FIU heads into Saturday’s game with Miami fresh off of a 63-24 drubbing of UMass.
However, the level of competition takes a major leap with the Hurricanes. I spoke with State of the U’s managing editor Cam Underwood to get his thoughts on the game.
1. What are your thoughts on the Hurricane defense after three games?
SOTU: The Hurricane defense are the calling card of this team. There are multiple NFL caliber players at each level of the defense, and they are coming together to play at a very high level.
Players like DT Gerald Willis III, DEs Jonathan Garvin and Joe Jackson, LBs Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney, and S Jaquan Johnson have been key players for Miami through the first quarter of the season.
Looking at the stats, Miami leads the nation with 35 TFLs in three games. They also lead the country by allowing opponents to convert only 16.3% of 3rd down chances. The Canes are also top five nationally in yards per game allowed, and yards per play allowed.
2. How important is it for Malik Rosier to play well, especially in front of the home fans?
SOTU: It’s important for Malik Rosier to play well regardless of the location. Much has been made of the home fans booing Rosier during the home opener against Savannah State, but when you don’t perform well, that will happen.
It’s pretty clear: people want the QB (and the team) to play well. And when that doesn’t happen, they voice their displeasure.
Any team would want a strong performance from their QB, and Miami is no different. Rosier has the ability to hit throws down the field to any number of elite skill talent. And, he’s the 3rd leading rusher by both carries and yards, so he impacts the run game as well.
3. We all know about Travis Homer but talk about what DeeJay Dallas brings as a running back?
SOTU: Sophomore DeeJay Dallas is a dynamic player at RB. A high school option QB who played all over the field, Dallas has great size for a back.
He has the ability to play RB, FB, slot WR, outside WR, or wildcat QB, and has gotten snaps at all those positions. But, as a RB, he’s really grown into being an impact player, and will see plenty of work vs FIU on Saturday.
4. Who is a player defensively that FIU fans should be most concerned about?
SOTU: DT Gerald Willis III. The 5th year senior is back after a leave of absence in 2017 and looks ever bit of the 5-star recruit he was ranked out of HS.
Willis III has been unblockable, piling up 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, has disrupted other plays which have ended in TFLs for other players or forced incompletions by a hurried QB, and has forced multiple holding penalties by opposing offensive linemen.
5. What type of offensive scheme can be expected from Miami?
SOTU: Miami runs a pro-spread offense. There will be plenty of I-Formation now that the Canes have a FB they can trust, but that usually comes in short yardage situations.
The foundation of Miami’s run game is the zone read, with straight zone runs (inside and outside) and the occasional power play mixed in.
Miami will work the quick passing game with slants and bubble screens, and mix in deeper throws on posts or fly routes. One of the most successful plays this season has been putting dynamic WR Jeff Thomas on an over route (run from the slot on one side, behind the LBs and to the sideline on the opposite side of the field).
And with zone-read, single back zone or power runs, two-back runs, and a variety of passing concepts, there are tons of options for Miami on offense, and a plethora of elite skill position talent to make even the most normal play into a highlight.
6. Which Miami defender is most likely to bring out the turnover chain?
SOTU: Either CB Trajan Bandy, the king of the turnover chain so fair this season, or DE Jonathan Garvin. I know a lineman isn’t the first player you’d think about, but Garvin had multiple strip sacks in 2017 where he recovered the fumble he personally forced.
I could easily see him getting on the board with one of those against FIU this Saturday.
7. Going off the field for a second. What’s the “average” Miami fan’s view of FIU as a program? There seems to be a lot of strong opinions about each other’s fanbase, etc.
SOTU: I’m not sure the average Miami fan thinks about FIU as a program. The Panthers have had some decent players in the past, but that’s about it. Well, with Butch Davis as coach that’s been mentioned a lot.
Insofar as the fan base stuff, that’s people from all over bashing Miami fans who didn’t go to Miami. A healthy portion of the Miami fan base has attended schools like Miami-Dade College or FIU, and that rings true to this day.
So that conversation is always around how you didn’t even go to Miami so why are you a Canes fan?
I know there’s a strong “you went to FIU, so you should be an FIU fan” sentiment from some, but are we “REALLY” going to fault people from Miami (or South Florida in general) for being fans of the Canes, when Miami is BY FAR the best and most recognizable football program in the area?
8. What’s your call on a final score?
SOTU: I think it’s good from a story standpoint that Miami and FIU are playing each other again. QB Malik Rosier said 40+ point games should be the standard for Miami, and I think we’ll see that standard (and more) on Saturday night.
Final Score: Miami 45 FIU 13