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FIU Game Notebook: Putting Out a Five-Alarm Fire

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Here’s Butch Davis’ reaction from the debacle in Murfreesboro and my POV.

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

In the last 21 games, the FIU Panther defense has given up 4,236 yards on the ground - the equivalent of two and a half miles worth of yardage. The most demoralizing of those contests may have been Saturday’s 50-17 loss against a Middle Tennessee State team that entered the afternoon with the 10th ranked rushing attack in Conference USA.

“We can’t just turn the page on this game, because if we don’t put out the fires that caused tonight to happen, the same thing will happen to us next week,” said Butch Davis.

The fact of the matter is the team has had over a season to extinguish the flames. At this point, the Panthers are well past the point of break glass in case of emergency - they’re facing a five-alarm fire.


Butch Davis’ postgame

After losses, Butch Davis is normally upbeat and ready to assess the things that went wrong in the defeat. However, similarly to the Tulane game, the frustration on his face was palpable as to his team’s performance over the three hours and thirty-three minutes of game time.

“Until you see the film, you can’t fully assess what happened against the run. But I saw things like spilled counter plays, having to wonder whether the support from the linebackers was there, it’s a multitude of things. But the fact of the matter is what happened tonight was unacceptable,” said Davis.

The brutal truth is this - the coaching staff has preached about fundamentals and technique going back to the FAU loss last season that saw the team give up 439 yards on the ground.

There’s obviously a disconnect between the issues that they see on film and the on the field execution of correcting said problems.


Butch Davis postgame - Part Two

As the face of the Panther program, Davis, for better or worse shoulders the accountability in lopsided losses like Saturday’s. The only voice made available for comment postgame was that of the 38-year coaching veteran.

“They outplayed us in all three phases and the stuff that we did tonight is what sabotaged us early in the season. You turn over the ball three times inside of your 30-yard-line and we couldn’t get much done offensively. Give Middle credit, it was a great game for them,” said Davis.

Not that Davis isn’t to be taken at his word - he’s generally self-aware and blunt following defeats, but the phrase “three phases” at this point is more euphemism for a much harsher critique of the team, than actual analysis.

The losses to Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech could be summed up in being outplayed - Tulane and MTSU were a matter of two teams who physically imposed their will against FIU and nobody inside of FIU’s building would deny that.


Monsoon in Murfreesboro

While it may have felt like the gloomy, rain-filled skies hovered squarely over the Panthers, both teams were greeted by the torrential downpour following the 20-minute intermission. What effect it had on the FIU offense in the third quarter is up for debate, what’s unquestionable is the fact that MTSU handled it better than FIU and the 33 unanswered points following the half say as much.

“The rain was horrible in the third quarter. There’s nothing that you can do to prepare for that type of weather. I thought that we did a good job of digging ourselves out of a hole early, gained our composure and took a lead. But the rain made it extraordinarily difficult to move the ball, we kept going three and out repeatedly,” said Davis.

Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill offered his point of view on the weather and why he went almost exclusively to the run in the second half.

“It was 100 percent due to the conditions. We didn’t come into this game saying we were going to run for almost 500 yards. When that monsoon came and especially with the wind, we didn’t have any choice but to run and I’m proud of our offensive line,” said Stockstill.

Miscellaneous

  • Quarterback James Morgan moved into second-place all-time in career passing TD’s by an FIU quarterback with his 23-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Alexander in the second quarter. His 36 career passing touchdowns are 29 behind all-time leader Alex McGough.
  • Just how bad was the third quarter for FIU - here are the numbers from the quarter below.
Here’s the numbers from the ill-fated third quarter that sunk FIU.