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It’s no secret what Bethune-Cookman (ranked No. 23 FCS Poll) has been good at throughout its football history – running the ball. In their first two games this season the Wildcats rushed for 162 yards and 282 yards. B-CU won both games, the latter a 66-7 win over Virginia Union.
Although the last time the Wildcats played FIU was 10 years ago at old FIU Stadium in 2003, B-CU still ran the ball well. The Wildcats ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns in the 2003 game against FIU that B-CU won 24-14. The year before that in the 2002 inaugural FIU season, B-CU ran for 317 yards and three scores in a 31-0 win at Lockhart Stadium.
By reading the first two paragraphs of this game preview you probably know where I’m headed with this when it comes to Saturday’s game between B-CU and FIU (Join me and former FIU linebacker James Knapp for the call of the game at 6 p.m. LIVE video stream on FIUSports.com and on the FIU Sports Radio Network). If the Panthers are to win their first game of 2013 they will need to stop the Wildcats running game.
What makes that defensive game plan a little more difficult is that B-CU runs the quarterback read-option that FIU has had trouble containing. Maryland ran for 251 yards in the season opener. Central Florida ran for 165 yards last week. The Wildcats feature three mobile quarterbacks (Quentin Williams, Jackie Wilson and Brodrick Waters) and three potent running backs (Isidore Jackson, Anthony Jordan and Cary White) averaging more than five yards per carry.
It will be crucial for FIU defenders to be disciplined with their assignments when trying to corral the Wildcats run game. The Panthers did not have the eye discipline, as coach Ron Turner likes to say, against Maryland and that hurt them.
I like the FIU defensive line matchup against the B-CU offense. Where the Panthers will need key plays from will be from the linebackers and secondary. The Terrapins took advantage of those two units when they ran the ball. The Panthers may want to stack eight men in the box and make the Wildcats beat them through the air.
Offensively, FIU needs to sustain drives and get in the end zone. In the first two games of the season the Panthers had too many three-and-outs that brought the defense back on to the field too soon and hardly gave them a breather.
The return of running back Shane Coleman from injury should help with the depth. Lamarq Caldwell had a good game against Maryland, but hardly had room to run against Central Florida. Alfonso Randolph has not had space to display his nifty cutback ability that he showed during camp.
When the Panthers sped up the tempo on offense last week they got into a rhythm. You might see more of that Saturday with Jake Medlock throwing some quick short passes to move the offense. That may bring tight ends Jonnu Smith and Cory White into the pass catching mix.
Considering coach Ron Turner said earlier this week his team needs “a shot of confidence”, the Panthers need to get off to a fast start Saturday against a good B-CU team. That will mean stopping the run early and making B-CU beat them through the air. The FIU offense has moved the ball between the 30s this season, but has yet to orchestrate a long touchdown drive. That will have to change Saturday for the Panthers to register their first win.
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