Following FIU’s 73-0 blowout loss at Western Kentucky, I braced myself for what I imagined would be a very short and disillusioned Mike MacIntyre postgame.
Maybe, I’ve been shaped by several postgame pressers in the past that were — ahem, brief.
Instead, as MacIntyre spotted me inside the FIU locker room at Houchens-Smith Stadium, he nodded and gave a wink, as to say he would be ready to answer my questions in a moment — which he did with a level of energy that I wasn’t expecting given the margin of defeat.
Fast forward to yesterday’s homecoming loss to UConn and MacIntyre’s face wore the emotion of a coach who disappointed in his team’s performance, realizing that they weren’t outclassed — but very much outplayed.
“This was an extremely disappointing night for us, they definitely beat us but in a lot of ways, I feel like we gave them a lot of opportunities that they made the most of,” said MacIntyre.
Losing by 70 points to an opponent is indicative of being an inferior opponent — which the youthful Panthers were against a veteran Western Kentucky team looking for a conference title.
While MacIntyre would never come out and say as much, there was little for him to be dismayed with on that day. In the loss to UConn, he knows that his team had an opportunity to build momentum off the New Mexico State victory.
“We outgained them and lost 33-12, that goes back to not finishing drives and not making plays on later downs on both sides of the ball,” said MacIntyre. “We have to coach them better on different details of the game so that we don’t have some of the issues we had tonight.”
Despite outgaining UConn 409-402, FIU now looks for their second victory in a short week against one of Conference USA’s best in five days against UTSA.
Here’s the game notebook from Saturday night.
Following an unexpectedly stellar performance by the FIU offensive line in the victory over NM State, the group didn’t necessarily regress in the UConn game — but they are still trying to build continuity as injuries and moving pieces are mounting.
“Lyndell (Hudson) went down and (John) Bock wasn’t able to practice all week but he was able to play in the game and we had to kick Julius out to tackle,” said MacIntyre. “The next guy up gets a chance to show if he can play or not.”
Former walk-on Ming Tjon saw extensive time in the second half at center after Lyndell Hudson’s injury which forced starting center Julius Pierce to play at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Wyatt Lawson earned his first career start at guard with Bock’s injury.
FIU’s starting offensive line of Shamar Hobdy-Lee, John Bock, Julius Pierce, Rey Burnett and Jacob Peace have played less than 45% of the team’s offensive snaps together.
Coming into the game, FIU had only turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and one fumble). In the first half of Saturday’s game, they turned the ball over three times.
“We work on our snapping all the time, especially with the guys we’ve rotated in and out at center, that we weren’t able to execute down in the redzone, those things hurt us,” said MacIntyre.
On the offenses first two drives, they drove inside of the opposing 35-yard-line — only to end up with zero points.
“I think if we at least come away with three on the first drive and something following that, it may have been different,” said MacIntyre.
The Panthers hadn’t been a heavily penalized team entering the contest, however, ill-timed penalties helped sink any chances of a victory.
Following a running into the kicker call that took three points off the board, UConn cashed in with a touchdown. Offensive lineman Jacob Peace was called for a late personal foul penalty that nuked another drive.
Arguably the most frustrating failure to execute came on a double-reverse pass that UConn scored on in the third quarter. With two quarterbacks on the field, the Huskies ran the play which was seemingly sniffed out by FIU, but a missed tackle in the backfield allowed Cale Millen to toss a wobbly pass to starting quarterback Zion Turner for the touchdown.
“Our end came out...had him tackled and missed him and the backup threw it to the other quarterback, it’s one of those things where our two players didn’t make a play and their two players did,” said MacIntyre.
On a short week, the Panthers will face off with arguably the best program in Conference USA over the past three seasons in Texas San-Antonio. The fact that FIU now has to prepare for the Roadrunners wasn’t lost on MacIntyre following the UConn game.
“Their quarterback Frank Harris is a dynamic player who can do a lot on offense, I actually played against him when I was at Memphis, he does a really good job and they’re a really good football team,” said MacIntyre.
Harris led UTSA into Memphis last September and accounted for over 225 total yards and three touchdowns in an upset of the Tigers, where MacIntyre was the defensive coordinator.
“They’ve got good receivers and their defensive line is good, we always want to compete against the best and it will be a nationally televised game, so it will be a good test for us,” said MacIntyre.
- Wide Receiver Tyrese Chambers left the game in the first quarter and did not return after catching the first two passes of the game. MacIntyre stated that his status will be evaluated during the week.
- Starting defensive back C.J. Christian, who was among the team leaders in tackles missed the contest. Following the game, MacIntyre announced that he will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder tear.
- Lyndell Hudson left the game in the second half and didn’t return. The junior has been battling a back injury since the start of fall camp.