Breaking Down the Opponent: FIU

Saturday's opponent presents a familiar offense, attacking defense and plenty of skill players.

The Florida International Golden Panthers are not the West Virginia Mountaineers, but they do look awfully similar.

When the Terps take on FIU Saturday at noon, they’ll be facing the same offense in consecutive weeks for the first time this season. The spread offense, which amassed 31 points on the Terps last Saturday, will once again be the focal point for the defense.

“[Florida International] looks like they’re a pretty good team,” nose tackle A.J. Francis said. “They run about the same scheme as West Virginia except it looks like their offensive linemen run it faster. They actually try to create holes and make sure that they cut you off, so you got to be on your Ps and Qs.”

While their offensive linemen have caught Francis’ attention, their skill players have caught that of Alex Wujciak. The senior linebacker, averaging 10.8 tackles per game, good for second in the nation, said he expects FIU to throw more than the Mountaineers, and put it in the hands of their athletes.

“They got a lot of good skill players. Number four [wide receiver T.Y. Hilton] is extremely talented. The quarterback [Wesley Carroll] is pretty good; he can move a little bit too. They definitely have a lot of offensive threats for us to watch out,” Wujciak said.

What’s different about this week’s offense is the focus on in rushes in between the tackles, according to defensive coordinator Don Brown. That is a role performed by running back Jeremiah Harden, the team’s leading rusher, averaging nearly four yards per carry.

Head coach Ralph Friedgen pointed out Harden, as well Hilton and Carroll, as the team’s most dynamic offensive threats. He equated Harden and Hilton to the likes of West Virginia’s Noel Devine and Tavon Austin, cautioning that his team has “got to be weary of those guys.”

He also made notice of FIU’s noteworthy defense. The Golden Panthers rank 28th in total defense, 23rd in turnovers, 12th in sacks, sixth in pass efficiency and ninth in pass interceptions with five, according to Friedgen.

“They’ll blitz. Their defensive line’s very good. They have also have one good safety – I watched him on film; he’s a tough players,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “It’s going to b e a tough challenge for us. They should have won both [of their] games.”

The safety Smith was referring to, Jonathon Cyprien is the team’s leading tackler. Friedgen described him as a big hitter, an athlete and a player who plays with great intensity.

He also made note of linebacker Aaron Davis, who is an excellent rusher that comes off the edge, and cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who has already totaled two picks on the season.

“They have a team full of great athletes,” wide receiver Adrian Cannon said. “They’re fast, strong, physical, so we definitely have to come and play.”

Aside from a talented secondary, offensive coordinator James Franklin is concentrating on a way to combat their aggressive defense. Franklin knows that if the Terps aren’t careful, FIU’s attacking style can yield similar results on his squad.

“They’re a load-the-box, aggressive, pressure, lot of movement-type defense. They have a bunch of really good football players that fly around and play fast and are aggressive,” Franklin said. “They’ve been very effective,” he added, noting their team scores often on defense, including the interceptions and fumbled they generated versus Texas A&M last week.

The Terps will be sure to face FIU as if they would any other opponent, due in part to the enormous respect they’ve earned from their head coach, who said they were a 0-2 team that should be 2-0.

TerrapinTimes Top Stories