Entering Saturday’s game, all eyes were on how the Panthers’ defense would fare against Charlotte running back Benny Lemay. While the numbers on the box score may say one thing, when you look inside the details of FIU’s 48-23 win over the 49ers, they’ll say that all things considered the unit fared well. That, along with the excellent play of the offensive line drove the victory.
Coming out of high school, Coconut Creek native Alexy Jean-Baptiste chose Arkansas over various schools, including FIU and Miami.
However, he spent three seasons in relative obscurity, appearing in only one game during his Razorback career. He transferred to FIU in the offseason and since having his waiver approved in time for the UMass game, hasn’t wasted any time making his presence felt (8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble) in two games.
In the postgame presser, Jean-Baptiste wasn’t shy about making his feelings known in regards to his collegiate career.
“It was different because over there (at Arkansas) everything is given to you. They baby you over there, but over here we have to go get it and earn it,” said Jean-Baptiste.
“Practice over there is just practice, it’s whatever. But here, it’s intense and emotional. But we’re a real team over here, over there it’s not a real team in terms of having chemistry,” he added.
Defensive Line Rotation
One of the biggest questions on the minds of FIU fans has been the defensive line rotation. For some, there has been a curiosity of why certain players haven’t seen the field at a higher clip. According to Davis, much of that is by design and is dictated by situations during the game, along with the need to have a rotation.
“We graduated a ton of guys in the offseason and going into spring, we knew that we can’t play four defensive linemen. We’re at the stage where we’re playing minimum 10-11 guys per game,” said Davis.
In regards to the pass-rush specifically, he added this.
“What happens is when we end up in third and long, our ideal package is having Noah (Curtis) and Kevin Oliver slide inside to DT and we can play Alexy (Jean-Baptiste) and Chris Whittaker at the ends. In my time here, we haven’t had that type of talent in terms of a pass-rush lineup,” said Davis.
FIU has started the past four games in a nickel formation, which should spell more time for the athletic unit.
A key point that should be noted is while Jean-Baptiste and Whittaker have shown flashes as pass-rushers, they’ve only been cleared by the NCAA for a few weeks. Meaning that while they’ve been able to practice, they haven’t taken a majority of reps because it’s imperative to give the players who were eligible the bulk of the practice reps.
Also, their effectiveness as pass-rushers/run-defenders is aided when they are part of a defensive line rotation, having fresh legs when they’re on the field. This can be said for the entire defensive and offensive line, who coaches prefer that both units work out of a rotation.
Depth on the O-Line is back
For the first four games, FIU fell short of playing last year’s target number of 9-10 offensive linemen per game. In the last two, while the number still isn’t that high, different players are seeing time.
Lyndell Hudson Jr. was impressive in a start last week and now freshman guard Sione Finau has emerged to gain playing time. The Keller, Texas native made his collegiate debut against UMass and also saw time in the win over Charlotte.
- While Benny Lemay finished the game with 144 yards - 87 of them came on four runs. Those runs subtracted, Lemay had 17 carries for 51 yards. Equally impressive was the early goal-line stand by FIU. After Lemay ripped off a 48-yard run, Charlotte ran the ball 3 times inside the FIU 15, for a gain of five yards.
- In addition to being teammates, running backs Napoleon Maxwell and Anthony Jones are also roommates. Jones noted the bond in the postgame. “That’s like my brother right there, when he scores it’s like I score and it’s more fun that way,” said Jones.
- Receiver Bryce Singleton is still battling a knee injury that's bothered him all offseason. There's currently no timetable for his return.
- Sage Lewis re-aggravated the pulled hamstring injury that he suffered against La Tech. Davis indicated postgame that had the score been closer, Lewis may have returned.
- The final two transfers from the offseason had their waivers approved.