You felt great after Anthony Gaitor (left, thanks Sam Lewis photo) returned that interception 54 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-6 after three quarters, but then you got kicked in the gut after the Aggies scored 21 unanswered points.
The Panthers have been on the cusp of victory in both their games this season, but just couldn't get that extra play in the fourth quarter that made the difference. So FIU is sitting at 0-2 today and not 2-0.
Yes, that loss to the Aggies hurts, but the Panthers outplayed another BCS team, A&M, with the exception of the fourth quarter.
This team is on the verge of breaking through. This is NOT a Chicago Cubs-like phenomena where the Cubbies faithful keeps saying "It's Gonna Happen" every year.
FIU football will turn nine years old on Dec. 5, 2010 when the regular season ends and the Panthers could be preparing for their first bowl game. We are starting to witness the turnaround job MC and his coaching staff have done with the program in just three years and two games. From recruiting the heck out of South Florida and most of the nation to turning around the academic side of the program. FIU football posted its highest APR number last season.
Now the Panthers just need that signature win against a BCS foe to take that next step and that could happen on Saturday at College Park, Maryland. This is not to say FIU can overlook any team -- because it can't -- but I got a feeling about Saturday's game against the Terps and after the Texas A&M game here's why:
The FIU D
Through three quarters, the Panthers D held down the No. 5 offense in the nation to just 203 total yards. Jerrod Johnson was like the kid from the "Sixth Sense" (left). Johnson was seeing dead people or in this case, ghosts coming out of every which way after him. The way Johnson was playing FIU had 22 defenders on the field. Johnson's Heisman chances were buried after four picks and six sacks.
Although, the Panthers dropped from No. 2 to No. 28 in the nation in total D, nationally FIU has the No. 6 pass D, No. 9 in tackles for loss and No. 12 in sacks heading into Saturday's game.
There is definitely a buzz building around FIU not only about this D, but about this Panthers team. Like one Aggie observer said to me outside the FIU locker room at Kyle Field after the game as the Panthers boarded the bus for the airport:
"Pur-ty soon, y'all gonna be comin' into these big stadiums 'round the country and leaving home with wins. With that speed, that D, there ain't gonna be too many out-of-conference teams that will wanna play you guys. Y'all have a nice flight back."
And that was not just southern hospitality talking -- although I must say about the Aggies fans they were very welcoming. When the FIU buses arrived at Kyle Field the majority of the A&M tailgaters greeted the Panthers with a thumbs up signal and a pleasant wave. The same went when the FIU buses departed for the airport at midnight, contrary to the New York taxi cab not-so-pleasant-gestures (that's putting it kindly) that greeted FIU in Gainesville last season or in the Orange Bowl in 2007 when the Panthers were the visiting team for that one Sept. 15 game.
The Panthers are getting a pass rush that they have not had in a while. Jarvis Wilson and Greg Hickman have been huge in getting pressure on the QB. Wilson (left, thanks SL photo) has to be one of the more unheralded defenders on the FIU D. Aaron Davis, Big Ontario and from the defensive backfield Gaitor have also been disruptive forces in the offensive backfield.
And it has been relentless. For the majority of Saturday's game, A&M had no idea how to stop the FIU speed and DC Geoff Collins was bringing it from every angle and at any time. Now the Panthers just have to finish off the opponent with a strong fourth quarter.
As for that No. 6 pass D, the FIU DBs made future NFL receiver Jeff Fuller look average. There were very few instances when an Aggie receiver had any kind of separation from a Panther DB. Senior safety Kreg Brown was huge with three pass breakups. Jonathan Cyprien was his usual All-Sun Belt self. Emmanuel Souarin was also stingy with the pass D and Ash Parker had an acrobatic INT to set up an FIU TD.
El Chili esta definitivamente caliente!
ST. THOMAS CONNECTION
Yes, the offensive numbers were not the best FIU has put up before, but you can see it is just a matter of time before this FIU O gets in gear. Jeremiah Harden didn't have much running room against the Aggies, but I liked the way he moved a pile on a couple of occassions. JH (5-9, 195) went up against some big Texas defenders, but still kept churning the legs. FIU tallied 115 rushing yards on Saturday.
Quarterback Wesley Carroll (right, thanks SL photo), Harden's high school teammate at St. Thomas Aquinas, also did not have the best numbers on Saturday, but what I took from WC's performance on Saturday was his poise.
There were 79,069 screaming Texans that made it very difficult to here anything on Kyle Field, but each time WC calmly stepped to the line of scrimmage, instructed his offensive teammates and got the snap off without any hitch. That situation on Saturday was ripe for a plethora of offensive pre-snap penalties. The Panthers had just two false starts and zero delay of game infractions among their seven penalties. Of course, it helps WC that he has played in those type of environments before while at Mississippi State in the SEC.
Although WC was not as accurate as he could be (14 of 33 for 117 yards), that's not anything to worry about. WC (NCAA transfer rules and relegated to backup at MSU after an All-SEC Freshman season) has not played in two years and this was just his second game since then.
Jack Griffin kept his composure and nailed field goals of 33 and 40 yards. He certainly has the leg to help the Panthers. Just as important, but not as well seen (hidden yardage) were the kickoffs by Dylan Lynch. The left-footed kicker pinned A&M deep when he kicked off. DL averaged 66.4 yards per kickoff.
Punter Josh Brisk (59-yard punt) and even future Punt, Pass and Kick contestant WC (32-yard punt to the A&M 4-yard line) also contributed to FIU winning several battles of field position.
Now the Panthers have to keep this momentum that they are building rolling into College Park on Saturday, finish off in the fourth quarter and "y'all be leavin' home with a win".
We're going to try something new this Saturday for the LIVE BLOG of the FIU/Maryland game. Starting at 11:38 a.m. on Saturday, The Prowl will be LIVE BLOGGING from "The S Bar" as part of the OFFICIAL FIU WATCH PARTY. We'll have several friends of The Prowl in Maryland roaming the sidelines to give us any updates we may need from the Terps field as FIU and Maryland collide.
Check out later this week on The Prowl a video on The S Bar and what you can expect from the OFFICIAL HOME OF FIU WATCH PARTIES if you go on Saturday. We will have S Bar manager Christi Moguel on The Prowl to tell you about it.
If you are in Miami come on down to The S Bar (11995 SW 26 Street) and be part of the festivities and maybe even get on the LIVE BLOG while we watch the Panthers and the Terps. The Golden Dazzlers, Roary, several drink and food specials and S Bar giveaways will be part of the party.
FIUer: Nicely done. Thanks to you and the pres for this. Did he say we're already playing UCG in baseball? Did I miss something or did he just misspeak?
PP: As of right now, there are no baseball games scheduled with the Coral Gables school this coming season. The only sports FIU and the Coral Gables school are competing in is volleyball, cross country and tennis.
Scores for the FIU/Maryland game have to be in to The Prowl by 11:59 a.m. on Saturday. If you do not see your name below, then I did not receive a score from you for the FIU/TAMU game.
2-0 (points differential)
Baltimorepanther (21), NYCFIUFan (28), FIU0406 (29), Jimmy (34), theINTERNATIONAL (35), alt7787 (49).
FIUJM (16), Habanero (16), WesFIU (19), jcalex (20), FIUcanesFan (24), FIU Fanatic (25), CJ (26), LonePanther (33), SunblazerPanther (50),
Tri-Panther (28), Quijote (33), FIUer (35), chiaPanther (36), Max (57).
Welcome our newest TP reader from Littleton, Colorado. . . .
The Prowl blog is now read in:
31 STATES: AL, AZ, CA, CO, FLA, GA, ID, IL, IND, KS, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NEB, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI.
7 COUNTRIES: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Canada, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Ghana, USA.
1 TERRITORY: Puerto Rico.
1 DISTRICT: District of Columbia