Game Preview: Week 4 vs. FIU

Paul Austria
5 min read
The context of this week’s matchup between Miami and FIU is very intriguing, to say the least. The coaching matchup pins one former UM football legend versus another in Miami’s Mark Richt and FIU’s Butch Davis, with Davis having coached the Canes from 1995-2000 and playing a huge role is setting the program up for the 2001 national championship run. Miami is set to play at home against Florida International (FIU) this Saturday, but Hard Rock Stadium is actually farther from Coral Gables than FIU is, with FIU’s campus being only 8 miles away. These two teams have not faced off since 2007 and in the time being, UM has been coining this game as the Battle of the 305 while FIU has been selling shirts in their bookstore titling it as the Battle of South Florida.

This is just the 3rd meeting ever between these teams but the first matchup in ‘06 is worth noting. Just to refresh, it was a blowout but not without a little drama. Things got very messy and trash talk was rampant throughout the entire game, but the tipping point came with about 9 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter after a PAT by Miami put the Canes up 14-0. After the play, FIU safety Chris Smith tackled and wrestled place holder Matt Perelli to the ground, while another FIU player came and kicked him and the head. Soon, there were multiple altercations simultaneously occurring. UM safety Anthony Reddick was using his helmet as a weapon and swinging it at FIU players while Brandon Meriweather stomped on a few players, and even an already injured FIU player tried to partake with his crutches. 31 players in total were suspended for one game, while the Panthers actually dismissed Smith and another player from the team. Miami enacted a zero-tolerance policy for fighting for the rest of the season, and it was basically just a giant mess. The Canes won 35-0, and they also won the following matchup the year after 23-9 without incident.

Fast forward 11 years and here we are. The 21st-ranked Hurricanes are coming off a 49-24 win over Toledo, where after facing continued scrutiny from fans, Malik Rosier had his best performance of the season. Rosier accounted for five touchdowns, two through the air and three on the ground. His composure was improved, although not perfect. Although Travis Homer is still the starter at running back, Deejay Dallas got the majority of carries, 17 to be exact, for a career-high 105 yards and one touchdown.

Sophomore WR Jeff Thomas has continued his breakout season, as the speedy fast receiver currently leads the nation in yards per catch and is #6 in all-purpose yards. To give you another idea of how well Thomas is playing, Deejay Dallas is second on the team in all-purpose yards, and Jeff has twice as many yards as Dallas. His emergence is providing a little relief to the recent news of TE Brian Polendey’s season-ending knee injury, which now leaves the Canes with only two healthy scholarship tight ends in true freshmen Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory.

Picking off last year’s success, this Miami defense is currently first in the nation with 35 tackles for loss, and they have the fourth-best defense in the nation in terms of yards allowed. But this unit will be without it’s biggest leader in S Jaquan Johnson, who suffered a hamstring injury just before halftime against Toledo. This could open up lots and lots of playing time for sophomore Amari Carter and true freshman Gurvan Hall after Robert Knowles put up another questionable performance against Toledo after Johnson went down.

Aside from Johnson, another injury to note for the Canes is WR Ahmmon Richards, who is still listed day-to-day but UM has confirmed that he will also be missing in action this Saturday.

After an 8-5 season last year in which he tied the school record for most wins in a season in school history, Butch Davis’ group is 2-1 so far, with a couple of wins over Old Dominion and UMass. The Panthers lost a great quarterback in Alex McGough, who was a 7th-round pick in the NFL Draft, so they’ve given the reigns to Bowling Green transfer James Morgan. Morgan has done a great job in the past two games, throwing for just over 500 yards with 5 touchdowns, and he has a great number of skill players around him. RB’s Shawndarrius Phillips and Napoleon Maxwell have both received double digit carries in the past two weeks, with both reaching 100+ yards in the win against UMass. Senior WR CJ Morton, who transferred over from Florida, has also been a great asset to the team.

On defense, Davis runs a standard 4-3 defense and one of the anchors of that deep defensive line is Fermin Silva, who is one to keep an eye on, especially for a Miami offensive line that is still looking for consistency. Last year, Silva started 11 games and finished with 50 tackles and 14 tackles for loss. FIU loves to rotate players along the line, much like last year for the Hurricanes so most of the time, the Panthers will have fresh legs in the game. Throw in LB Sage Lewis as a huge factor. He’s had at least 8 tackles in each of the Panthers’ three games played so far, including 18 in the opener against Indiana.

Although FIU’s skill level may not be on par with the Hurricanes, coach Mark Richt isn’t naive to the fact that the Panthers still recruit from the same pool of talent as Miami in the tri-county area.

“There is no doubt they’re fast. When you recruit South Florida, you’re going to be fast. They’ve got great team speed.”

This game is slated for a 3:30 start and in case you can’t make it to HRS, the game will be televised on ESPN2.

Comments (1)


Good Butch Davis references and a solid take on the game.