One thing for certain: This is not the 2013 Florida International team, a 1-11 catastrophe that came after the surprise firing of Mario Cristobal.
Coach Ron Turner has purged what he needed to purge, recruited a good quarterback and continued to tap into all that Florida speed. I’m not sure what the ceiling is, but this program is better.
My biggest question is whether tight end Jonnu Smith will play. My hunch: He won’t. With Smith out, QB Alex McGough has leaned on Clinton Taylor, who has become the Panthers’ top receiver. He was a part-time starter in 2013, a reserve last year.
Alex Gardner can keep the Herd more than honest. He rushed for 104, but 56 of those came in the first quarter as the Panthers took a 7-0 lead. The Herd kind of figured it all out. But keep one thing in mind: Jarquez Samuel is probably out (my guess based on how he looked last week when he was helped off the field).
Herd DBs should tackle better than they did last week at Middle Tennessee — you could joke that they couldn’t tackle worse. More than in previous years, you’ve got to limit the damage. Giving up 20 double-digit plays is no way to live.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the still-dark side of FIU. The Panthers lost to FAU, putting them in the situation where they must either beat the Herd or Western Kentucky to become bowl eligible. How did FAU do it? In part because the Owls ran for 229 yards on 49 carries.
Yes, the Herd can run right at these guys, just like it has done the previous 2 games. If I remember correctly, FIU was one team that didn’t stack the box trying to stop Devon Johnson last year. If the Panthers load up the box, the quick passing game should defuse that strategy. (Chucking it deep on Richard Leonard and that secondary is not advisable.) DE Mike Wakefield sits out the first half for targeting.
So … Marshall runs for 250, passes for 225 and the defense plays *nasty* after springing a leak last week. Throw in the home field, those black unis and the Herd will do quite fine.
Can it score 40 on the Panthers as it did the last 2 years? Perhaps, but it isn’t necessary.
Marshall 34, FIU 13
MARSHALL 34, FIU 20