FIU opens its 13th season of football against Bethune-Cookman at FIU Stadium on Saturday at 7:04 p.m. Coming off a 1-11 season the Panthers would like to get off to a quick start against the Wildcats, who won last year's meeting at FIU 34-13.
Before we get to the 5 Claws to victory for the Panthers to win their season opener, here are some notes about Saturday's game broadcasts.
You can hear the game live on ESPN Deportes 1210 AM or if you are on your phone or laptop then CLICK HERE to listen. Mike Levine joins me in the broadcast booth all season long to call all 12 FIU games. Before each game we'll have a 30-minute pregame show. After the final whistle we will have a postgame show. Former FIU linebacker James Knapp, who did color commentary in last year's FIU broadcasts, will help co-anchor the pregame show. We will be on the air LIVE starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The game can be seen in South Florida on WBFS Channel 33, but it will be shown on a 1-hour tape delay basis. The channel 33 broadcast of the FIU game will begin at 8 p.m. Kickoff is at 7:04 p.m.
5 CLAWS TO VICTORY
PUT A LEASH ON THE WILDCATS: The Wildcats ran for 311 yards and four touchdowns in last year's win at FIU. That is what B-CU does best -- run the football. With FIU breaking in a new pair of starting defensive tackles replacing graduated Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman, you can be sure the Wildcats will go at the middle of the FIU defensive line. B-CU has the talent and size to pound the ball. The top three Wildcat backs each weigh more than 210 pounds. The Panthers need to stop the run and force B-CU to throw the ball.
BACKING THE D-LINE: With the exception of Luis Rosado, the FIU linebackers are also relatively inexperienced. Yes, Treyvon Williams played some last year but he is just a sophomore. Jordan Guest, Patrick Jean, Davison Colimon, De'Shawn Hazziez and Anthony Wint will get their first bulk of playing time this season. Should the Wildcats get to the second level of the defense running the ball, the FIU linebackers have to make plays to help out the defensive line. Despite having some of the better safeties in the conference, the Panthers can't have the safeties coming up to make tackles play after play because it will usually mean the Wildcats have already gotten good yardage on the play.
FAST START: Yes, the Panthers have more team speed with the new additions and the return of several key players, but this fast start has to do with getting some quick points. B-CU comes in ranked No. 22 in the FCS poll and is a more experienced team than FIU. The Wildcats also carry the confidence of having won at FIU last year. It was such a confidence-building win for B-CU that they hung a sign about it on their campus all last fall. FIU has to find a way to get on the scoreboard early to thwart any B-CU momentum coming into the game.
LONG DRIVES: Several times last season the FIU offense couldn't sustain drives and that brought the Panthers defense back to the field too soon. That eventually led to the defense tiring especially with its lack of depth. This is year two of the offense running coach Ron Turner's scheme. The Panthers need to gobble up first downs and move the chains on a consistent basis. FIU has to do what B-CU did last year and control the clock with its offense. The Wildcats had the ball 34:15 in last year's game compared to 25:45 for FIU.
FIND THE HIDDEN YARDAGE: The Panthers struggled a bit in special teams last year when it came to kickoffs and punts. FIU has to launch kickoffs either in the end zone or at the goal line to prevent sizable returns from B-CU. Same goes for the punt game. The Panthers need to win the game of hidden yardage. Getting Richard Leonard back for kickoff returns and/or punt returns along with speedy freshman Alex Gardner can only help.