CFN Analysis - Marshall Wins Beef Over FIU
Posted Dec 20, 2011

The instant analysis and reaction to the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl

CFN Analysis   

Marshall 20, FIU 10

By Pete Fiutak

- I'm now 0-for-4 at picking bowl games. As God as my witness, I 1) thought turkeys could fly, and 2) FIU would be far sharper in a sort of home game than it was.

- Between Rays' playoff games and this bowl, is Tropicana Field ever full?

- Not only did T.Y. Hilton have a problem hanging on to the ball both early and late, he fumbled so badly that it looked like he was trying to throw the ball. He's too good a player to have his killer fourth quarter fumble define anything he's done.

- FIU QB Wesley Carroll completed 19-of-29 passes for 150 yards, but he didn't do anything to push the ball down the field and missed on just enough makeable throws to hurt the offense. With Hilton, Wayne Times, and a lightning fast receiving corps, it's criminal that the Golden Panthers didn't stretch the field.

- Even so, Pitt, you're going to get a rising superstar of a head coach in Mario Cristobal – when it happens.

- How good was Marshall QB Rakeem Cato? The freshman played like a seasoned veteran completing 27-of-39 passes for 226 yards and two scores with a pick, and he kept his poise. He didn't take any big chances, but he also didn't force anything.

- And remember, Marshall had NOTHING else at quarterback. If Cato got hurt, the game was over.

- It's not like Marshall PK Tyler Waner's key field goals from 39 and 37-yard field goals were that big a deal. He's a good, accurate kicker working in a dome, but he still nailed them.

- Considering it was a defensive game, I was hoping for more from the respective pass rushes. Vinny Curry came up with a big forced fumble for the Herd, but he was held in check.

By Richard Cirminiello 

Execution. It's often the difference between winning and losing in close games. Florida International failed to execute during crunch time, permitting a blocked punt, and coughing up the ball in a nail-biter that could have easily gone the other way.

Forget the outcome of tonight's Beef Bowl. Pitt ought to run, not walk, to Mario Cristobal's agent with an offer. The coach is young, talented and dialed into the Sunshine State pipeline of recruits. You don't get FIU to back-to-back bowl games without being a rising star in the profession.

If I'm an NFL GM, I'm intrigued by the physical ability of Marshall DE Vinny Curry, but very concerned about his consistency. He was quiet in St. Pete, and streaky throughout 2011. And life won't get any easier on Sundays.

Marshall stole WR Aaron Dobson out of South Charleston (W.V.) High School three years ago. The junior has an immense amount of physical ability, a special blend of size and acrobatic ball skills needed to make a name for himself outside of Conference USA.

The Golden Panthers defense deserved a better fate at Tropicana Field. Save for a breakdown or two in pass defense, Florida International flew all over the field, making the Marshall offense appear a step slow all night.

Nice win for the Thundering Herd and head coach Doc Holliday, but the school has a long way to go before approaching the heyday when Bob Pruett was prowling the sidelines. Marshall can start by finally developing a big-time quarterback. Rakeem Cato is off to a nice start after one year, but Holliday needs him to become a Green Hornet as soon as possible.

By Matt Zemek

-- A 6-6 team from Conference USA showed why the bowls reward mediocrity. Marshall might have won this game, but you saw what happened on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. It wasn't pretty, to say the least.

-- With that having been said, don't blame Marshall, its players or coaches for any of this. Blame the bowl system and don't take out your frustrations on the competitors themselves. Doc Halliday's team was motivated and intense. It took the game seriously and worked hard for a well-deserved win. The 10-10 second-half tie was likely going to be broken by the defenses or the special teams units in this game, and the Herd were persistent enough to create a breakthrough with a blocked punt.

-- If there's a reason to be upset at Marshall, be upset at Thundering Herd defensive tackle Marques Aiken, who slugged a Florida International player to create the ugly brawl that marred the game's conclusion. Aiken, a sophomore, should be suspended for at least half of the 2012 season if not all of it. Tell me – was that punch really all that different from Yancy Gates of the Cincinnati basketball team a week and a half ago?

-- Mario Cristobal's ability to squeeze eight wins out of a team with THAT offense tells you that he does more with less. His bigger payday at a bigger job will be entirely deserved.

-- We should be taking a break from college football this week before Christmas, but these pre-Christmas bowls basically extend college football through the month of December without any meaningful interruption. This all makes the anti-playoff arguments a million times more hollow. I don't want a playoff, but let's improve the way college football is scheduled and structured from Labor Day weekend through the first week of January.

Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Ouch. Did we all really stay up to watch this? If you are a football fan (and I'm assuming you are a hard core if you're reading this), then you like to watch football at any level between almost any two teams. This game however is one of the rarity's that rivals a trip to the dentist office. There were false starts, turnovers, bad offensive execution, and questionable coaching littered throughout this contest.

- On that note, if FIU head coach Mario Cristobal was using this game as an audition for the Pitt job, Luke Fickell and Paul Chryst's stock just skyrocketed. How about taking a shot down the field at some point?

- Where were all of the fans? Two meddling programs playing before Christmas on a Tuesday night obviously resulted in about four more fans than what show up for a Tampa Rays game in the same stadium. That total looked to be somewhere between 10 and 15 people.

- Congrats Marshall on its second bowl win in three years. Doc Holliday is looking to restore the once proud Thundering Herd program and this should be a step forward.

- How many times can the Thundering Herd pull out a close one? Some seasons are made or broken by how many of the close games go into the victory column. For Marshall, make it six of seven games going to the smiling side that were decided by seven or fewer points.

- Where will the FIU program go from here? The program appears to be on the rise but with its head coach certainly ready to jump to the hills of Western PA if asked, it'll be tough. Nothing can kill momentum like losing the head man and senior QB in the same season.

- You know there's a lot of bowl games when three teams from the Sun Belt Conference receive invites....What about Western Kentucky?
- When the player that blocks a punt that sets the table for a FG wins the MVP award, it's a pretty good clue that there weren't a lot of offensive fireworks in the game.

- Let the waiting game begin....tick, tick, tick goes the Pitt Panther clock.