Saturday marked the final open practice for FIU football as the season opener at Maryland is exactly two weeks away. The Panthers spent a good portion of Saturday's practice scrimmaging with actual game officials making calls and FIU coaches wearing headsets.
Before getting to the scrimmage, the first team offensive line made a switch moving David Delsoin from right tackle to the more important "blind side" left tackle. Aaron Nielsen, who had been at left tackle is now at right tackle.
Prior to the scrimmage, there were some nifty rushes from the running backs during team run drills. Lamarq Caldwell, who appears to be the closest rusher FIU has to an every down back, made a nice move on 3rd and 2 to pick up a first down.
Freshman Silas Spearman had one of the top two rushes of the day when he cut back on the defense and gained 17 yards down the left sideline.
For the second straight day, safety Demarkus Perkins stuck Caldwell pretty hard, but credit to Caldwell he kept the legs churning and motored past the first down marker. Perkins can really pop someone when he tackles.
At the start of the scrimmage, as expected, it was all defense. The offense struggled to put together any kind of drive.
With a New York Giants scout watching, Isame Faciane recorded two sacks. After practice like scouts from the Titans, Raiders, Patriots and Jets have done earlier in FIU camp, the Giants scout sat down with FIU defensive line coach Andre Patterson to talk about FIU defensive linemen.
Cornerback Sam Miller picked off another pass in the scrimmage.
For a while it seemed like the only offensive highlights were going to be E.J. Hilliard connecting with Ya'Keem Griner for 12 yards and Jake Medlock hitting Dominique Rhymes for 17 yards.
But with the help of a defensive pass interference call, the offense moved closer to the end zone. Medlock made a heads up move, jumping in the air to throw a screen pass over the outstretched hands of a defender. Freshman tight end Jonnu Smith caught the ball and got to the defense's 20. Two plays later, Medlock threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rhymes.
On another drive, Bowling Green transfer Anthon Samuel showed why he was the MAC Freshman of the Year last season, sprinting around the left side for a 19-yard gain. This drive would end when junior cornerback Randy Harvey broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Jairus Williams.
Both the first team and second team offenses were presented with a game-ending scenario at the end of the scrimmage. The scenario was this: the offense is down 8-6 with 1:15 left in the game and one timeout. Both offenses started each drive at their 30 and had to get into field goal range for a potential game-winner.
Giovani Francois opened the first drive with a sack of Medlock. Through most of the scrimmage, FIU quarterbacks were under plenty of pass rush pressure.
Medlock did show some good clock management during the 1:15 he was given. Medlock led the offense to two, fourth down conversions. On one of those conversions, it was 4th and 5 when coach Ron Turner called a gutsy draw play to Caldwell, who picked up 7 yards.
Medlock got the offense to the defense's 30 with 5 seconds left in the game to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt by Sergio Sroka. The defense called timeout right before Sroka was ready to kick to try and ice the freshman kicker.
It didn't work as Sroka nailed the 47-yarder for a 9-8 win.
Backup quarterback E.J. Hilliard inherited the same scenario down 8-6 with 1:15 left and one timeout available.
The offense picked up several first downs, including a 14-yard pass to Rhymes on the sideline, and Hilliard scrambling for 12 yards.
The second team offense got to the defense's 33 when it was time to attempt a game-winning field goal. The attempt was a 50-yard field goal by freshman kicker Austin Taylor, who apparently has moved up into the backup kicker's job behind Sroka.
The defense called timeout to ice Taylor, who would go on to leave the 50-yard field goal attempt about 5 yards short of the goal post.
Only Sroka and Taylor were given field goal opportunities on Saturday with Sroka hitting from 32, 43, 31 and 47 yards. On another Sroka attempt, the hold was botched.
Taylor connected from 36 and 43 yards, but missed from 32, 34, and 50 yards.