November 14, 2014

C-USA Media BBall poll: LA Tech No. 1, FIU No. 11

The preseason men's basketball poll of the newly formed Conference USA Media Association -- I'm a member but didn't vote -- ranks FIU 11th in the conference. We don't know how that compares to the Conference USA preseason coaches poll. C-USA released only the top four in the poll. Not sure if it's a self-esteem thing or what.

Anyway, my peers agreed with the conference coaches in putting Louisiana Tech as the clear favorite and LA Tech's 6-3 senior point guard, Kenneth "Speedy" Smith, as the preseason Player of the Year.

 First Team

Kenneth Smith, LA Tech, 6-3 senior point guard

Julian Washburn, UTEP, 6-8 senior guard/forward

Pierria Henry, Charlotte, 6-5 senior point guard

Vince Hunter, UTEP, 6-8 sophomore forward

Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech, 6-4 senior guard

Second Team

George Fant, Western Kentucky, 6-6 senior forward

Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech, 6-4 senior guard

T.J. Price, Western Kentucky, 6-4 senior guard

Jordan Williams, North Texas, 6-6 senior guard

C.J. Washington, UAB, 6-8 senior forward

Willie Clayton, Charlotte, 6-8 junior forward


November 13, 2014

Survey Down; Scalia Up (Again)

The survey asking fans, alumni, students and faculty why they weren't coming to games has been taken down from the FIU Alumni Association site.

According to an FIU source, Athletics asked someone at the Alumni Association to put up the survey and that person did so despite lacking the authority to do so.

Alumni Association President Frank Pena said he thought a survey properly timed, after the athletic/academic year finished, would be a good idea.


Sorry I didn't get this up previously, but freshman Silvia Scalia received her second Conference USA Swimmer of the Week honor for Nov. 3-9. She set a Biscayne Bay campus pool record, third best in FIU history, of 1:58.77 in the 200 backstroke and was on the victorious 200 medley relay as FIU whipped Illinois State. 

Related articles

November 12, 2014

FIU Athletics Wants Answers! They Want The Truth!

Can they handle the truth?

The Athletics Department, through the Alumni Association, has put out an online survey to find out why students, alumni, faculty and staff generally avoid FIU athletic events the way South Florida politics avoids honesty.

From the page hyperlinked to above: "In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in attendance at many of our collegiate sporting competitions – including football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball (sand and arena), swimming and tennis – despite recent successes in many of these programs. It is our hope that your input will help us to identify the causes of this decrease in fan participation as well as to assist us in finding ways to mitigate and reverse this trend."

Give them credit for reaching out. I'd love to see the responses.



November 11, 2014

XY Soccer: 2 All-CUSA, 1 All-Freshman; Why No Perk Up at ODU

Senior forward Quentin Albrecht ended his FIU career on the upswing, though the team didn't make the Conference USA tournament: Third Team All-Conference USA his freshman year, Second Team All-CUSA as a sophomore and junior, First Team as a senior after an eight goal, two assist season.

Junior midfielder Daniel Gonzalez (two goals, five assists) made the Third Team and redshirt freshman midfielder Donald Tomlinson (two goals, one assists) was named to the All-Freshman team.


Going against an experienced multi-faceted offense with point totals that resemble Super Bowl ratings, you'd kind of want good health for the very physical strong safety you consider a team leader. Alas, FIU plsyed the whole same Saturday without fifth-year senior Demarkus Perkins. Junior Jordan Davis played strong safety with Richard Leonard moonlighting at free safety.

"He had a quad contusion," FIU coach Ron Turner said. "We were hoping he was going to be able to go, thought he was going to be able to go. He didn't do much in practice, we knew we weren't going to start him, but we were hoping he'd be able to go. Doctors thought he would be able to go. But, he couldn't. He should be fine this week."

All FIU's ouches from Saturday's game -- center Donald Senat, left tackle Dieugot Joseph -- apppear to have been healed.

November 10, 2014

Just One More Thing...


Just thought of this, but...

It would've been nice if some of the coaches or higher up suits in the FIU football contingent had gone over to Old Dominion's soccer field or taken some of the players to show support for FIU's men's soccer team in its season finale Friday night. The football charter arrived soon enough. FIU's athletes often show solidarity with one another. It would be cool if the post-college adults would show a little love, too, even off a disappointing season.

If that sounds wacky, consider that two years ago, Mario Cristobal planned for the football team to go en masse to the FIU-Middle Tennessee State women's soccer Sun Belt tournament game at South Alabama. The Panthers' charter plane managed to get to Mobile late enough to make that impossible.


November 09, 2014

A few thoughts on Old Dominion 38, FIU 35

FIU coach Ron Turner ducked out of the early evening chill into the S.B. Ballard Stadium alcove used for postgame media bringing enough steam to cook an entire bag of green beans. Definitely not in "ho ho ho" mode.

Hopefully, Turner reserved some of the boiling stuff for himself. Everybody played a part in the second loss of the season (with Texas-San Antonio) that the Panthers will remember when they're home for the holidays and somebody else is in the Bahamas on Christmas Eve.

I logically opened by asking about freshman quarterback's Alex McGough's reckless attempt to alchemize a sack into a gain, which turned into the interception that turned into ODU's game-winning field goal. I asked if that's something you have to expect sometimes when you've got a young quarterback. Turner quickly made sure I knew that play didn't lose the game and other things happened to drive FIU down the losing path.

"It's not one play. It's not one play, believe me, believe me," Turner said. "It's not one play. That play was not the game. We had other opportunities."

I think Turner was being protective of McGough. Expected and fine. By comparison, after the similar loss to UTSA, Turner referred to running back Alex Gardner's third quarter fumble on the UTSA 1-yard line three times, prompted only once by a question and not a question directly about that play. But Gardner's a running back. Show me a coach who worries about his running back's mindset as much as his quarterback's and I'll show you a coach selling insurance or real estate.

Later, in talking about McGough's overall play, Turner did say, "Alex did some good things. We didn't ask him to do a lot as far as throwing the ball, but he did a really good job of handling the run game, getting us in and out of the proper plays that we wanted. Did a nice job. Obviously, the last one, he'd like to have that back. We'd all like to have that back. He's just a young guy trying to make a play..."

Exactly the point of my original question. 

Turner aggressively corrected me when I asked about not being able to run more clock on the previous two possessions when up 35-28.

"We were trying to get first downs. We did what we did all game long, which was running the ball. We felt that was the best opportunity. We were trying to get first downs and score some more. We had to score. If we were running the clock out, we would've gone to two tights and just pound the ball. We continued to run our game plan. And we didn't get it done. We had no thoughts about running the clock out. We had thoughts about getting first downs and scoring points because these guys are very good on offense."

No. 1: I was referring to better running what they call in the NFL "the four-minute offense." OK, FIU had 5:53 when they got the ball, but the same principles apply. Run properly, the four-minute offense chews clock while picking up a few first downs and forcing the opponent to use timeouts. It's not as easy to do in college with the clock stopping after first downs to move the chains, but FIU already showed it could move down the field in bite size pieces. The first drive of the game, 80 yards, took 8:19 off the clock.

No. 2: I know this is playing the result a bit, but exactly what would've been wrong with going double tight end, one wideout-I formation or two wideouts-one back and bludgeoning Old Dominion to death?

FIU's game plan all day -- as good as it was obvious, mind you -- came straight from Big Two, Little Eight, Woody Hayes-Bo Schembechler Ten Years' War Era: work the ground game, mix in the occasional throw to keep the secondary from creeping, maybe catch them peeking (into the backfield). Add terrible artificial turf and it's 80 percent of the college football games I watched in the 1970s.

The Panthers exhausted a defense that got punked when it was fresh. Anthon Samuel, who alpha male'd his way through half the Monarchs defense on his fourth quarter 26-yard TD run, said he thought FIU had worn Old D down. Despite being down center Donald Senat and left tackle Dieugot Joseph, the offensive line started to dominate Old Dominion, both on the flanks and up the middle, or at least control them enough. The wide receivers blocked beautifully downfield (Glenn Coleman's done a very good job of that).

The Panthers prepared Old Dominion's defense to be crushed. So why not crush them? Line up in a power formation against a weary, weak side and say "We're moving you or moving over you -- your choice." Everybody figured on FIU staying on the ground anyway. Heck, in for a penny, in for a pound. That even better sets up a play action mid-range throw or bomb, something McGough sells well with his ball-handling (such an underrated skill). If you're trying to score, then try to score.

Instead, Napoleon Maxwell got one carry, stoned for 1 yard. McGough kept on an option, which figured if the Panthers wanted to keep running the option as the Monarchs started going all out for the running back on those plays. He fumbled and wide receiver Clinton Taylor made his best play of the season by outfighting several for the recovery. On third and 5, Old D looked for a draw or screen and wound up body slamming Maxwell on a middle screen. FIU could've run a bootleg pass to Jonnu Smith or Akil Dan-Fodio (if not open, McGough keeps it), gone downfield off play action, power run, anything except deception that failed to deceive.

The next possession, went thusly: Samuel got stacked up sweeping left, tries to reverse field to the right and loses 4. OK, it happens. McGough, who looked gimpy after taking a hit on the Maxwell screen, keeps for 9. Third and 5 again. They ran Taylor in motion similar to the wide receiver sweep that worked for the 2-point conversion. McGough faked it to Taylor and carried for 3. No more Samuel, not even faking it to him on the third down. Old No D might've bought that better than they bought the fake to Taylor, which they looked at like a used Yugo.

The whole fourth quarter seemed like a blown opportunity after FIU had scored on five consecutive drives. You could include one of those drives, the field goal that put FIU ahead 27-21 with 3:00 left in the third, as another missed opportunity.

The first turnover FIU's gotten since Richard Leonard's second quarter interception against Marshall was a fumble scooped up by Leonard (of course). First, junior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon, as part of his eventful evening, bumped into Leonard on the fumble return and unintentionally assisted with the tackle. Two rushes. Third and 6, McGough scrambled for no gain. Here was the receiver grouping on the field: T.J. Lowder, Clinton Taylor, Fred Porter. A chance to go up two scores and no Glenn Coleman? Not another big receiver besides Porter?

Defensively, FIU looked lost until the second half, their heads clouded by Old Dominion's multi-faceted scheme run with such aplomb by quarterback Taylor Heinicke. A nice passer, I found Heinicke's mobility to be more impressive. He's not fast, but terribly elusive. Ask FIU defensive end Michael Wakefield. Wakefield found himself staring down Heinicke in the open field like a father catching his daughter's boyfriend sneaking out of his house at 2 a.m. Sack, right? Maybe no gain. Heinicke gave Wakefield a little lazy leg and left the Panthers' sacks leader reaching at air. 17-yard gain. Wakefield seemed to linger a little longer than usual after hitting Heinicke on the next play.

You won't see a 1-yard touchdown pass with more athletic skill at both ends than Heinicke's toss to Zach Pascal in the third quarter. Heinicke rolled out with the pass-run option. FIU safety Jordan Davis got in Heinicke's path to the end zone and his length cut his vulnerability to Heinicke's slick wiggles. Just as Davis touched Heinicke with the sideline there as help, the quarterback backed up the right sideline and lobbed a ball to the back of the end zone. Pascal scraped the sky for the ball and tapped a foot inbounds. Originally ruled incomplete, the call was changed on replay.

McKinnon defended on that play and on Pascal's later dazzling catch to the FIU 6 two plays before the game-winning field goal. He made two nice pass breakups against Pascal earlier on goal-to-go plays from the 7, swatting away a slant and an out route. He also got the last of the five pass interference calls that vexed FIU's cornerbacks throughout the game and flounced so in reaction that Leonard went over to calm him.

Former FIU wide receiver Nick England caught one pass for 11 yards for the Monarchs, an important gain that changed third and 14 from the FIU 43 to fourth and 3 from the 32 on the drive to the game-tying touchdown. Both late Old Dominion fourth downs, a running back sat wide open on the sideline. On that same sideline, ODU didn't cover Maxwell on his 57-yard touchdown. I didn't mind FIU bringing the company so many times late in the game but leaving running back Gerard Johnson so wide open on fourth and 3 late in the 10th game of the season speaks of sloppiness at a couple of levels.

"In the first half, we made way too many mistakes defensively," Turner said. "We had them back on the 1 yard line. They've got a third and 8 (actually, third and 3) from the 7, 8, whatever it is, and we line up in teh neutral zone, give them a first down. They go down and score on that drive.

"We had another two times where we had third and 13, third and 14," Turner continued. "(Heinicke) scrambles and gets the first down. We were undisciplined in our rush lanes. Guys weren't where they were supposed to be. They didn't make mistakes, we did. We're not going to win until we get that stuff corrected."

The third and 3 to which he referred was one of three snaps that resulted in offsetting penalties (it should've been four -- two plays after McKinnon's second PI, the Monarchs got called for holding while FIU senior corner Randy Harvey treated wide receiver Antonio Vaughan the way Mongo Santamaria did bongos.). Anyway, the Turner-mentioned third down was a 6-yard pass wiped out by offsetting penalties, the customary FIU offsides and an ODU hold.

As I said in the pregame blog, by this point in the season, those pre-snap penalties reflect on both the coaching staff and the players. 

As does this loss. 

November 08, 2014

Gameday X: Youth and the Old

I'll get to Saturday's Former Sunblazers-Current Monarchs in football in a minute. First, FIU vs. Old Dominion footballers on the pitch Friday night.

Let's put aside that FIU lost 3-2 on a penalty kick golden goal by Sidney Rivera in the 104th minute after FIU senior Quentin Albrecht tied his last college game on a shot from maybe 4 yards inside the area in the 86th minute. FIU ends the season 6-9-1, 2-6 in Conference USA. Here's what I saw:

A school with similar soccer history to FIU's and an undergraduate enrollment of just under 20,000 playing in a this-century retro brick soccer stadium drawing several hundred fans covered in hats, gloves, scarves and blankets (my fingers are still thawing from being ungloved for occasional Tweets from the game). OK, Senior Night might've helped the crowd, but it's not exactly senior sayonara for Old Dominion. Next week's Conference USA tournament is on their home turf.

The apparent multi-level support -- economic, administrative, fan -- for that program should not outstrip FIU's to such an embarrassing degree. There's no excuse for it. Just as there's no reason Old Dominion, at $37 million, should have an athletic budget almost 50 percent larger than FIU's.

When I heard rumors FIU might host next year's men's or women's conference tournament, I wondered "How? Where? Did FIU show the conference pictures of Barry's place (University, not Jackson) or Little Haiti Soccer Park?" And how does a Division II school and a rundown neighborhood in one of the worst run major cities have superior soccer facilities to a massive school's athletic department gorging annually on all-you-can-eat student fees?

Maybe I'm smoking about this just because my body's still looking for any form of heat. By the way, some of you have asked about evaluations of executive director or sports and entertainment Pete Garcia. This was the most recent one, according to a records request response from FIU Download President to PG.

FIU's got a low flow money shower paralleled by its low flow offense. The latter should be helped today by facing an Old Dominion's Yard Sale defense -- show up, take what you want, including this yard, that yard, 10 yards, the whole development. The Monarchs give up 233.1 rushing yards per game, 485.8 yards per game and 40.7 points per game. They're like the prom date everybody wanted.

Still, FIU coach Ron Turner said, “If we get in a shootout with them, we have no chance. We have to play our game. And play within us. We’re not a get-in-a-shootout type offense. Obviously.”

And, obviously, Old Dominion knows this. The Monarchs know if you take away the tight ends, especially sophomore tight end Jonnu Smith, the Panthers lose their fizz aside from the occasional bomb to Glenn Coleman. FIU wants to pound it with Anthon Samuel and Napoleon Maxwell and keep Old Dominion senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke (pronounced like you're not going to pay a lot for this muffler) on the sideline, chilling in the late afternoon breeze.

To do this successfully, FIU must avoid its knack for the pre-snap boo-boo that turns the Panthers offense into a cha-cha dance -- two steps forward, one step back, 7 yards forward, 5 yards back -- and puts them in long yardage situations on second and third down. It's a demerit on the analysis sheets for both players and coaches that this remains a problem this deep into the season. It speaks to discipline. John Madden, who coached the legendarily rambunctious 1970s Raiders, used to always say he didn't define a disciplined player by whether he dressed cleanly, said "sir" and "ma'am," and made curfew. If he jumped the snap on third and short, he was an undisciplined player.

Speaking of discipline, after last week's 31-17 loss to Rice, Turner clearly was fuming about some aspect of team discipline. He didn't name names, but junior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon got stapled to the bench after nobody covered James Mayden up the seam on his 69-yard touchdown catch.

“Just didn’t have a great week of preparation. He knew he didn’t," FIU defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said. "We gave up the deep one, which was one we covered all along. And we just felt some fo the other guys were playing a little bit better at the time. (Freshman Shemarke) Spence can cover and he did a pretty decent job covering the big guy (Rice's Jordan Taylor) until the end there. He can cover guys in the slot. We’ll use some different matchups this week. Jeremiah’s ready to go. We had a great talk. We’ve got to have those guys play well and use their matchups.

"I thought Wilkenson Myrtil played a really good game, solid game, physical on the perimeter, which was good to see."

Heinicke's top three receivers, Antonio Vaughan, Zach Pascal and David Washington, have 42, 45 and 30 catches, respectively, and yards per catch averages of 17.7, 13.5 and 13.0. Translation: he'll look for the best matchup not involving Richard Leonard and work that. As I've written here repeatedly, FIU's four wins under Ron Turner have been Saturday morning at Roslyn's bakery -- a total of 20 turnovers in those four games. The three wins this season each featured a defensive touchdown by Leonard. Sometimes, coaches don't overthink themselves, go A=B, B=C, therefore A=C and tell their quarterbacks things like, "stay away from turnovers and, unless we're Liam Neeson looking for our daughter or saving Private Ryan, I don't want to see us in Leonard's neighborhood."

Leonard might not see the ball aside from kickoff or punt returns, where Old Dominion's gives up a whopping 15.9 yards per punt return, worst in the nation, and 24.3 per kickoff return.

Old Dominion opened a 2.5-point favorite and is now up to a 5-point pick by the smart guys. The over/under is 60 after starting at 60.5. So, they're seeing 33-27 or so.

I'll go 35-31, Old Dominion.

But that's one Irish-Native American-West African descended man's opinion. I could be wrong.

November 06, 2014

Anywhere But Here

It's a game Buffy, Willow and Xander used to play on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Apparently, it's also what the American Sports Network plays with FIU.

Places you can see Saturday's ASN telecast of FIU at Old Dominion football: Chicago; Washington D.C.; Baltimore; Boston; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Little Rock; Flint, Mich.; Beaumont, Texas; Wheeling, Ohio; Norfolk, Virginia, where the game's being played; and 44 other markets.

A place you can't see Saturday's ASN telecast of FIU at Old Dominion football: Miami.


November 05, 2014

FIU Gets Diver of the Week (Again)

Freshman Rebecca Quensel was named Conference USA Diver of the Week for the second time this season. She scored a 286.75 in the 3-meter and 246.15 in the 1-meter, both of which were good enough for second place against Indian River on Saturday.

FIU Puts 2 on All-Academic C-USA XX's Soccer

Senior forward Ashleigh Shim, Third Team All-Conference USA on the field, was named to Second Team Conference USA All-Academic women's soccer player Wednesday. Joining Shim on the team for the second consecutive year was senior midfielder Johanna Volz.

Both Shim and Volz majored in Sports and Fitness Studies. Volz pulled a 3.77 grade point average while Shim pulled a 3.56.

Now, that's doing work...



November 04, 2014

Women's Soccer: 3 make All-C-USA, 1 makes C-USA All-Freshman

Three FIU seniors -- forwards Chelsea Leiva and Ashleigh Shim and defender Marie Egan -- made the All-Conference USA teams announced Tuesday afternoon while Nevena Stojakovic was the conference's All-Freshman team goalkeeper.

Leiva, the No. 7 scorer in the conference with eight goals (five game winners, tying for the conference lead) and three assists, and Egan were on the second team. Shim, two goals and four assists, made the third team. Stojakovic had a 1.08 goals against average and six shutouts.

Medical Report from La Cage

Freshman running back Alex Gardner's right shoulder was out of the sling, but head coach Ron Turner said he'll be out this week against Old Dominion, the week after against Middle Tennessee State and is questionable to return against North Texas. Freshman linebacker Fred Russ has his right arm in a sling, so, obviously, he'll be a spectator Saturday.

As for freshman linebacker Anthony Wint and his sprained knee, Turner said he'd be surprised if Wint isn't back to face Middle. I didn't see defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury among those coming off after practice, but Turner said he's fine after being helped off the field late Saturday against Rice.

Freshman quarterback Alex McGough missed practice while dealing with a family situation. He'll be back Wednesday.


November 03, 2014

Well, There's Always The Swim Team...

Since my post a week ago on the postseason chances for the fall sports teams...

Men's Soccer: Beat FAU 2-0 Wednesday to stay alive for the Conference USA tournament then lost 1-0 to Kentucky to get eliminated. A win in the regular season closer against Old Dominion can only tie New Mexico and South Carolina, each of which beat FIU head-to-head.

Women's Soccer: Tied Marshall 1-1 Thursday and were shut out of the conference tournament when Louisiana Tech beat FAU in overtime. The remaining match, Sunday's makeup with Alabama-Birmingham, was cancelled as neither team would qualify for the tournament. Unless football pulls off a natural hat trick, this 8-8-2 record will be fall's Best of FIU.

Volleyball: Lost 3-1 to Rice and 3-1 to Charlotte to fall to 3-10 in conference, 6-20 overall...but they...are...ALIVE, in a pack with UTEP, UAB, Middle Tennessee and Charlotte, all of which have three conference wins and one of which will get the eighth and final conference tournament spot. Three conference matches remain for FIU: at UTEP (tossup), at Texas-San Antonio (12-0 in conference), home season closer against Louisiana Tech (1-11 in conference).

Football: Lost Saturday 31-17 to Rice and need to win three straight after losing three straight to even get a bowl to give up its phone number. The Former Sunblazers are three-point underdogs at Old Dominion this Saturday.

The swim team, a winter team that warms up in the fall, moved to 3-0 by beating Indian River Saturday 174-126 as last week's Conference USA Swimmer of the Week, freshman Silvia Scalia, won the 100 backstroke and 200 back. Freshman Brittney Fant won the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly (my shoulders and lats hurt just typing "200 butterfly").

Friday, the aquawomen host Illinois State. 

November 02, 2014

A few thoughts on Rice 31, FIU 17

Before we get started on Saturday afternoon's Bizarro show, congratulations to former FIU basketball player Tymell Murphy on being drafted by the NBA Development League's Canton Charge, the affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Also, I don't know how much American Sports Network pays Conference USA and, by extension, its schools, but it can't be enough. Anybody who has read this blog over the last few years or follows me on Twitter knows I'll never confuse FIU with Nebraska or Ohio State as far as attendance. The reasons for that are numerous, well-documented, oft-discussed and not worth listing right here, right now for the few newbies who might be here.

But ASN exacerbated a tough sell for FIU -- losing record, ambivalence-inspiring Rice as an opponent -- by forcing the kickoff back to noon. Noon on the day after Halloweeen in a city that's knows about early mornings only if coming from late nights. Noon on the day after Halloween involving a school that's obese with enrollment, but still relatively bony as far as campus and near campus housing.

That's how you get about 20 cars in FIU's famous tailgating area. That's how you get a student section crowd at kickoff that wouldn't fill a classroom. That's how you get an overall crowd that maybe got into four digits at its peak. This week's attendance embarrassment wasn't wholly on FIU. ASN shared parenthood, then didn't make sure its telecast aired in this market after sending out releases declaring the game would be shown here.

What everyone else could see on their TV screens was bizarro football, at least from FIU. It's as if the appearance of Rice caused a negative version of FIU to appear, one governed by the George Costanza theory of doing the opposite of his instincts.

The team that couldn't complete a deep ball not only did so twice, but opened the game with a bomb and another throw over 20 yards downfield off play action. It took surveillance van-sized running backs to crash through through FIU's run defense this season. On Rice's first play, 5-7 chunky Jowan Davis resembled a snake molting tackles on a 19-yard touchdown run. FIU defended well against wide receivers downfield, yet been leaky against tight ends and pass catching running backs. But senior Jordan Taylor and James Mayden got free for touchdowns of 63 and 69 yards, Taylor escaped bad tackling and Mayden frolicked away from zero coverage.

"That's not who we've been all year," FIU coach Ron Turner fumed.

When FIU started using freshman Shemarke Spence on Taylor, Rice began looking for Taylor.

I haven't seen Turner this upset about a loss since last year's Bethune-Cookman game. And, he sounded the same.

"I'm disappointed in the football team for not playing anywhere close to the way we're capable of playing," he said. "I know exactly why. I'm not going to share it with anybody. I'll share it with the team. And I'll share it again tomorrow. I know exactly why we didn't play very well today. We'll get it straightened out one way or another. We wouldn't have beaten a high school team today."

Considering FIU shares a town with Booker T. Washington and Central, if you wanted to put a positive spin on that comment, you could say at least it shows the coaching staff's been out there at the high school games involving the big teams this year.

As for the reference to what Turner believes is the reason FIU went wacky Saturday, a reference he made at least one other time in his postgame media session, I don't know what he's talking about. I asked if it had to do with attitude. He verbally wriggled, seemed to indicate I was on the right path, but wouldn't really elaborate. 

“I know exactly why and I’ll share it with the team. We didn’t play well. I’ve got a folder full of mistakes we made throughout the game. It started off the bat – missed assignments, false starts, offsides. Stupid stuff. But I know why. I won’t go back and say it’s necessarily an attitude thing.”

One thing FIU had to be happy about from Saturday is freshman running back Napoleon Maxwell. In place of injured freshman Alex Gardner, ran for 88 yards on 16 carries as the two bombs to Glenn Coleman helped unclog opposing run defenses as hadn't happened in a few weeks. The Panthers look Conference USA solid with Gardner and Maxwell as a running combination the next few years, the next year plus with junior Anthon Samuel in the mix. If the offensive line ever gets together, book the bowl tickets. 

“We had some guys, some individuals do some really good things today," Turner fumed after complimenting Maxwell. "Some individuals. Make sure you note that – some in-di-viduals do some really good things today. We didn’t do anything well as a team. And, in this game, you win as a team. They were a team, we were not.”

Turner also needs to ask for answers from the halls of the Fieldhouse. This is the third consecutive game that FIU went flaacid in the second half. Against Texas-San Antonio, you can say that didn't happen until the Panthers reached the red zone in the second half. But against Marshall and Rice, the post-break offense need not have bothered. That can't be blamed wholly on player error.

FIU's best second half drive came after redshirt freshman linebacker Jordan Guest cracked the spit out of Darik Dillard on a fourth and 1. The Panthers marched to their 48 where on fourth and 1, they decided to ride with the momentum and go for it. Well, sort of momentum -- quarterback Alex McGough slipped when cutting into open space for that final yard on third down. 

The fourth down call, well...I'm always of the belief if you need less than a yard and you've got a quarterback who stands a legit 6-feet or over, put him behind the center and guard and tell them to move something. Or just not get shoved back into the quarterback's mouthpiece. Instead, FIU did what used to drive folks crazy during the Mario Cristobal days on third or fourth and short -- shotgun snap, running back into the line. Maxwell got stacked up. I'm not sure he ever was down. He wasn't sure he ever was down. But he accepted that the refs whistled his forward progress stopped.

Remember when wide receiver Richard Burrows got first team reps through much of training camp? He made his first catch of the season Saturday. The starting wide receivers were Glenn Coleman and Fred Porter. Junior cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon played, but sophomore Wilkenson Myrtil started in his place.  

I hear that sports and entertainment director Pete Garcia responded to "Fire PG!" chants from the famous Section 112 by inviting them up to his suite where free beer would be served. Half went.


With the Conference USA tournament field set and neither FIU nor Alabama-Birmingham included, the two schools decided to say "never mind" for the makeup game re-scheduled for today at UAB.




November 01, 2014

Gameday IX: Beat A Hoot or Bowl Is Moot; C-USA Power Rankings, Too

Before we get to breaking down Rice vs. FIU or (Texas Woodsys vs. Former Sunblazers at the Cathouse, the place where colleges pimp out their football players), let me catch up on Conference USA football power rankings.

1. Marshall (8-0, 4-0 in Conference USA): The Herd's an easy No. 1 but two things beg to be addressed. If the conspiracy theorists didn't get enough ammunition from FIU coach Ron Turner hip checking the officiating in Marshall 45, FIU 13, last week's Marshall win against FAU armed the conspiracy crowd better than France and Spain did the U.S. during the Revolution. Marshall benefitted from some embarrassingly weak decisions from the zebras. It should be said Conference USA crews aren't exactly filled with Jim Tunney clones so mistakes, even fat ones, might just be mistakes. The exalted status of Marshall and the conference's understandable desire to have a team muscle its way into national discussion invites such suspicion.

Secondly, if Marshall's not happy with being left out of the College Football Playoff's top 25, the Herd needs to kick itself in the butt. A non-conference schedule that includes Rhode Island, Ohio, Akron? Get a better brand of whipping boy. The next time it looks like you have a team whose biggest threat could be bad hotel breakfast eggs, buy out or postpone an Akron and see if you can convince Purdue or Kansas to find the time to take your beating. If blasting through Conference USA leaves analysts cold, what makes you think giving middling MACtion the cell block cigarette boy treatment gains any more respect?

2. Middle Tennessee State (5-3, 4-1): Much as I respect Louisiana for being the best state per capita for football talent, I think Middle's more dynamic. 

3. Louisiana Tech (5-3, 4-0): They'd have a loss, too, if they played Marshall.

4. FIU (3-5, 2-2): Here's my problem: I really don't want to keep FIU here with that record. But I don't want to drop the Panthers beneath UAB after the Blazers got smoked by Arkansas before the Razorback faithful sobered up from the pregame moonshine. Can't put FAU ahead of the Panthers after FIU clobbered FAU. So, here they stay.

5. FAU (3-5, 2-2): The Florida Woodsys loss to Marshall looked like FIU's minus the two fourth quarter Panthers turnovers that took the game from attrition to Dresden.

6. UAB (4-4, 2-2): Arkansas showed it has better -- say it with me like Frank Broyles, folks -- ath-uh-letes.

7. UTEP (4-3, 2-1): Gets a Big Mover shout for destroying Texas-San Antonio and allowing two first downs. Don't feel too good about yourself -- Soutern Mississippi is good enough to upset you and bad enough that you'll get cut no slack if that happens.

8. Rice (4-3, 2-1): Not sure whether to move them up for winning or down for allowing 21 points to North Texas. Heck, I'll just keep them right here.

9. Western Kentucky (3-4, 1-3): Western nominated defensive back Juwan Gardner for C-USA Defensive Player of the Week after his 96-yard interception return touchdown. The Hill People gave up 51 points to Ol' 'ominion. Next week, they'll nominate a blind squirrel for finding a nut.

10. UTSA (3-5, 1-3): Freshmen are going to freshmen even redshirt freshmen. Quarterback Austin Robinson completed 30 percent, threw for 32 yards and the Roadrunners made only two first downs in a 34-0 loss to UTEP.

11. Southern Mississippi (3-5, 1-3): Moves up a spot because, well, 66-51 between Western and Ol' 'ominion. 

12. Ol' 'ominion (3-5, 1-4): They play on Saturdays but they're easy like a Sunday morning on defense. No D or d. On the bright side, of the 66 points Western Kentucky scored, only 59 came on offense.

13. North Texas (2-6, 0-4): Gave Rice problems for a half, then decided to heck with it and started giving Rice the ball and the game. 

Now, on to Saturday's game.

I watched Rice in its season-opening loss to Notre Dame, its third game and first conference game, a shootout loss to Old Dominion, and last week's win against North Texas.

Out of the gate, Rice looked just off the level of the team that steamrolled Marshall in the Conference USA title game. By Old D/No D, their depth already had been tested and found wanting. Reconstructed against North Texas, the Owls still looked very ehhh. The Mean Green's more scrambled than the Jumble this year. Still, they hit Rice for a kickoff return touchdown and a 55-yard touchdown bomb from a third-string quarterback getting his turn to start for a destitute offense. 

They've got wide receiver Jordan Taylor back and he streaked to an 88-yard touchdown on a deep post on Rice's first play against North Texas. That's not the kind of play FIU's given up regularly this season, Louisville notwithstanding. In fact, the more I watch and think about Rice's offense, I keep thinking it's a good matchup for FIU.

Even bomb-loving Marshall got more from exploiting the Panthers short zone pass coverage. But Rice's tight ends have a picayune four receptions this season and four Rice running backs have 31 combined receptions. So over seven games, those two positions average a combined five catches per game. 

The number of runs and yards per carry for Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson dropped since suffering his shoulder injury against Old Dominion: 10.0 carries per game (excluding sacks) the two games before ODU, 5.5 in the four games afterwards; 16.2 per carry (excluding sacks) the two games before ODU, 5.13 afterwards. Makes sense both on a competition sense -- Notre Dame and Texas A&M probably forced more Plan B plays than Hawaii and Army -- and a health sense. That also makes him slightly less difficult to defend for FIU, which should get better on the quarterback than North Texas did.

Watching running backs Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard, there's no doubting their quality. Neither, however, should be the Aztek-with-a-helmet against FIU that Pitt's James Conner or Marshall's Devon Johnson were. Against North Texas, Rice kept getting seals on the edges. I don't see them doing that with the same consistency on FIU.

You can bet Rice coach David Bailiff ordered extra work for the kickoff coverage units this week. You give up a 100-yard touchdown return the week before you see the nation's No. 9 kickoff returner, who already has a coast-to-coast kickoff return on his career resume, you move that task to the top of the to-do list. Also, this could be a low scoring game of field position. Every yard counts.

So now the Panthers have the ball. How well do they run it with junior Anthon Samuel, taking over for freshman Alex Gardner and his injured shoulder? Will Samuel be backed up by freshman Napoleon Maxwell or junior Lamarq Caldwell? What can FIU expect from freshman quarterback Alex McGough? Who'll start at wide receiver?

Fifth-year senior Glenn Coleman's flashed his talent well enough to average 18.6 yards per catch on his 18 receptions. A big play or two by Coleman opens the defense up and lets FIU breathe. They spent the last three quarters against Marshall and much of the game against UTSA getting squatted on like empty project apartments because the Panthers offense can't earn any respect in the secondary. Whether it's Samuel or Maxwell with the rock, everybody's getting stuffed if that doesn't change. 

After the Marshall loss, FIU coach Ron Taylor said whoever could get open and catch balls downfield would get the job coming out of the bye. But, at some point, players are who they are. FIU's loaded with juniors and seniors who seem to possess all the good given tools to be good receivers but can't get open and catch the ball. And expecting a guy of good size-heavy feet like Fred Porter to be Fred Biletnikoff isn't fair to him. 

FIU's third in Conference USA in sacks per game. North Texas is first. Any guess as to No. 2? Yep, Rice. Expect McGough to have more than a few throwaways. The Owls' Ryan Pollard got an interception return touchdown last week when North Texas' quarterback stared down the receiver on a crossing route. McGough needs to break himself of that habit.

Rice's defense owes its recent impressive numbers to playing Army (we're much better on the battlefield than the gridiron), Hawaii ("Hawaii, Five-0" describes how many points Hawaii would get against FIU in six games) and North Texas (who wishes this season was a dream of Pam Ewing's). I thought they were solidly "Meh." That's the Steel Curtain and the '85 Bears combined compared to Old Dominion and Western Kentucky, but if they overwhelm the Panthers, it's the Panthers fault. 

Could be a hard day's afternoon for both quarterbacks. I can't get a feel on this game. I'm having trouble visualizing FIU scoring enough. On offense, that is. On defense and special teams, I can see a runback or a punt block or something funky scoring or setting up points.

Oh, FIU 23, Rice 17.

But that's one black man's opinion at 3 a.m. I could be wrong.

October 31, 2014

The Last Waltz

With FIU and Marshall tied 1-1 and the clock ticking down in overtime Thursday, the Panthers got the ball to senior forward Chelsea Leiva.


"Both teams, we didn't really play the way we wanted to, but we both fought really, really hard," said Leiva. "I know we did. Our legs are shot."

FIU coach Thomas Chestnutt admitted, "It was a fair result, I'd probably say," in the voice of a man who knows if you leave too many loose ends, they eventually snake together into a noose.

The 1-1 tie was a loose end, just like late game losses at home to North Texas and Charlotte. FIU's best hope for a fall Conference USA team title sat at 8-8-2 overall, 3-4-2 in conference and needing help just to get into the conference tournament. Specifically, FIU needed FAU to tie or win at Louisiana Tech in a game that was entering overtime as FIU's Senior Night ceremony ended. Then, a Panthers win Sunday in the weather-postponed game at Alabama-Birmingham would get FIU into the tournament.

Senior Johanna Volz, who scored FIU's goal, said part of her reaction in the above video was at the final score, but most was "a little bit of sadness. Coming to realize this is all over. It feels like yesterday we were freshmen."

Ask most athletes what they'll miss most when they stop playing and they rarely say the games. It's what Wayne Gretzky called "the back of the bus" or Chris Rock said of "Saturday Night Live" "The hang."

"This class, we have a bond that I think is tighter than other classes," Volz said. "We came in with eight. We're leaving with seven. That's rare. I know in five years, 10 years, 50 years down the road, the people I'm going to check on are my teammates. I couldn't have spent four years with a better group."

When Volz's class were freshmen, their sheer fitness level became a challenge to the juniors and seniors. FIU won the Sun Belt tournament that season, 2011. Ashleigh Shim won the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year award. Volz figured each year they would get better, so she thought she would leave in four years with four conference championship rings. They won the regular season title in 2012 before getting upset in the Sun Belt final by North Texas. The 2013 season got derailed early with Leiva and defender Nikki Rios, arguably FIU's best offensive and defensive players, going down with season-ending injuries before the season started. Ineligibility took out forward Scarlet Montoya.

And, now, this year.

"There hasn't been a game this year where we felt like we were dominated by any team," Chestnutt said. "It didn't matter if if whether it was Santa Clara, No. 23 at the time, Long Beach (State) or at the top of our conference, Rice or North Texas. The team largely outplayed almost every opponent. The difference, ironically, was lack of finishing at the proper moments. But the team defensve has been fantastic. There's only been three teams in the whole season that have registered 10 or more shots. That's excellent stuff."

He said of the senior class, "They"ve done a phenomenal job here, raising the level of the program. The things that they've accomplished are second to none in the history of the program. I just hope we can extend our season for one or two more games."

The news came to a few from Ruston, Louisiana via Twitter, app or old fashioned phone call: a golden goal by Tech ended Blue and Gold hopes.

Volz lay on her back with hands over eyes, her captain's armband still dangling. She got to her feet with eyes glistening. The word filtered among those not soaking up every minute of this last 2014 home postgame with parents, friends or the youth soccer players who had manned the sidelines as ball girls. The coaches gathered the team so Chestnutt could deliver the news.



Some soft sobs, then a few not-so-soft sobs burst out of the huddle. Chestnutt spoke in a tone that suggested his own emotion monster threatened to ride a sentence out of his mouth and devour him. The team closed in a mass hug, seeming to become one tight organism for a moment, flexing together then releasing. Scarlet Montoya gave a heartfelt speech to the group, her voice strong, but teetering on breaking every other word. Another player apologized to the seniors.

Leiva walked away by herself toward midfield, using her jersey to cover a face now drenched in emotion. She'd already cried talking with me and The Beacon's James Profetto (who covered this team this season with the devotion of someone who wants a job in journalism) about her time at FIU ending. Profetto asked what she would take away from her time at FIU.

"So much...a lot of life lessons that we learned..." Leiva said through tears. She expanded upon that by crediting Chestnutt, mentioning hard work, perseverance and many of the concepts parents doing the Saturday Morning Schelps hope their children will learn from team sports.

But, now, Leiva stood alone until freshman goalkeeper Ashley Westbury came over to offer an arm and a hug. Others lifted their shirt as crying towels. Teammates shared extended embraces. I've been in a number of locker rooms with the season freshly killed over the last 24 years, but I hadn't seen a team this heartbroken since the Jackson High locker room after the 1990 Soul Bowl loss to Northwestern on a bomb to Stinky Williams in the last minutes at then-Joe Robbie Stadium.

Thursday, one player sat on the field and wouldn't leave. Players friends and family left. Players left. Coaches talked to her. More players left. Still she sat.

She remained there for I don't know how long. No explanation needed.



October 30, 2014

Wint Might Return

Freshman linebacker Anthony Wint's knee injury suffered against Texas-San Antonio looked season-ending. But FIU coach Ron Turner said Thursday he's confident Wint will be back for at least the last two games, possibly the last three.

Wint started all six games before getting injured and established himself as FIU's best hitter among the linebackers.


Soccer Up, Volleyball Down, Mr. McGough

UPDATE: Saturday's noon football game against Rice will be on WBFS-Channel 33 in Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

Wednesday night, men's soccer got what it needed against FAU. The women try to get theirs tonight against Marshall.

The men's 2-0 win on goals in the 78th minute by Josue Espana and 88th minute by Darren Rios pushed them into eighth in Conference USA or one place behind the conference tournament cutoff. With six points in conference play (6-7-1 overall, 2-4 in conference), they're one point behind Marshall, which has one conference game left, and Old Dominion, which has two as does FIU. They play each other a week from Friday in the season closer. FIU's other remaining game is a Sunday home date against No. 16 Kentucky.

By the way, FIU's 1984 Division II men's national champions will be honored at Saturday's noon football game. I wonder if this will include Broward College coach Munga Eketebi, an FIU soccer fixture as an All-America on that team; an FIU assistant for decades; then FIU head coach.

Eketebi felt his firing unfair after laboring for years under NCAA sanctions and felt athletic director Pete Garcia treated longtime head coach Karl Kremser shabbily. Also, some former athletes feel Athletics treats them as minatory presences. I heard Athletics grumbled over the number of former football players in the FIU radio suite during the Marshall game two weeks ago. As if this was Michigan or Harvard with 100 years of football alumni, so you've got to limit how many have the run of the Pay Extra areas.


Tonight at FIU Soccer Stadium is about need. Well, seven seniors, but mostly basic need.

FIU (3-4-1, 8-8-1) needs at least four points in its final two games to assure themselves of a conference tournament place. The Panthers need a win tonight if Louisiana Tech, Charlotte and Old Dominion win tonight. Marshall, with this being The Herd's last conference game, needs a win to feel good, a tie to stay at lightly queasy because a loss means Kaopectate, especially if the aforementioned trifecta comes through.

It's Senior Night. Chelsea Leiva, Ashleigh Shim, Johanna Volz, Marie Egan, Caroline Hernandez, Marlena Stablein and Sara Stewart will be honored.


If volleyball games had in-stands, in-match betting the way inner city high school football does, you could make tuition betting on the team that wins a wild, extended third set after splitting the first two sets. That's just the way sports momentum rolls.

Which is what FAU did to FIU Wednesday. After the Owls took the fourth set 30-28, FIU dropped the fourth set 21-25 and the match 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 28-30, 21-25).

Junior Lucia Castro had a match high 20 kills and freshman Brianna Gogins' eight blocks exceeded FAU's team total (seven). Alas, the Panthers still fell to 6-18, 3-8 in conference and remain outside the eight-team conference tournament cutoff. 


Asked FIU coach Ron Turner what he wanted to see from freshman quarterback Alex McGough after the bye.

"Just continue to get the ball out quicker and continue to work on his accuracy, which has improved drastically during the season and has to continue to improve," Turner answered. "Not so much just accuracy, but ball placement. Ball here" -- Turner mimed catching a waist high ball in front of him -- "as opposed to ball here" -- he mimed reaching behind him for a catchable ball. "At one point, it was just "get it near him."" 

I wanted to talk to McGough about this. His quarterback coach from Tampa tweeted that he'd had a good workout addressing some mechanics. My request was denied. 

I don't think that rejection was at all personal. McGough's a freshman and coaches worry about "focus" with freshmen, particuarly ones getting media attention. Also, it's the football way. If you want to ask an NFL quarterback a question outside his Wednesday mass media session, you need to be part of the TV crew covering that weekend's game or have the quarterback's cell phone number with a personal relationship that invites away-from-the-facility conversation.

Which is why I sometimes say that football, love it though I do, needs to get over itself.

Many hockey goalies, including NHL wins record holder Martin Brodeur, talk to media on and off the record after the game day morning skate. You could talk to Martin Brodeur, winner of three Stanley Cups, after the morning skate with a Stanley Cup Finals game seven hours away. Almost every mistake a goalie makes winds up on the scoreboard. No incompletes in their world. Only pick sixes. 

You deal with that for 11 years from guys who play with a crackhead skinny margin for error every night, it's pretty laughable when you see quarterbacks sheltered as they are. After all, coaches won't forbid all small talk with hotties or watching SpongeBob.

Only because they can't.


October 28, 2014

Scalia (not Antonin) Swimmer of the Week; Football Stuff

Silvia Scalia, a freshman from Lecco, Italy, ripped off the second best 100 backstroke time in FIU history last week while opening a winning 400 medley relay and plowed the water for Conference USA's second best 200 back time this season (to her own previous 200 back time).

For this, Scalia earned Conference USA's Swimmer of the Week award.

In FIU's rout of Florida Southern, Scalia's leadoff relay leg of 55.76 slotted her behind only then-sophomore Johanna Gustafsdottir's 53.94 at the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championships (as the relay's first leg, it can be counted for records at that distance). Her 2:01.81 in the 200 back was a digit off her 2:01.69 against FAU on Oct. 4, the third best time in FIU history.


Junior linebacker Patrick Jean has been suspended for the rest of the season. FIU coach Ron Turner said Jean's potential return to the program was still up in the air.

As of right now, Saturday's game isn't airing in this market. It seems common sense or common decency that if the TV rights holder is going to do a Freddy Kreuger on FIU's attendance by forcing the Panthers to play at noon, the least the rights holder can do is make sure the game gets aired in this market.

The spread, which began with Rice an 8-point favorite, is now down to 6 with a 50.5 Over/Under.


October 27, 2014

Pan-Panthers Postseason Prospects

All of FIU's fall athletic teams might play postseason games. As of lunchtime Monday, none possess the standings position to do so.

So, the Halloween week FIU contests arrive pregnant with possibilities. By Sunday night, we'll know who saw The Great Pumpkin rise and who brought forth Damien

Football (3-5, 2-2 in Conference USA): Bowl eligibility's still very attainable. Rice (this weekend's foe), Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas could cobble the best of their rosters and not be as good as Marshall or Louisville. Granted, the Panthers' demonstrated youthful inconsistency stands antipodal to four consecutive wins or even three straight. And, as far as attractive, a 6-6 FIU is 7-5 FIU unshowered with morning breath. But bowls these days place real estate's importance on location, location, location, so the Boca Bowl and Popeye's Bahamas Bowl still might love FIU at 6-6. I don't see that happening without beating Rice, Saturday at noon.

If They Don't Make It, They'll Regret: Losing 16-13 at Texas-San Antonio with all those fumbles and red zone failures.

(Side note: noon kickoff, in South Florida; the day after Halloween; against a meh opponnent; with the other FBS team in town kicking off at 12:30 p.m...just call FIU's Saturday attendance "Sonny.")


Women's Soccer (8-8-1, 3-4-1): The conference tournament takes eight teams and five spots have been clinched. FIU sits 10th, in the midst of a gaggle fighting for the last three spots, with 10 points in conference play (three points for a win, one for a tie). The Panthers need at least a win and a tie out of the Thursday game against Marshall and the Saturday game at Alabama-Birmingham. Marshall, which sits sixth right now with 14 points, needs Thursday's game, too, as it's The Herd's last conference game. Expect more than the usual Senior Night passion at FIU Soccer Field. A win Thursday obviously goes a long way to getting the Panthers what they need, especially because UAB is likely to lose to Rice Thursday. In that case, UAB would be playing for pride while FIU would be playing for playoffs.

If They Don't Make It, They'll Regret: A 2-1 home loss to North Texas on a penalty kick in the 88th minute and a 2-1 home loss to Charlotte on a goal in the 87th minute.

Men's Soccer (5-7-1, 1-4): Seven teams get into the conference tournament. FIU's ninth with three points and has home games with FAU Wednesday and conference leader Kentucky Sunday before closing next week with Old Dominion. Beating the Owls, owners of four points and sitting eighth, would hop the Panthers into a tie with South Carolina. FIU's been all over the place this year, so it's not inconceivable the Panthers could lose to FAU to seemingly slay their chances, then do a Dracula rise-and-bite on Kentucky and Old Dominion.

If They Don't Make it, They'll Regret: the wild 5-4 home loss to South Carolina in which they gave up the winner with three seconds left in regulation after leading 2-1 and 4-3; and, the next game, a 4-3 loss to Charlotte after leading 3-0.

Volleyball (6-17, 3-7): Eight teams get past the velvet rope. FIU's ninth, tied with Middle Tennessee at 3-7 but having lost the head-to-head match. There's three conference matches left after this week, but you have to get into position for those. That means not getting shut out at FAU Wednesday or in home matches against Rice Friday and Charlotte Sunday.

If They Don't Make It, They'll Regret: losing at home to Middle, 3-2 (25-18, 25-19, 21-25, 18-25, 9-15), after winning the first two sets.