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CFN Take: FIU O Sputters In Loss To FAU
Posted Nov 29, 2013

2013 Florida International Golden Panthers ... Head Coach: Ron Turner

FIU Golden Panthers

2013 Record: 1-11
8/31 at Maryland L 43-10
9/7 UCF L 38-0
9/14 Bethune-Cookman L 34-13
9/21 at Louisville L 72-0
10/5 at Southern Miss W 24-23
10/12 UAB L 27-24
10/26 Louisiana Tech L 23-7
11/2 East Carolina L 34-13
11/9 at Middle Tenn L 48-0
11/16 at UTEP L 33-10
11/23 Marshall L 48-10
11/30 at Florida Atlantic L 21-6
FIU & Middle Tennessee

at Florida Atlantic 21, FIU 6
Basically … FAU got three touchdown passes from Jaquez Johnson to three different receivers, hitting Nexon Dorvilus for an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Alex Deleon for a 23-yard score in the third to put it away. William Dukes took a pass 59 yards for an Owl touchdown late in the first. FIU’s only points came on Austin Taylor field goals from 35 and 43 yards out.
- Florida Atlantic QB Jaquez Johnson completed 10-of-19 passes for 218 yards and three scores with a pick, and he ran 17 times for 64 yards
- FAU turned it over three times, FIU didn’t turn it over but converted just 1-of-13 third down chances.
- FIU QB Jake Medlock completed 7-of-21 passes for 56 yards before getting hurt. E.J. Hilliard stepped in to complete 4-of-6 passes for 33 yards.
- Florida Atlantic RB Damian Fortner ran 19 times for 100 yards

at Middle Tennessee 48, FIU 0
Basically … Middle Tennessee did whatever it wanted offensively with Shane Tucker starting off the scoring with first quarter touchdown runs from 48 and 17 yards away, and the defense got into the act after halftime with Kevin Byard returning an interception 51 yards for a score on FIU’s first drive. The Golden Panthers turned it over four times and managed just 233 yards of total offense.
- Middle Tennessee QB Logan Kilgore completed 17-of-20 passes for 269 yards and a score and he ran for a touchdown.
- FIU converted just 3-of-11 third down chances, missed on both fourth down tries, and finished with just ten first downs.
- Middle Tennessee RB Shane Tucker ran 11 times for 95 yards and two scores.
- FIU QB E.J. Hilliard completed 10-of-15 passes for 133 yards with a pick.

East Carolina 34, at FIU 13
Basically … Shane Carden threw three first half touchdown passes with Justin Hardy starting out the scoring with a 44-yard play and DaQuan Barnes catching a 26-yard scoring play on the way to a 21-3 East Carolina lead. FIU rallied back with ten straight points to pull within eight, but Hardy found Isaiah Jones for a 35-yard touchdown and Vintavious Cooper ran for a two-yard touchdown to help the Pirates put it away.
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 23-of-35 passes for 264 yards and three scores.
- FIU came up with just 267 yards of total offense, but it held on to the ball for 40:37.
- FIU WR Jonnu Smith caught ten passes for 97 yards.
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught five passes for 136 yards and a score, and he completed a 35-yard touchdown for a score.

UAB 27, at FIU 24
Basically … Ty Long nailed a 28-yard field goal in the final seconds to break a 24-24 tie and give UAB the win. FIU fought back from a 21-7 deficit with a Silas Spearman III one-yard touchdown run, and tied it on a 13-yard Lamarq Caldwell 13-yard scoring catch, but the defense couldn’t hold on as the Blazers went 70 yards in under three minutes to get the win. Darrin Reaves ran for two short scores for UAB.
- Austin Brown wasn’t perfect, but he came up with the drive the team needed in the final minutes to get the very, very big win. Darrin Reaves might have run for two scores, but he was bottled up while freshman Jordan Howard ran for 159 yards on 20 carries. The run defense was fantastic, but the secondary had problems coming up with stops as FIU kept pushing passes down the field. The D held firm in the second half, outside of one scoring drive, but the offense had to settle for field goals, and Ty Long came through with shots from 48 and 28 yards out.
- Just when it looked like FIU was going to make a big statement with a second straight win, it couldn’t come up with a late stop. Jake Medlock only completed 17-of-34 passes, but he threw for 302 yards with two touchdowns averaging 17.2 yards per completion. Fortunately, the next two games are at home, but the offense has to control the ball and the clock more to keep the defense off the field.

FIU 24, at Southern Miss 23
Basically … FIU got a 27-yard Austin Taylor field goal in the fourth quarter for the lead, and the defense held on as Southern Miss suffered through four turnovers in a tough loss. Allan Bridgford hooked up with Markese Triplett for two scores, and Jalen Richard caught a 39-yard touchdown pass, but FIU kept pace with two scores from Silas Spearman III and a T.J. Lowder touchdown grab in the first half.
- After the debacle in Louisville, FIU found an offense in freshman running back Silas Spearman III. He ran 29 times for 136 yards and two scores, taking the ball out of the hands of the quarterbacks. Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard combined to complete 12-of-23 passes for 181 yards and a score with two picks, but this was all Spearman.
- This was the big chance for Southern Miss to break the 16-game losing streak, now 17. The Golden Eagles make way too many key mistakes, with four turnovers not only stalling drives, but at times turning into points. Allen Bridgeford threw 45 times for 243 yards and three scores, but he gave away two picks, lost a fumble, and he didn’t push the ball down the field.

at Louisville 72, Florida International 0
Basically … It took the Cardinals about a half a quarter to find a groove, and then it got ugly in a hurry. Teddy Bridgewater threw three first half touchdown passes on the way to a 38-0 lead, and Charles Gaines made it worse to start out the second half with a kickoff return for a score. Bridgewater found Eli Rogers for a 34-yard touchdown pass midway through the third, and then the bench was emptied. Florida International came up with just 30 yards of offense.
- THERE were go, Louisville. FIU might stink, but if you want America to care, this is the type of performance you need to keep cranking out. This went beyond total dominance. FIU only came up with two first downs and 30 yards of total offense. 30. The Cardinals didn’t even do anything fancy. They ramped up the intensity a bit and took the game seriously. It showed.
- FIU came up with three rushing yards. The offensive line had no answers whatsoever for the Cardinal defensive front that came up with 12 tackles for loss and four sacks. DE Marcus Smith destroyed the Golden Panther backfield.
- Everyone got to have fun for UofL. Teddy Bridgewater completed 17-of-22 passes for 212 yards and four scores, while Will Gardner it all five of his passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. Both got all day to throw.
- It’s the anti-Oregon. FIU ran a grand total of 43 plays. The clock was moving very, very quickly.

Bethune-Cookman 34, Florida International 13, Sept. 14
Basically … Anthony Jordan ran for a 58-yard score in the first, Cary White ripped off a 43-yard touchdown in the third, and Tim Burke returned a pick 92 yards for a score as Bethune-Cookman stunned the Golden Panthers. FIU tied it at seven on an eight-yard T.J. Lowder scoring play, but it was all Bethune-Cookman on the way to a 34-7 lead before FIU’s Jonnu Smith caught a one-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth.
- Where’s the Ron Turner offense? FIU came up with just nine first downs as it got whipped up front and couldn’t run the ball a lick. The Golden Panthers ran 33 times for 73 yards and never, ever got free for a big gain.
- T.J. Lowder was a bright spot with 125 receiving yards and a score on six catches, but that was it. The O sputtered, the defense as ripped up on the ground, giving up 311 yards, and it was a disastrous performance for a team that needed a decent performance. Good luck with Louisville next week.

UCF 38, at FIU 0, Sept. 6
Basically … Blake Bortles ran for a first quarter score, threw a short third quarter touchdown pass, and handed it off to Storm Johnson for three touchdowns on the way to an easy win. FIU managed just 172 yards of total offense.
- It’s not like the Knight offense dominated. Storm Johnson finished off drives, and Blake Bortles didn’t make any mistakes, but Rannell Hall came up with 59 of the team’s 390 yards on one play. The rest of the attack was efficient and effective.
- In two games, FIU’s offense still doesn’t work. It only came up with 171 yards against Maryland and only improved by one yard against UCF. It would be nice to establish the ground game first, but it wasn’t there coming up with 29 yards on 29 carries.
- The unsung star for UCF? Caleb Houston. The freshman only punted four times, and he only put one inside the 20, but he banged the ball well and kept FIU deep.
- Where’s the FIU pass rush? Isame Faciane got into the backfield a few times and joined in on the only sack, but there wasn’t any steady pressure. The team’s five tackles for loss weren’t enough to slow down scoring drives – the D didn’t bail out the O.

at Maryland 43, Florida International 10
Basically … C.J. Brown was nearly perfect, completing 20-of-23 passes, with three touchdown passes and touchdown runs from 29 and 11 yards out. FIU kept it interesting in the second quarter, but Brown and the Terps blew it open with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Goins and a 66-yard to Stefon Diggs as part of a run of 23 unanswered points.
- So that’s what it’s like to have a healthy quarterback who’s actually supposed to play quarterback. Maryland got a fantastic day out of Brown, and Caleb Rowe looked the part, too, completing 5-of-6 passes for 44 yards.
- Under Ron Turner, the FIU offense is supposed to start moving more crisply and efficiently. It went nowhere. E.J. Hilliard looked better than Justin Medlock, but nothing much worked other than the running of Lamrq Caldwell, who ran 21 times for 79 yards and a score.
- FIU didn’t generate any pressure and couldn’t bother the Terp quarterbacks. The defense has to be far more disruptive, but the offense didn’t exactly provide any help.
- 576 yards to 171. The FIU attack simply couldn’t move the chains, but the Maryland defense had a lot to do with that. The Golden Panthers came up with just nine first downs.

Spring Analysis

Why To Get Excited … the trio of QB Jake Medlock, RB Kedrick Rhodes and WR Willis Wright has the potential to be as dynamic as any in Conference USA. All three veterans have all-star ceilings, provided they can stay healthy. Rhodes battled through ankle problems in 2012, but was a 1,000-yard rusher as a sophomore in 2011.

Why To Be Grouchy … the Golden Panthers became an offseason laughingstock, dumping popular and largely successful head coach Mario Cristobal, and needing a month to announce the unexpected hiring of Ron Turner. Turner inherits a depleted roster, especially on defense, where all of last year’s top performers have graduated.

The Number One Thing To Work On Is … building back the offensive line. As if the situation couldn’t get any tougher for Turner, he’ll spend the offseason attempting to find five new starters along the O-line. Keeping Medlock and Rhodes is of the utmost importance in Miami. But doing so will be no small achievement considering all of the turnover up front.

Non-Conference Games: at Maryland, UCF, Bethune-Cookman, at Louisville
Games Against the West: Louisiana Tech, at UTEP
Realistic Best Case Record: 5-7
Worst Case Record: 1-11
Likely Finish: 2-10

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Bethune-Cookman, UAB

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at Maryland, UCF, at Louisville, at Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, East Carolina, at Middle Tennessee, at UTEP, Marshall, at Florida Atlantic

Schedule Analysis: The Golden Panthers will be more experienced and should be far better this season under new head coach Ron Turner, but where are the wins going to come from? There’s the layup against Bethune-Cookman, and there’s … uh … UAB? It’s not like the schedule is full of killers, but going to Maryland and Louisville will be a problem early and UCF should be fired up early in the season. Going across town to Florida Atlantic to close out the year won’t really matter, but playing three road games in the final four after dealing with Louisiana Tech and East Carolina will be rough. Fortunately, there aren’t any road dates from October 5th until the trip to Middle Tennessee on November 9th.

Team Concerns For 2013: New head coach Ron Turner was brought in to kickstart an offense that wasn't too bad. With only four starters returning to each side of the ball, it's going to take some work to find the right pieces to fit again. There were several positives to last year's miserable campaign - the run defense was great - but the offensive line has to be far stronger in pass protection and has to do more to blast away for the running game.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. The coaching change has made it interesting to try bringing in local recruits, but offensive tackle Sandley Jean-Felix is still coming in and should turn into an anchor. Guard Jordan Budwig is big and can hit, while Jason Rae is a short blocker with upside. Now Ron Turner needs more decent defensive players to work into the rotation.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 83. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receivers. Everything should be fine for this year, even with T.Y. Hilton gone, but the Golden Panthers need offensive pop after mostly focusing on the defensive side for the last few seasons. This class will be loaded with receiver options, but the defense isn’t going to be ignored with outside linebacker getting plenty of new bodies.

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 109. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defense. How did Mario Cristobal capitalize on the best season in FIU history? He brought in a big, solid class with two interesting quarterback prospects in Loranzo Hammonds and Dylan Warner, several receivers, and a great-looking guard in Derrick Thorpe. The D got the stars, though, with Lyndon Edwards and Demetrius Allen two safety-sized linebackers who could be terrific after hitting the weights. Corners Corey Tindal and T.J. Lowder might not be huge, but they can move. JUCO transfers Jordan Hunt at linebacker and Tevin Blanchard at safety will play right away.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 89. That Class Was Heavy On ... Willis Wright. In a major "huh?" moment, Wright, a very strong, very fast safety prospect who could become a whale of a wide receiver or two-way player, signed with FIU despite receiving offers from Auburn, Miami, Ole Miss, Nebraska, and several other BCS schools. He's the star of a really nice group of defensive players brought in with a special emphasis on the defensive front. Seven defensive linemen were signed including Jordan White, a 320-pound tackle.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 98. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive back. This was a decent class all the way around, but the major focus was on stopping the pass with some good defensive ends in Joshua Forney and Thatcher Starling, and several defensive backs with decent speed, and surprisingly, a lot of size. Terrance Taylor was a nice pickup at safety while Wayne Times is a good-looking corner prospect.

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