UAB (1-4) at FIU (1-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (20,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: CSS. Home Record: UAB 1-1, FIU 0-2. Away Record: UAB 0-3, FIU 1-2. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-1, FIU 1-0. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The FIU Panthers seek a second straight win when they go up against the UAB Blazers in a Conference USA test at FIU Stadium.
UAB is looking for its first win of the season against an FBS squad. The Blazers defeated Northwestern State towards the end of September but that win is sandwiched between a pair of two-game losing streaks. The most recent setback was a 37-23 disappointment this past weekend at home against Florida Atlantic in the conference opener.
Isame Faciane blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt as time expired to allow FIU to escape with a 24-23 win on the road over Southern Miss last weekend. It was just the third win for the Panthers in the last two seasons and the first of the 2013 campaign. In the four losses the Panthers have suffered they have been outscored by a total of 187-23, including a pair of shutout defeats.
This is FIU's first season as a member of Conference USA. This game will mark the first ever for the Panthers against UAB, which has been a member of the league since 1999.
If there is one area Austin Brown has been able to succeed in as quarterback for the Blazers, it is in limiting turnovers. Brown has been intercepted just twice this season. However, outside of that, he has been rather mediocre, completing 52.4 percent of his pass attempts, totaling eight touchdown passes and 903 yards. Brown is coming off a 256-yard, two-touchdown effort against FAU.
In that matchup, Brown was without his favorite target Jamarcus Nelson, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Nelson still has a team-high 21 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns on the season but is listed as questionable for Saturday's contest. That will put added pressure on Jamari Staples (14 receptions, 223 yards, four TDs) and tight end Kennard Backman (16 receptions, 182 yards TD).
Running back Darrin Reaves is also a major part of the passing game, with 11 catches for 125 yards. Obviously Reaves biggest contributions have been on the ground. Reaves (83 carries, 459 yards, three TDs) rushed for at least 80 yards in the first three games of the season but has been held under 70 in each of the last two contests. Jordan Howard (40 carries, 247 yards, TD) figures to get work as well.
There has been some solid production on offense for UAB. The same can not be said of the defense. The Blazers are getting shredded for 481 yards per game this season. They have also had one of the worst scoring defenses in the conference, allowing 28 total touchdowns, including 20 in the red zone. In all the Blazers rank second to last in the league in points allowed (41.4 ppg).
For most teams scoring 24 points would be considered an average game. That is not the case for FIU which scored more points against Southern Miss than it had scored in the previous four games of the season. The Panthers have been absolutely dreadful offensively, averaging just 9.4 points and 188.2 yards of total offense per game. The Panthers are last in the nation in total offense and one of just two teams putting up fewer than 250 yards per game.
Failing to identify a permanent starter at quarterback has been an issue. Jake Medlock (35-of-65, 391 yards, TD, three INTs) was the starter to begin the campaign, but E.J. Hilliard (22-of-35, 195 yards, two TDs, INT) has gotten time as well, including against Southern Miss when he led the team in attempts (13), completions (eight) and yards (93).
Obviously there has not been a great deal of production at the skill positions either. Wide receiver T.J. Lowder (14 receptions, 200 yards, two TDs) has the only 100-yard receiving effort for the Blazers, while tight end Jonnu Smith (13 receptions, 101 yards, TD) is the only other pass-catcher with 100 yards total. Meanwhile, Lamarq Caldwell (61 carries, 185 yards, TD) and Silas Spearman, who rushed for 136 yards and two scores against Southern Miss, are the primary rushers.
For FIU the issues have not just been on offense. The Panthers are dead last in the conference in scoring defense (42 ppg) and ninth in total yards allowed (418.6 ypg). The Panthers have been especially weak against the run, allowing 5.4 yards per carry, while also being lit up for 11.7 yards per pass completion.
Greg Hickman and Faciane have been a solid duo on the defensive line for the Panthers, with Hickman owning team-highs in sacks (2.0) and tackles for loss (7.5). Faciane is right behind with 5.0 TFL.
It is possible that Hilliard may get even more playing time this weekend, which could mean some improvement on offense for the Panthers. Assuming Hickman and Faciane can help them control the line on defense, the Panthers may just have a winning streak on their hands.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 20, UAB 17
10/09 10:41:15 ET