Key plays continue to crush FIU Panthers

FIU hasn’t been blown out from the start in any of its six losses this season, but it has been sunk by unfortunate turning points.

Close games get decided in the fourth quarter. That’s the facile view. Players and coaches know both close games and blowouts often get won or lost in the minutes sandwiching halftime. Just ask FIU, which faces Troy on Saturday afternoon.

In five of FIU’s six losses and even the Panthers’ one win, the game underwent a significant metamorphosis in the final minutes of the second quarter and the start of the third. Close games morphed into blowouts (losses to Duke and Louisiana-Lafayette). FIU leads shrank (loss to Middle Tennessee State) or got transformed into deficits (losses to Louisville and Arkansas State).

“Guys just lose focus or get too caught up in the moment,” FIU senior linebacker Winston Fraser said. “We’ve got to focus on every play and execute every play. Sometimes, we have mishaps.”

Fighting momentum and your opponent can be tough enough for teams working through a successful season. For teams being battered throughout a bad season, momentum can be a mentally crushing bully to the point that even when it starts to turn around, there’s often a flinch of “here we go again.”

“I never think of it that way,” FIU senior safety Johnathan Cyprien said. “I try to tell the team constantly, every team is going to get a play. Every team has Division I athletes, just as we do. I try to tell them, even if a play occurs, let’s line back up and play again.”

Last week, Middle Tennessee’s offense had managed one significant drive before cutting a 20-3 lead to 20-10 on a 1 minute 31 second, 77-yard drive that ended eight seconds before halftime. That got cut to 20-17 just more than 2 1/2 minutes into the second half after a 75-yard drive. A blowout got blown.

Or, consider what happened against Louisville. Up 14-7, FIU allowed a drive that tied the game with 26 seconds left in the first half. After a Louisville three-and-out opened the second half, a fumbled punt gave Louisville the ball at the FIU 46. Nowhere else in that game did FIU’s defense give up three big rushing chunks as it did in the three-play drive that put Louisville up 21-14 just less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.

Usually, these changes featured failure by FIU’s defense. But it’s a team game and every facet of the team has gotten involved — a blocked field goal-turned-touchdown return against Duke, a third-down drop against Louisiana, and so on.

You could even question coaching strategy when FIU, leading Arkansas State 10-7 with 1:34 left in the half and facing a third-and-13 from its own 8, decided to let freshman E.J. Hilliard fling it.

Arkansas State linebacker Sterling Young snagged an interception that he returned to the FIU 7. Arkansas State scored to lead 14-10 at the half and on its first possession of the second half to take a 21-10 lead.

“That helped us assume the momentum,” Young said.

Read more Top Sports Stories stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category