Camp is over. The 2013 football season is here and FIU is about to find out what it has for a team. For the past month and last spring the Panthers have gone against each other in practice and it’s hard to tell what you have when you’re going against the same color jersey.
Saturday at 12:30 p.m. FIU kicks off its 12th season of football at Maryland. With more than two-thirds of the roster being underclassmen and missing several key players, the Panthers will find out how far they have come or have to go against the Terrapins, who hold a 3-0 series lead on FIU.
Before I get into the particulars of the game, you can listen to the broadcast of Saturday’s game on the FIU Sports Radio Network with myself calling the game and Jose Sotolongo joining me as a guest color analyst. Sotolongo was the original FIU sideline reporter on Spanish radio in the early years of the program. Sotolongo does speak English.
CLICK HERE to access the radio broadcast.
Saturday’s game is likely going to come down two factors: FIU’s offensive line and the Panthers defense containing the quarterback read-option and Terps electric receiver Stefon Diggs.
The Panthers will start five new offensive linemen Saturday. The expected lineup should consist of left tackle David Delsoin, left guard Jordan Budwig, center Donald Senat, right guard Jordan White and right tackle Aaron Nielsen. If the FIU O-line can give quarterback Jake Medlock time to throw and open holes for the running game then the Panthers should hang with the Terps.
I think the new west coast pro-style offense should benefit a young FIU team because the Panthers have a roster more suited to the scheme than the spread offense.
Defensively, FIU will have to stop an offense that features a historic bug-a-boo of Panthers defenses: the quarterback read-option. Whether it was Carson Newman quarterbacks in the early years of the FIU program, Middle Tennessee’s Dwight Dasher or Arkansas State’s Ryan Aplin, the Panthers have had trouble stopping mobile quarterbacks. Maryland’s C.J. Brown is no different. Brown owns three of the top eight rushing performances by a quarterback in Maryland history (162 yards vs. Clemson; 124 vs. Georgia Tech; 110 vs. Wake Forest).
FIU has to stay disciplined on defense in order to contain Brown. If that’s not enough, the Terps most dangerous playmaker is Diggs – Maryland’s version of T.Y. Hilton. Diggs has game-breaking speed and the Terps try to get him the ball all kinds of ways just like FIU did for Hilton.
The Terps also have a rather young and inexperienced offensive line which might be an advantage for the more veteran FIU defense. The Panthers defensive line and secondary has the most game experience on the defensive side. FIU linebackers will be seeing their most game action ever so that could be a factor especially when it comes to containing Brown. Sam Miller might get the tough assignment of covering Diggs.
FIU players and coaches have said all week they are eager to see what they have for a team this season. The Panthers are young, but with new systems on offense and defense are relatively unknown which could help FIU. Byrd Stadium is expected to be rocking for the season opener. The Panthers have to keep their composure early on and remember that it’s just football – a game they’ve played for most of their lives.
The first three games of this series have been close ones with Maryland winning 14-10 in 2006, 26-10 in 2007 and 42-28 in 2010. The 2007 contest was a six-point game until late in the fourth quarter. Should the FIU O-line step up and the FIU defense stays disciplined with Brown and contains Diggs, expect another close one in College Park on Saturday.