Written by Darrell Wilkinson
Former Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Butch Davis returns home with his FIU Panthers to take on the 21st ranked ‘Canes in what will be a battle for hometown pride.
These are two teams who, despite not being in the same conference are very familiar with each other due to local ties. There are numerous players on both teams who have played with, played against or just grew up around each other in the Miami area before heading their separate ways at the collegiate level, that and the two campuses only being a little over eight and a half miles apart will make for a very personal matchup.
“A lot of pride in the city, a lot of pride at the parks where these kids grow up and play football at. Not only do the kids know each other, but the parents know each other.” Said Hurricanes Head Coach Mark Richt as he addressed playing a local team. “Everybody knows everybody. They’ve had a lot of experience either playing high school ball, park ball, maybe seven-on-seven stuff in the summer. There are so many ways where they could cross paths, either be teammates or go against one another. It’ll be an emotional game, for sure.”
With emotional games comes a stigma that it will be a chipy game with the potential for a scuffle or two. I mean, who can forget the epic benches clearing brawl these two teams participated in back in 2006. Sure, it’s been awhile but you never know where bad blood truly ends. Potentially there is none as there’s a lot of respect for former Hurricanes head coach Butch Davis who now leads the Panthers and both teams are pretty disciplined this season on penalties with Miami ranking tied 19th in the country and FIU at ranked tied for 24th.
“If you look at their team, and the number of penalties they’ve had all year long, it shows discipline, to me.” Said Coach Richt about potential blood boiling over. “Even us, a week ago, had no penalties. That’s important. There will be guys getting their blood pumping, which should happen in the game of football. It’s a game of adrenaline and a game of guys physically getting after each other. But everybody knows that if you do something stupid, then you don’t get to play. That’s the way football is and the way it should be. I don’t anticipate anything foolish.”
One thing that has not been foolish all season is this Miami Hurricanes defense. They are for real with the only real criticism coming on a few big plays against LSU and two long touchdown passes that Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson made the most of and then some. The Hurricanes rank 1st in the country with 35 tackles for loss and 4th in total yards which considering the few bad moments have been big yardage plays only adds to the dominance they’ve had so far especially up front.
“We always are accused of blitzing more than we actually do because we play so downhill.” Said ‘Canes Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz when asked if there’s anything different about the blitz packages from last year. “Mike Pinckney made a tackle for loss last week for a seven- or eight-yard loss on a running play that looked like a blitz, but it’s not. The gap opened, he read ‘run’ and shot in there before the lineman could get him. Our guys want to play downhill. We want to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. When you’ve got guys like Gerald [Willis III] that are causing disruption amongst the offensive line, it’s easy for the linebackers to find cracks in there to get TFLs.”
PREDICTION: Miami 35 – FIU 17
In what feels like i’m sort of repeating what I said last week about Toledo the Miami Hurricanes will once again come out on top with the majority of the credit going to the defense. Miami’s defense is absolutely suffocating for any team up front and a slightly overmatched FIU offensive line is going to have a hard time stopping Gerald Willis III and Joe Jackson from blowing up plays before they begin.
What I’m most interested in seeing is more of sophomore wide out Jeff Thomas, who’s averaging a little over 27 yards per catch and 178 yards per game all purpose. Anytime Jeff Thomas gets the ball it’s must see TV and I want to see more.
Miami gets comfortable at the end and puts it away.
Be sure to tune in Saturday as Gerald Willis III and the 21st ranked Miami Hurricanes take on the FIU Panthers at Hard Rock Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:30/EST and the game can be viewed live on ESPN2. Don’t miss it ‘Canes fans.
- Darrell Wilkinson TheSkyBoat.com
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