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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 6, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (20,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: CBS Network. Home Record: UCF 1-0, FIU 0-0. Away Record: UCF 0-0, FIU 0-1. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Panthers will play their first home game under Ron Turner when FIU hosts the UCF Knights in a non-conference matchup between Sunshine State rivals.
Turner's debut with FIU did not go well as it suffered a 43-10 loss to Maryland at Byrd Stadium. Turner was last a head coach at Illinois from 1997-2004 and has since been coaching in the NFL. The Panthers are in their first season as a member of the Conference USA, which UCF departed for the American Athletic Conference this year.
UCF began its 2013 season with a 38-7 victory over Akron. It was 9-of-14 on third downs and committed just one penalty for 10 yards in the win. The Knights shut the Zips out until the final minute of the contest. Coach George O'Leary's team will be looking for a 2-0 start for the second time since 1999.
This is the third of a four-game series between these instate foes. Each side has won once so far. FIU held on for a 17-10 win at home in 2010. UCF avenged the loss last year with a 33-20 decision in Orlando.
Blake Bortles spearheaded the charge for the Knights in their rout of Akron, converting 18-of-24 pass attempts for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Thanks to his 91-yard touchdown reception on the second play from scrimmage, Breshad Perriman led the team with 113 yards on three catches. It was the longest play from scrimmage in UCF history. J.J. Worton and Rannell Hall both made touchdown catches as well.
With Latavius Murray no longer around, Storm Johnson has become the Knights' new workhorse. The former Miami Hurricane set new career-highs with 20 rushing attempts and 99 rushing yards against Akron. His two touchdowns on the ground matched a personal best.
UCF was one of the top teams in its conference defensively in coordinator Jim Fleming's first year with the program, as it finished second in the C-USA in total defense and its 22.1 points allowed per game led the league.
The defense picked up right where it left off as it held the Zips to 250 yards of total offense. The Knights also forced two turnovers, as Troy Gray recorded an interception and Michael Eaton recovered a fumble. Junior linebacker Terrance Plummer anchored the group with 10 total tackles including three tackles for loss. Plummer was third on the team in 2012 with 108 stops.
Turner has a huge rebuilding process on his hands. A school-record 13 players made their first career start in the opener. The Panthers had to replace their entire starting offensive line and running backs unit. They went into halftime trailing the Terrapins, 40-10, but only lost the second half by three points. FIU gained only 171 yards of total offense and allowed 576.
The Panthers threw the ball just 22 times, with quarterbacks Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard combining for only 10 completions and 80 yards, while being sacked five times. The inefficient passing game led to only four third-down conversions on 17 attempts. Medlock completed 57.8 of his pass attempts last season, but went 5-of-15 in the opener. The inexperience of the offensive line showed as Maryland tallied five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Willis Wright (25 receptions, 633 yards, five TDs) led the team in touchdown receptions in 2012, but was shut out by Maryland.
FIU struggled to move the ball and averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. Lamarq Caldwell ran for 79 yards on 21 carries and accounted for the only touchdown FIU scored. It was also his first career touchdown.
Though the Panthers ranked third in the Sun Belt in total defense (402.9 ypg) last season, they were not able to get stops in the red zone and thus allowed 31.7 points per game. FIU had several new starters on the defensive side of the ball as well and it was completely overmatched by the Terrapins, who averaged a gain of 8.1 yards per play. It had no answer for Maryland's duel threat quarterback C.J. Brown, who threw for 281 yards and rushed for 105 more. The opener showed Turner's defense has plenty of holes in it. Sam Miller led the Panthers with nine total tackles. Michael Wakefield was the most active defensive lineman as he registered seven tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Turner is going to have to be patient for his first victory with the Panthers. His squad is not equipped to stop a quarterback as talented as Bortles. FIU has way too many issues to work out on both sides of the ball to compete with a finely tuned squad like UCF.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 49, FIU 13
09/04 10:39:01 ET
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