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
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.