage Aux Chats say sophomore quarterback Alex McGough was leading the quarterback reps in drills and taking the first team offense snaps. That leads one to believe McGough will start Saturday against North Carolina-Central.

McGough was blasted and bounced off the turf by Indiana's Marcus Oliver on the climactic fourth down play with 3:58 left in Saturday's 36-22 FIU loss. He remained down until assistance arrived to help him to the sideline. Steps on the safe side of the sideline, he dropped again. Trey Anderson took over for the final two FIU possessions.



September 13, 2015

A few thoughts on Indiana 36, FIU 22

Sophomore quarterback Alex McGough shouldn’t play Saturday against North Carolina-Central.

A strong, gutsy young man took a shot to the head hard enough that he needed to be helped up off the faux Indiana grass and could manage only a few yards to the sideline before going down again for a KO count. I’m not a doctor. I’ve just seen enough concussions over almost three decades of covering collision sports that I don’t always need a three-knockdown rule to believe a guy’s head could use some rest and reset time.

Besides, McGough’s got too much of both blue collar competitiveness and swashbuckler in him to have a seat on his own. If backup Trey Anderson can’t handle North Carolina-Central, that speaks to other problems.

As to the play that ended with McGough’s injury and Jameel Cook's 96-yard touchdown that clinched the game for Indiana similar to the way Indiana product Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception return clinched New Orleans’ 14-point Super Bowl XLIV win over Indianapolis down here in Miami Gardens…bad concept, bad execution.

“We didn’t execute very well,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “We had two plays called. He went to the second one. I think they checked after when we checked. We still had a chance on it…(Indiana) got some penetration, (McGough) couldn’t get the ball off and just tried to make a play.”

McGough checked off, and dutifully rearranged the backfield.

(Digression: McGough was probably making double sure everyone was in the right place when he indicated where the H-back and sophomore running back Alex Gardner should replace themselves. But is it just me or anybody else notice that when the quarterback has to tell a guy where to lineup to start a play, that player rarely seems to get the ball? I’ve always theorized that’s because when guys know they’re among the top options on a play, they keep deep focus on their position relative to the ball at all times.).  

FIU crossed up Indiana on the two-point conversion try after Dennis Turner’s touchdown – essentially a do-or-don’t 3-yard play -- with an inside quick opener to Alex Gardner that was ridiculously open. Maybe going back to that well wouldn’t have been smart, but the cliché rollout pass/run option to the off-hand side when FIU’s pass protection had begun resembling my 33-year-old Flannerhouse 5K road race t-shirt didn’t place anybody in the best position to succeed.

Predictably, McGough got pressured, sacked, tried a desperation throw as he went down and Cook ran it back.

For the three turnovers that handed Indiana 20 points, getting moved aside for 228 yards of what I call Real Rushing (rushing stats with sacks subtracted), here’s how close FIU came to winning Saturday: Wilkenson Myrtil extended to get his hand to break up a post pattern and gave himself a chance at an end zone interception. He couldn’t hold it. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld scrambled for a touchdown the next play when FIU lost containment in the pass rush, one of the few times they did all night against an active quarterback.

On second down before the Pick Six-Concussion, Indiana Dawson Fletcher did an Elongated Man act to get his fingers on McGough’s flick to a wide open Jonnu Smith in the back of the end zone. Fletcher’s alteration caught Smith off guard and the ball glanced off his normally dependable hands. Hey, NHL goalies get beaten by deflections all the time.

Two tough plays. If FIU makes them both, they win. Make one, maybe the game goes to overtime. They made neither and lost.

This isn’t to put the loss on Myrtil and Smith. It’s to show how close victory and defeat live in a game such as Saturday’s.

Had FIU won, the highlights might've on the website might've been a bit thin. Video coordinator Brian Duval, who already has upgraded so much of FIU's in-house production, wasn't brought on the trip. Maybe there wasn't enough room on the charter. If that was the case, they could've left behind a couple of the boosters who clearly don't give enough to keep FIU's athletic department staff from working on a shoestring budget, but act inappropriately enough to be one outburst from getting tossed from the press box Saturday night.

As it turns out, I had a better grasp on this game in our preseason section, when I saw this game as similar to last year’s Pitt game – some big plays out of FIU’s offense, but the Panthers getting pounded down. I was four points off on the score, two too few for Indiana, two too many for FIU.

As FIU linebacker Anthony Wint said, Indiana’s offensive line was stronger overall at the point of attack. FIU’s front four or front seven didn’t play prohibitively worse than against UCF. Their production was worse because this week’s competition, the other side of the equation, possessed more game and physical maturity than last week’s. The Hoosiers go senior, freshman, senior, junior, junior across the front. Not all returning starters and not the best of the Big Ten but four of the five played regularly. That means four guys used to playing big boy Big Ten football.

Also, it didn't help that junior starting middle linebacker Treyvon Williams got benched for the first quarter after missing a meeting.

The Panthers defense hung in there. Excepting the bumping and pawing on the 16-yard bubble screen touchdown, they tackled well and kept giving themselves chances to come up with a drive-stopping play. Indiana’s four longest drives resulted in three field goals and a touchdowns. Most college defensive coaches these days will take that before two donuts.

It helped FIU that Indiana made some strange reads on third and long. FIU’s offense, did, too. As a matter of fact. I’ve never seen a game with so many third and long runs that weren’t draws or option pitches or run out of some ground bound formation such as the Wing-T, single wing or wishbone. And unsuccessful on top of that.

Like UCF, Indiana attacked FIU’s safeties, but they also twice got guys behind cornerback Richard Leonard for big gains. That can’t happen to your best cornerback. That said, it’s far more likely to happen when he needs to move his run support duties up the priority list. Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon nearly opened the scoring with a pick six and got an interception later. Still, I’m envisioning Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty watching both pass defenses in this game with the smiles you see on Tiny and Junior when Big Mama/Abuela starts putting the pork on the table.

Offensively, sophomore wide receiver Thomas Owens showed that he picked up speed, at least football speed, in the offseason. Not even counting his 75-yard touchdown, on which he did a Moses Malone box out on Andre Brown, then dissed not-strong-enough safety Tony Fields with a stiff arm, Owens got behind the secondary a few times. After his 166 yards receiving, fourth most for a single game in FIU history, he said I’d have to ask his teammates how much faster he is. But when you’ve got a big target who can both fight for first downs after the catch and get behind the safety, all kinds of options should flower.

Now, FIU’s got to pick one. FIU opened the game nibbling away at the Hoosiers with three-step drop throws and slant patterns under 10 yards. When the Hoosiers started sitting on the short routes in the second half, the Panthers never seemed to take advantage with pump-and-gos or sluggos. Or, maybe they had them called and the Indiana pass rush flooded the Panthers out of business. They did manage to get a couple of downfield pass interference calls on Indiana cornerback Rashard Fant, who isn’t terribly subtle with the little tugs and holds that are a part of a good corner’s repertoire.

Also, the Panthers wide receivers need to do a better job blocking on those bubble screens. Too many times, a big play got aborted by a block too quickly shed.

I didn’t know what to expect from FIU’s running game because I wasn’t sure what Indiana’s defense would bring. The Panthers didn’t run the ball as well this week, 145 Real Rushing yards on 30 carries, but 38 of that came from Andersen scrambles as he tried to create a Miracle at Memorial.

FIU got too cute in trying to get the ball into freshman Anthony Jones hands. Two inside handoffs? It’s not just about size. Jones is roughly the same size as Alex Gardner. Gardner’s got a running back’s wiggle. Jones brings open field wiggle.

Overall, FIU lost a winnable game. They committed untimely penalties. The quarterback committed three turnovers that led directly to touchdowns (yeah, the blind side sack should also go on tackle Dieugot Joseph’s account, but Joseph did push Nick Mangieri halfway to Bedford before getting falling). They also did several things well, especially considering the caliber of opposition.

They played on even terms with a Big Ten team that might sneak into a bowl game this year. No shame in that. Similar to the Pitt loss last year that got away from them in the fourth quarter, the Panthers just missed an opportunity.

But they’re closer to not missing it.


Cocoa High tight end/quarterback Zach Armour, 6-4, 200, reportedly committed to FIU Sunday.

Here's what he does.


September 12, 2015

Gameday II, 2015: The More You Know...

...the more you know we don't really know anything about the Panthers or the Hoosiers today other than FIU will be wearing white with gold numbers again.

Well, that and if FIU beats IU today in the first of a four-game series, the first two of which will net $800,000 for FIU, the IU athletic department better try to get a refund for the butt-kicking it thought it was buying.


Breaking down FIU vs. Indiana into analyzed pieces feels akin to answering "What's a Hoosier?" Answers abound, all of which seem feasible.

Shootout? Sure. Blowout? Could be, either way. A defensive tug-o-war? Makes sense, although Indiana rarely gets into those with defenses that often reminds me of France -- laissez-faire when not in full retreat.

The only certainty is Indiana home games belong at noon or 1 p.m. Uncomplicated beauty, which the campus and stadium possess, looks best in direct natural afternoon light. By 8 p.m., tonight's kickoff time, the sultry manipulate the shadows to best visual effect and postgame libations should be at full flow.  

As for this Dungeons & Dragons dice roll of a game, the small sample size for each team avails us of just enough knowledge to get into trouble. How much do we make of what we saw last week from the Panthers and Hoosiers?

Excepting pass defense, FIU played so well in so many phases against Central Florida, it's reasonable to wonder if the Panthers can excel that way across the board again, especially the younger players. Young players usually wear inconsistency more consistently than deodorant.

That really points to the offense more so than the defense. Last year, after then-freshman quarterback Alex McGough's heady, efficient turnover-free game against FAU, I picked the Panthers to lose to Texas-San Antonio. Young quarterbacks don't tend to do that two weeks in a row and McGough didn't -- he threw two interceptions, fumbled twice, lost one. Now comes the follow up to another brainy, efficient, turnover-free game. Has he reached the stage where he can do that a second consecutive week?

Sophomore wide receiver Thomas Owens, in his first significant action, caught 10 passes in the first half and showed a fierce competitive streak once he got the ball. Freshman punter Stone Wilson blasted FIU out of trouble. Last week, offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler told me he thought tackle might be the toughest offensive line position to learn now, mentally. Well, FIU started redshirt freshman right Daquan Wilkie at right tackle, and got rewarded when Wilkie did nothing to tarnish an excellent game out of the offensive line overall. This week, he'll likely be spelled by Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas redshirt freshman Kai Absheer. College Game No. 2 and Game No. 1, respectively.

Speaking of first games, this is Start Me Up Saturday for eight Hoosiers suspended for last week's drama after violating team rules during the offseason. What impact does that have on a defense that got flattened and fried like a state fair pork tenderloin by unranked FCS resident Southern Illinois? Starters or not, that just shouldn't happen.

There's only upside to FIU sophomore running back Alex Gardner, sophomore wide receiver Dennis Turner or freshman Anthony Jones getting the ball in the open field. I can see FIU doing that more this week as McGough expertly spreads the ball around again.

Can FIU's defensive front replicate the muscular domination of UCF against a line that's more mature? Defensive line depth helped keep strong bodies in the game against UCF. Saturday, it'll be about keeping fresh legs in the game.

"They try to beat you with speed, get the D-linemen tired," FIU senior defensive end Michael Wakefield said after post-practice sprints designed to prepare for an up-tempo offense. "They try to run bubbles to the outside, stretches to the outside to get everybody tired so they can run simple plays and win." 

FIU coach Ron Turner said his Indiana counterpart Kevin Wilson has "always done a good job of mixing, having balance between the run and the pass. They're not one-dimensional. They can do both very well. They do a great job of mixing up tempo. They can go hurry up. They can slow it down a bit."

Playing the width of the field would seem to favor FIU, although loosening the defense up for 220-pound running back Jordan Howard up the middle The Panthers certainly don't want to let Howard get his shoulders squared and certainly have the speed to string him out. When Howard ran for UAB last year, the Panthers upset the Blazers, yet he still ran for 102 yards on 21 carries. 

Playing Southern Illinois provided Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld a nice tune-up as he comes back from the shoulder injury that ended his 2014 season after six games. The broad gaps downfield Sudfeld exploited for 349 yards passing shouldn't be there, however. His mobility, though lumbering more than sprinting, will cause FIU problems. He'll hit some bootleg passes that take advantage of how fast FIU's linebackers react to directional flow.

The unknowns and variables jump out as if a trigonometry textbook got caught in a books-come-to-life cartoon (i.e. "Book Revue").  I called FIU in my weekly contest with professional handicapper Lee Sterling, but Indiana in the Herald's college football preview. I don't see Indiana working FIU on the ground as heavily as I did when I wrote the latter.

FIU 34, IU 31.

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



September 11, 2015

Athletics Committee Meeting, Fall 2015 Edition

If you find the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meetings as exciting as an Medieval Lit class taught by PriceWaterhouseCoopers middle managers with chest high pants, skip this blog post. I'll have my usual pregame blog post up late Friday night (or Saturday morning depending on how many $5-$6 Central Indiana Long Islands I gulp).

I happen to find these meetings interesting, if for nothing else than they act as truth serums on the department suits and coaches. It's as honest as they'll be in a public forum.

I arrived about 20 minutes late Wednesday -- school dropoff duties and I'm not making my kid cut sleep short for this. Now, if I thought someone might spike the coffee and a toga party broke out with, say, Senior VP for External Relations Sandra Gonzalez-Levy and Committee Chairman Jorge Arrizurieta leading everybody in The Wobble, different story.


I knew that wouldn't happen this morning when I saw the chairman parking seconds after I did. Each of us hustled into the Graham Center Ballroom in time to hear the end of the department report from Athletic Director Pete Garcia.

Then, it was time for the Compliance Update. This used to bring about much shame from Athletics and Compliance and uncomprehending indignation from various board members at the variety of goofups costing FIU money, athletic talent and esteem (people in the business notice).

Hank Harrawood took over in February 2014 and turned Compliance around before leaving this summer. Arrizurieta said Harrawood, now UNC-Charlotte's Director of Compliance, left FIU when his spouse got a job back in his native Carolinas. His replacement, Jessica Reo, said she's two people short in the department, but "all kids are eligible right now" after this round of certification. She also noted she's got blood tethers to the region -- her parents live in Jupiter.

After some yada, yada, yada concerning post graduate placement for student athletes and some billing issues with Baptist Hospital over athlete rehabilitation, we got the closing act: Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment's Senior VP for Collegiate Serivces Mark Donley and Executive VP for Collegiate Services Michael Palisi answering questions from the committee members. The tone of the questions could be summarized as "What are you doing with us, how are you helping us make money and how much control do we have over what you do?"

FIU's outsourced its suite, signage, naming rights, etc, and media rights sales to Van Wagner. Palisi stated that 90 percent of the FBS schools outsource this work. The company pays FIU $550,000 per year plus a percentage of what it sells. Athletics estimates it was making only $400,000 from those streams, so the guarantee alone puts more money in the department's pockets.

The figure FIU and Van Wagner throw out for the deal's worth is $9 million in revenue and savings to FIU over seven years. Palisi called the figure conservative. Under questioning from Kathleen Wilson, Donley estimated 30 percent of the $9 million is savings to FIU in staff costs and 70 percent is actual incoming revenue.

Pete Garcia said the money would go toward satisfying the yearly $900,000 to $1 million cost of attendance nut when FIU starts doing that en masse. 

Donley also promised that the school will be kept fully and continuously apprised of the Van Wager folks' activities on FIU's behalf. "There will be nothing we will do, no sponsorship we will sign that the University does not have complete knowledge of."

The Committee wanted quarterly reports on Van Wagner's doings. 



September 08, 2015

Colimon Out, Everybody Else OK (Probably); Hezel Gets CUSA Love

Senior starting outside linebacker Davison Colimon won't just miss this Saturday's game at Indiana, as stated in the first version of this post. Colimon tore his left pec muscle and will be out for the season, FIU coach Ron Turner said after Tuesday's practice. He suffered the injury on a missed tackle in the fourth quarter of Thursday's win at Central Florida.

Expect senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, who left Thursday's game with a hamstring injury, to return Saturday in Bloomington. FIU ran the ball reasonably well against a very good UCF front, so perhaps that slices some urgency from getting redshirt freshman Kai Absheer back at right tackle. Turner said Absheer will lose the orange injury jersey Wednesday, do his first team drill work in a couple of weeks and should be ready to paly Saturday.


FIU shut out Stetson 3-0 without allowing a shot on goal and beat Fairfield 2-1 Thursday. For his role in the wins, FIU defender Marvin Hezel was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday.


September 07, 2015

Starters & Subs

FIU's depth chart for this week's game at Indiana has senior outside linebacker Davison Colimon (shoulder) and senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon (hamstring) starting despite the injuries that took them out Thursday. No surprise.

McKinnon should be fine with the extended time off before Saturday. Colimon's the bigger question and unless he's out for the season, FIU won't flip that card over this early in the week.

Indiana, as many FIU fans probably saw Saturday, played a cosmopolitan defense in Saturday's 48-47 win against FCS foe Southern Illinois -- reading Cosmo while sucking down cosmos instead of reading their keys and sucking it up in the absence of several starters. Monday, Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson talked about the nine players who didn't take the field.

"I want to quickly address, not in a bad way, but after the game the comments of nine guys suspended. We had nine guys not available. If they were suspended they wouldn't have dressed, they wouldn't have traveled. They weren't allowed to play in the game. Our decision. Our program has standards we live up to. And when you miss the game, you miss the next game.

"So if you're a redshirt last year, couldn't play last year, that might have happened 18 months ago. When is your next game? Because you missed the next game. Something happens tonight, you'll miss Saturday. So you miss the next game.

"So nothing's happened in the last week, month, two months. There's no issues. Say again, there are no issues with these guys. They're kids. There are issues 'cause they're kids, but there's phenomenal buy-in. They know the lay of the land. They know where they're at. They're doing a great job. We moved forward this summer as a family. It's the best group we've had."

Wilson said that's all he wanted to say about that. Then, he said some more: "Pay for a guy to go to summer school, doesn't got to class and fails it, what do you do? You got a guy missing morning workouts in the spring, what do you do? Guy fumbles the ball in a game, Tevin Coleman, what do you do? We have standards we stay by. If you don't hold your standards, there's certain penalties that come with standards. You can over-read into it. Those guys weren't allowed to play. We'll see if they are this week."

That should make FIU fans feel great. After all, if long ago acts brought on the benchings, then surely Wilson gave the players he knew would play the greater reps throughout training camp. That's what FIU's Ron Turner did with cornerback Richard Leonard and wide receiver Glenn Coleman two years ago and safety Jordan Davis, academically ineligible for the first two games, this year.

Indiana's backups who started didn't find out when they arrived at the stadium on Saturday. They've known. They've practiced. An Power Five conference team's well-drilled subs shouldn't drag a defense down that badly against an FCS light-heavyweight. That means you're just not good. Monday evening, Wilson issued a statement that eight of the nine were eligible to return Saturday..


September 06, 2015

Opening Line & Other Footy Things


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Penn, 7 p.m.

Women's soccer -- Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Men's soccer -- Saturday vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.

The opening lines, out of Vegas and the offshore sites, installed FIU as a 7.5-point underdog to Indiana. The Hoosiers struggled to beat FCS foe Southern Illinois at home after game-time suspensions of nine players, most of them on defense.

Still, that seems a strangely large line for favoring IU or putting FIU as an underdog.

As I watched the replay of Thursday's game, I realize forgot to address the two-point conversions in the postgame blog.

The second two-point conversion try, well, yeah -- 15-14 to 16-14, so what? You still lose on a field goal and you're a touchdown behind if you give up a touchdown. Might as well go for 17-14.

As for the first, during the game, I thought, "Oooo, just take the point." Later, though, the logic came clear. It wasn't about momentum, but math and cold-eyed reality.

After Alex Gardner's 7-yard run pulled FIU to 14-9, each team had allowed one real touchdown drive in two-plus quarters. UCF got a quick, 26-yard touchdown drive off the Alex Gardner fumble. You should hope you'll reach the end zone again. You can believe you'll reach the end zone again. But you have to know there's a decent probability you won't reach the end zone again.

A customary conversion still leaves FIU needing a touchdown to avoid defeat. Getting two would've left FIU just a field goal short of tying the game. The two teams allowed only one more score, as it turned out (that it was an FIU touchdown is immaterial -- we're talking about what the coaching staff knows at that moment in the third quarter).

Going for two at 14-9 describes greedy if you're in the first half of a game where points flow at a normal pace. But in the situation facing FIU, the Panthers made a smart move.

Alex Lamars, a National Weather Service meteorologist, updated his College Football Climatology for 2015.  

The two FBS schools in Miami-Dade County tie for second in Average Rainfall from September to November and fifth in Most Rainy Days from September to November. To find the leader in both those categories you have to go all the way FAU.



After two almosts in ACC country last weekend, the men's soccer team rebounded with two wins this weekend. Sunday, FIU went over to Deland and put DeFoot into Stetson's DeBooty 3-0. Brad Fountain, Santiago Patino, who assisted on Fountain's goal, and Jamar Campion-Hinds scored for the 2-2 Panthers

The women (2-3) got it done late again. Madlen Weinhardt, who assisted on the overtime game-winner in the season opener, struck in the 81st minute to give FIU a 1-0 win against Miami of Ohio.


Will Indiana Get What It Bought?


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Penn, 7 p.m.

Women's soccer -- Friday vs. North Florida, 7 p.m.

Men's soccer -- Saturday vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.

Not sure how much more motivation FIU needs for this Saturday's shot at perennial B1G bottom Indiana beyond a shot at 2-0...but this. Yeah.

Summary: IU paid to dump South Florida and add FIU so the Hoosiers could have an easier non-conference schedule. Clearly, Indiana athletic department and football program saw FIU as college-affiliated football version of a paid sub, a consonant better than the Hoosiers' season-opening FCS foe Southern Illinois.


Former FIU defensive tackles Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane, now an offensive guard, were among Minnesota's final cuts Saturday. Faciane got signed to the Vikings practice squad for the second consecutive season.



September 04, 2015

A few thoughts on FIU 15, UCF 14

A nod to the FIU male futbol bunch, 2-1 winners over Fairfield in almost as dramatic fashion as the pigskin guys won in up in Orlando. Speaking of which...

About a half hour after sophomore quarterback Alex McGough kidded teammate Thomas Owens that he owed him $5 for leaving Owens one reception short of T.Y. Hilton's single game FIU record and the Instagram timelines filled with selfies and Herald's Al Diaz shots of celebration, it struck me ironic:

What the Panthers celebrated like boys was maturity.

As much as two teams can in Week 1 college-affiliated football, FIU and UCF played a grown man football game.

There was a good atmosphere. Despite a steamy, sunny early evening, UCF's students grabbed their church-style hand fans, filled the student section and fulfilled their nickname for Bright House Networks Stadium ("The Bounce House"). The stadium wasn't packed, but rocked (literally) -- the normal-size press box swayed like the press box at Hialeah's Milander Park used to during rivalry games there.

Down on the field, the two teams crashed their way through the kind of game expected. This wasn't Gwen Cherry Park 7-on-7 with thigh pads, fat scoring summaries and backups putting up 100 yards rushing or receiving. UCF had four significant offensive possessions: a short-field touchdown drive, a regular-length touchdown drive, a failed fourth down at the FIU 20 and a blocked field goal off a two-minute drill. FIU had four significant offensive possessions: touchdown drives of 80 and 82 yards, a 76-yard drive to a field goal and a badly missed field goal off a two-minute drill before halftime.

(By the way, dumb call by George O'Leary on that fourth and 1 from the FIU 20 with the Knights up 14-9 in the third quarter. A low-scoring game, FIU's punked your run all night and you don't go for a 37-yard field goal to go up a touchdown and two-point conversion? Now, I think any UCF fan screaming for O'Leary's head after where that program was before he got there and what they've done the last five seasons can be considered too childish to live independently. But that decision seemed stupid macho, football's version of thinking with the lower head instead of the upper one.)

People hit. Most got up. A few got hurt. FIU senior linebacker Davison Colimon suffered a shoulder injury of undetermined seriousness. Senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon suffered a hamstring injury that has over a week to heal before FIU takes the Memorial Stadium field at Indiana.

But where FIU showed maturity not in the winning, but in the how.

The Panthers won without getting turnovers by the peck. Longtime readers here can probably say the next two sentences by heart after an Amsterdam afternoon. In the five wins under Ron Turner, here's the turnover numbers: four, six, six, four, five. And all four wins last year included a defensive touchdown. Exciting though that is, that's like living off Pick 4 and Cash 3 winnings instead of having a regular job. Thursday? No turnovers. The closest they came to getting one might've been the first drive of the game, when junior safety Wilkenson Myrtil jumped a route to the wide side of the field after UCF quarterback Justin Holman's pass took too long at launch. Myrtil dropped a pick six. UCF linemen recovered the strip sacks by senior defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine.

FIU just played sound defense, especially against the run and eventually against the pass. So many UCF runs seemed to get disrupted before they started. Wakefield, senior defensive tackle Darrian Dyson and sophomore linebacker Anthony Wint seemed to mess things up consistently. Junior linebacker Treyvon Williams made a game-high 11 tackles. As O'Leary admitted afterwards, the Panthers front seven got tremendous penetration in the gaps and really didn't get moved. No push, no lane, no go. Take out the two sacks and UCF ran for 60 yards on 28 carries, a picayune 2.14 yards per carry.

FIU stopped UCF three times on third or fourth down runs when UCF needed two yards or less. When UCF called what looked like a delayed quarterback draw on third and 2 in the third quarter, it was an acknowledgement to FIU from UCF: your line of scrimmage. We'll do something else.

The first of those stops might've been the most important in the game. Down 14-3 after consecutive UCF touchdown drives, FIU went three and out. UCF got the ball at its own 35 and FIU needed a stop like Miami needs coladas at 4 p.m. On third and 2, 5-10, 217-pound Dontravious Wilson tried the middle. Williams led the stuffing. Bupkiss. UCF punted.

Once McKinnon went out, UCF put the T-Buck Target on his replacements. Earlier, the Knights attacked the only starters lacking significant collegiate game experience at their position, FIU's safeties. UCF's enormous 6-3, 237-pound Jordan Akins beat Myrtil, who slipped for his first touchdown. Akins beat sophomore Niko Gonzalez for a 20-yard gain the next drive, setting up a 33-yard touchdown catch over the middle and behind the linebackers. Akins ended with nine catches for 109 yards, but only three for 41 in the second half.

On offense, nobody showed more maturity than McGough. The numbers -- 29 of 38 for 260 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, four runs for 12 yards -- don't tell all that he showed.

UCF's line got pressure on him consistently. Only once did McGough possibly hold on to the ball too long. Few throws, maybe two, looked as if he disobeyed the "if it don't fit, don't force it" maxim that applies to many life situations. He smartly threw the ball away at least three times. No interceptions, as mentioned, and no sacks taken.

The two big completions on FIU's second touchdown drive, 47 yards to Ya'Keem Griner and 23 yards to running back Alex Gardner, were adjustments. McGough said his first read on the Griner completion was wide receiver Dennis Turner, but as he stepped up on the rollout, he saw Griner come open downfield. The Gardner play was a check down dump off to a favorable matchup, Gardner on a linebacker.

 Throughout the first half, McGough saw UCF's corners playing softly against Owens. He took what the defense gave to the tune of 10 completions to Owens for 70 yards. Maturity. 

In his first game since the season-ending shoulder injury, Gardner looked like he'd been waiting to burst for 10 months. His 27-yard running essay with a first quarter screen pass, on which he broke lienbacker Chequan Burkett's tackle and put a Michael Jackson spin move on safety Drico Johnson, will be a film room favorite. Had Gardner not getting slightly tripped going through the hole on the next possession, he'd have had an 89-yard touchdown run. Instead, a frantically recovering Burkett had time to punch the ball out. FIU will take Gardner's 149 yards receiving and rushing out of its lead running back any day.

In this grown up game, the Panthers got contributions from kids. Redshirt freshman right tackle Daquane Willkie started. Freshman Anthony Jones showed why some other schools made belated attempts to recruit him. Jones zoomed to a 26-yard run off a pitch and his almost Sanders-esque bobbing elusiveness got 15 yards out of a hitch pass. Freshman punter Stone Wilson averaged 47.7 yards per punt to redshirt junior Chris Ayers' 42.0.

FIU spent the first half getting the ball a DisneyWorld monorail ride from the UCF end zone. Turner said when they went in at halftime, nobody freaked. They figured things could be worse than 14-3 after a half with no field position and down one turnover on the road. What did they do with the second half opening kickoff? Moved 82 yards to a touchdown in a drive that included the two Jones' touches. Maturity.

Nobody plays a perfect game. FIU didn't just fail to close out the game with proper execution of the four-minute offense, the Panthers did the worst thing possible, three-and-out. On the unsuccessful third and 1, they gave the ball to Gardner instead of the more bullish Anthon Samuel. Turner said Samuel was fine, he was just going with the hot back. The timeout usage at the end as UCF moved into field goal range, especially after Jordan Guest's personal foul for a late helmet-to-helmet spear on a sliding Justin Holman? Late. Like, Miami time late. By the time FIU started to call timeouts, too little clock remained to give FIU any decent possession time had UCF scored.

So what? FIU played a good game on the road in a season opener against a talented, young UCF team (rather see the Knights now than in November). The Panthers justified the confidence they've had in themselves by doing things well they previously did poorly or erratically.

The next part of maturity? Consistency.


September 03, 2015

GameDay I, 2015: Relatively New Schools Going Old School


Men's soccer -- Thursday vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.

The best part about the premiere of the 2015 FIU football season up near Wally World East (other than it's, you know, football with meaning): fast game. Football efficiently delivered.

Your Thursday night won't be obliterated by a game bloating into a miniseries, like many college-affiliated football contests these days. The expected strength of each offense lies in the running game. Each defense seems to have the matchup advantage. That translates into few clock-pausing incompletions or first downs.

That also means the total points might be as few as the schools' enrollments are many. The low score should fence the tension in this game and elevate the worth of each snap. I realize that thumbs the nose at the conventional assumption that offense=excitement. Too often in modern college-affiliated football, games turn into Frat Field Trip on Okeechobee Road. Everybody scores, cheap. 

Back in 1980, as NFL teams responded to the 1978 rules changes about downfield contact by flowing toward the pass the way current newspaper readers flow to mobile devices, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman testified for the beauty in defensive tug-of-wars. In writing about the regular season game between Philadelphia and Oakland and advancing the Super Bowl between the same teams, he criticized the 42-35 shootouts as containing so many big plays none truly were big. He hailed the low-scoring duels in which an 86-yard touchdown pass counted as a crushing overhand right, not just a quick hook in the middle of a flurry. Teenage me understood Dr. Z's reasoning. I couldn't let myself agree with it. I'm with him now. I wish he could still be with us in full.

That reminds me, what'll come together first? FIU's ability to push the ball downfield or UCF's ability to cover it? FIU's breaking in a group of wideouts with little experience and less production. UCF's breaking in a new secondary.

At first, I liked FIU to hit an Alley Oop or two to 6-1 Thomas Owens -- big, good body position, leaping ability and hands. But six of the eight Knights defensive backs on their two-deep list at 6-foot or over and the other two list at 5-11. So maybe as likely as Owens outjumping guys of similar height and athletic ability, is flyguy wide receiver Dennis Turner racing free through some miscommunication or getting single coverage when a safety blows his help responsibilities.

FIU coach Ron Turner says UCF makes you earn everything. But that's past UCF, not this UCF. As a longtime offensive coach, Turner should have enough funky arrows in his quiver to confuse the young ones. Then, it's a matter of McGough throwing with Green Arrow accuracy.

In retrospect, not redshirting Turner last year was a mistake. Nobody argues FIU needed what the coaches hoped Turner could inject. Unfortunately, you combine a nice true freshman deep threat wide receiver with a nice true freshman quarterback and you get results that don't look so nice. One or both make physical mistakes or mistakes of inexperience on called long balls. And that's when the quarterback's not getting bounced off the turf. It's no accident McGough's longest connections downfield -- I'm not talking about catch-and-runs -- went to then-senior Glenn Coleman. Having frogs at both ends of the bomb begs for dud.

Junior tight end Jonnu Smith will give his usual. five to eight catches for 60-100 yards, maybe a touchdown. 

I don't feel great that FIU didn't get its offensive line really figured out. That's not a criticism -- what can you do when injuries turn line composition into playing with a Rubik's Cube? Thursday, it could turn into Rubik's Grenade. Even with UCF losing senior defensive tackle Demetris Anderson to a season-ending injury, that's a line with the defensive ends returning and some depth. No. 69, senior defensive end Thomas Niles, will be a problem for FIU. Now, if FIU can get its blockers and runners to the second level, UCF's callow at linebacker. 

UCF coach George O'Leary can talk about how much he likes his young receivers' physical abilities. Does he like them vs. FIU's secondary, corners Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon, safeties Wilkenson Myrtil and Niko Gonzalez? Gonzalez is the only player among the defensive starters who didn't start at least two games last year. Does O'Leary like his new tackles against FIU defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine? Scout team to Perine or Wakefield is a medium-building-in-a-single-bound leap for redshirt freshman right tackle Luke Palmer.

Those matchups and having a former offensive line coach, Brent Key, as offensive coordinator say UCF's going to challenge FIU to put its man pants on as the Knights try to buffalo their way down the field on the hump of running back William Stanback (no relation to Haskel). A Florida humid night in the 80s says try to wear down the smaller, faster defense.

(Back to FIU with the ball for a moment...I'd run some hurry up stuff, just to watch that secondary scramble to figure out what's what.)

Also, I'm sure UCF knows this number almost as well as Panthers fans. FIU's five wins under Ron Turner featured 25 turnovers gained, spread rather equitably: four, six, six, four, five. Junior UCF quarterback Justin Holman threw 14 interceptions last year with a veteran receiving corps. Now, he's throwing to newbies with FIU's ball vultures circling in wait of a mistake they can take to the house. Where's that off tackle play? 

UCF's got a redshirt freshman kicker and a new starting long snapper. FIU's got Richard Leonard. Give that round to FIU, 10-8 (we score on the 10-point-must system here). I'm feeling some cheap points from field position there.

In the preseason section, I went with UCF 21-10. I still see them getting off to a better start than FIU, maybe 10-0. The Panthers break a big play or two to get back in it. I don't see consistent movement from either team. The bettors don't either -- the line's dropped from UCF by 17 to UCF by 13 with an over-under of 45 to 46. Good hitting, though. 

I'll say UCF 21, FIU 17.

That's one melanin-heavy man's opinion. I could be wrong.


As I Tweeted earlier today, I meant to put this on the previous In/Out post and even thought about flippantly including the participants with the players, but...the FIU radio broadcast team will be Mike Levine going play-by-play and FIU's only bowl game starting quarterback, Wesley Carroll, on color.

Pete Pelegrin, who did the radio job solo in 2013 and was Levine's color man last year, will be handling other media relations duties during the game. Pelegrin's knowledge of the breadth of FIU's football history will be missed on the broadcast.


September 01, 2015

Who's In, Who's Out

For Thursday's American football game between FIU and UCF.

In: Trenton Saunders at right guard. Redshirt freshman Daquane Willkie backing up the tackle positions. All is right with senior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon.

Out: Safety Jordan Davis, academically ineligible for the first two games. Redshirt freshman tackle Kai Absheer. His hoped for return is next week, against Indiana. Sophomore wide receiver Shawn Abrams, out for four or five weeks. Senior wide receiver Juwan Caesar should be back by the home opener against North Carolina Central.

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