There the FIU football team was, working out on the practice field Monday morning, back from a long trip from Louisiana-Lafayette that ended in a big loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns. Big, as in 48-20 big.
The Panthers might have been a bit bleary-eyed after arriving back in town at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, but their spirits weren’t down as they finished up drills.
They still are seemingly motivated and upbeat despite a disappointing 1-4 record and the added challenge of an upcoming “short week” with Arkansas State coming into town for a 7:30 p.m. Thursday game at FIU Stadium.
“Woe is me” is just not in their nature. Coach Mario Cristobal makes certain of that.
“Their attitude is good,” Cristobal said. “It always has been and always will be. It’s the only way we do it here.
“We’ll continue to get better. We need to go out there and win games and we’re capable of doing that. We’re working hard to do that.”
This year’s poor start certainly wasn’t part of FIU’s game plan, but history — fairly recent history, in fact — proves it’s not the end of the line.
In 2010, FIU also started the season 1-4 and ended up as Sun Belt Conference champion and won the Little Caesars Bowl against Toledo. Some of the players on the present team were on that 2010 squad and remember the turnaround vividly.
Senior 6-4, 312-pound offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann, one of the Panthers’ leaders, certainly does.
“Yes, I remember it well,” Hauptmann said. “We ended up getting ourselves together in the fifth or sixth week. It really came from leadership. [Junior offensive tackle] Rupert Bryan remembers it well. [Senior linebacker] Johnathan Cyprien remembers it well. [Senior defensive end] Tourek Williams remembers it well. We all remember.”
The names that Hauptmann rattled off are upperclassmen, and they want to make sure everybody on the team this year knows one thing: “They need to know what can still be accomplished,” Hauptmann said.
“We’re trying to step it up this week,” he added. “Anything extra we can do or say to our team, we’re definitely doing it. It’s never all lost. It’s never all done.
“What I try to stress to the team and what I told them [Monday] is that in 12-13 weeks we’re going to want last week back. We’re going to want all these weeks back. All the seniors, it will be over for all of us, and we need to go out the best we can.”
Hauptmann said there have been players-only meetings, but that such a scenario is not unusual — win or lose.
“I bring in the offense,” Hauptmann said. “Guys like [linebacker] Winston Fraser and Johnathan Cyprien bring in the defense. We sit down and definitely talk. We come in as a team. We’ll do it again this week and we’re going to talk about what’s going on. Anything we feel. We let anybody speak. The mic is on.
“It’s something every team should do,” he added. “It keeps the unity of the team. You might treat the meetings a little bit differently if you’re 5-0. It might not be in a team-meeting-room setting. You might go out and eat some food and be laughing a little more than maybe we are in our meetings. But the meetings are for the same reason — team unity.”
Hauptmann, a junior college transfer from College of the Canyons in California, knows talking is helpful, but he also is a big advocate of another approach.
“Quite honestly, less talking and more working,” he said. “That’s the way I like to be. That’s my way of leading. If my team sees that, they react well to it. I’ll talk when I need to. I’ll talk when I feel like my team needs to be talked to. Any other time, I like to work.”