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It’s now a six-game series between FIU and Central Florida after an agreement was reached to extend the matchup two more years beginning in 2015. Game three of the currently tied (1-1) series kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday from FIU Stadium.
You can listen to the game on the FIU Sports Radio Network with me doing the play-by-play. I’ll be joined by former FIU linebacker James Knapp, who played on the inaugural FIU football team back in 2002 and Jose Sotolongo, who kicked for the Westchester Optimist Lions in 1968.
CLICK HERE to access the radio broadcast. For those asking, there will be no video streaming of tonight’s game, only CBS Sports Network will televise. Next week, FIUSports.com will video stream the FIU/Bethune-Cookman game.
The good news for the FIU defense this week is that they should not encounter a read-option quarterback like Maryland’s C.J. Brown, who stung them last week for five touchdowns. The not-so-good news is that UCF brings a very explosive offense to the Cage.
Quarterback Blake Bortles and a plethora of talented and speedy receivers are likely to test the green FIU secondary and linebackers. Bortles does not run like Brown, but according to FIU defensive coordinator Josh Conklin, Bortles is probably a better passer on the run than in the pocket. So the Panthers might still have to deal with a mobile quarterback.
Starting safety Demarkus Perkins will likely miss the game, which means Mitch Wozniak will get his first career start as the safety opposite Justin Halley. Either Randy Harvey or Brad Hyman-Muhammad will get their first career start and the bulk of the playing time opposite Sam Miller at cornerback. According to coaches, both Harvey and Hyman-Muhammad played better than Jeremiah McKinnon last week.
Markeith Russell and Derrick Jones will start at linebacker along with Luis Rosado. It will be Jones’s first career start. Starting outside linebacker Davison Colimon is out with a foot injury. FIU’s linebacker corps could get a boost with the return of Patrick Jean. FIU coaches thought redshirt freshman De’Shawn Hazziez had a good game last week and he might see more playing time Friday.
Regardless of who plays defensively for the Panthers, they will have to contend with a solid passing game and a stout running game led by Storm Johnson. FIU should match up well on the defensive line and the return of Giovani Francois and Darrian Dyson provides much needed depth on a line that had just seven players available in the Maryland game.
When the Panthers have the ball the offensive line will need to give quarterback Jake Medlock more time to throw. FIU receivers will need to do a better job of hanging on to the ball. I counted six dropped passes last week. Medlock had a couple of misfires as well. UCF has some young cornerbacks that, if Medlock gets time to throw, should be tested by the Panthers.
The bright spot on the FIU offense last week was running back Lamarq Caldwell, who proved training camp was no fluke with his play in the opener. Caldwell will get the start again with intriguing freshman Alfonso Randolph, Talir Satterfield-Rowe and possibly Shane Coleman, if he is healthy, getting some carries.
Freshman tight end Jonnu Smith could get more passes thrown his way after dragging a Terps defender on his 20-yard gain last week. Smith will also lineup in the backfield as a fullback.
Going against an experienced and talented UCF team, FIU will need to execute almost perfectly to take a 2-1 series lead. Asked about UCF earlier in the week, FIU coach Ron Turner said they are what FIU wants to be. A team that plays hard, fast, is physical and extremely disciplined. The Panthers will need to be all that on Friday night to come out on top.
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