Tuesday, November 9, 2010

FIU Football Surging in Sun Belt Conference

November 9, 2010

 Four games into the college football season the FIU Golden Panthers were staring into an 0-4 start that dashed some of the high hopes the team had set for itself. Even though each of their first four opponents were heavy favorites, FIU felt they could muster at least one or two upsets to set the tone for the season.  However, a four-point loss at home versus Rutgers and a seven-point loss at Texas A&M was the closest the Golden Panthers could get to an upset.

All that means nothing now.

FIU began their in conference games in week five, facing four conference rivals to date. Their conference record: 3-1. Their spot in the standings: second place.

And it only gets better as conference-leading Troy welcomes the Golden Panthers to their home turf this week.

That gives FIU an opportunity to not only complete their season's 180 degree turn, but become the Sun Belt Conference's top ranked team; something FIU has never accomplished at this stage of a season.

Wide receiving phenom T.Y. Hilton continues to impress fans and NFL scouts with his versatile skill set and game-breaking speed. Last week versus Louisiana-Monroe, Hilton scored three touchdowns in FIU's 42-35 double overtime victory (two receiving and one rushing). In that game alone, Hilton contributed 291 all-purpose yards as a receiver, rusher, kick returner and punt returner.

In the ground game, the Golden Panthers have benefited from a bevy of running backs that have scored rushing TDs for the team. That is, six different players have combined for 12 rushing TDs, with Darriet Perry (6) leading the way.

Junior QB Wesley Carroll has been sporadic for the most part, but has thrown for over 210 yards in five the team's eight games, including a season-high 355 yards at Maryland. His touchdown-interception ratio stands at a less-than-stellar 9 to 11, but Carroll has posted solid QB ratings in the team's three SBC wins.

Defensively the Golden Panthers still have plenty of room for improvement, allowing an average of 27.4 points per game. Beyond that, the team has not consistently forced turnovers on opponents and is losing the turnover-differential battle thus far. At the same time, their defensive showing at Texas A&M was very impressive as they forced five turnovers, four of which were interceptions. Performances like that are what give the coaching staff and the fans hope that the defense has the potential to be more disciplined.

Overall, the team is in a prime position to make some noise and make history in their own realm. We will see how Head Coach Mario Cristobal rallies his troops for Saturday's game versus Troy and attempt to keep momentum in FIU's corner.

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Here's a clip of FIU's big third down sack versus Louisiana-Monroe in the second overtime en route to their third win of the year. A big time play by the Panther defense:

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