Both FIU recent history and Bethune-Cookman’s speed said the Panthers would have trouble stopping Bethune’s read option. And they did.
But Bethune didn’t just fool then run away from FIU in Saturday’s 34-13 Panthers loss, the first win for the Wildcats against an FBS team. The Wildcats ran over and through the Panthers during the pivotal period the game turned into a bigger dance on the FIU defense than the Bethune band did on Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium during halftime.
And FIU coach Ron Turner said he wasn’t surprised because of his team’s lack of discipline and cohesion.
“I’ll tell you what I told the team,” Turner said. “We got beat by a better football team because they’re more of a team than we are. When we become a team, where everyone’s pulling in the same direction – I’m not saying guys are going against one another, but we’re not totally, toally believing in one another and totally a team yet. When we get to that point, games like this will cease.”
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“We’ve got guys thinking about other things besides what’s best for the team. Not a ton of them, but it doesn’t take a ton of them.”
FIU’s 0-3 going into next week’s game against Louisville. Bethune improved to 3-0.
The key, cold numbers: Bethune ran for 311 yards and four touchdowns on 52 carries. Junior running back Anthony Jordan, who opened the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown run, got his first collegiate 100-yard rushing game with 150 yards on 21 carries. Junior running back Cary White barreled for 69 of the most muscular yards you’ll see on eight carries. Junior quarterback Quentin Williams ran for 69 yards and the 15-yard touchdown that ended the second half’s first drive.
Bethune didn’t even need its usual starting running back, senior running back Isidore Jackson, who didn’t play because of discipline reasons. The Panthers played the first quarter without senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane, their best defensive player.
“That’s what I’m talking about, discipline,” Turner said. “One of our seniors, a captain our first game. For discipline reasons, didn’t play in the first quarter. As soon as that happened, I said, “We’re going to be in trouble.” Accountability, to a man. We don’t have that yet. We have a hell of a lot of them. But not to a man.”
White’s 5-yard touchdown saw a pile form at the 2 and the Wildcats out-testosterone FIU to push the mass the final two yards for a touchdown with 1:58 left in the first half. That play proved a harbinger when Bethune took the second half kickoff and marched 81 yards in 7:14 on 12 runs and a pass to Williams’ touchdown.
FIU went three-and-out. Three plays later, the 210-pound White barged through and shed every Panther defender since Antwan Barnes to a 43-yard touchdown run. FIU trailed 28-7 with 4:01 left in the third. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.
“Those boys came to play,” FIU fifth-year senior middle linebacker Markeith Russell said. “Obviously, we didn’t step up to the plate defensively. We did some great things. But not being consistent told the story.”
Offensively, FIU’s only consistent play turned out to be the deep ball to redshirt sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lowder, who caught six passes for 125 yards. Redshirt junior quarterback Jake Medlock hit Lowder for 42 yards up the right sideline on FIU’s first drive and later for 48 yards to the Bethune 13. That set up Medlock’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Lowder that tied the game 7-7.
Both FIU touchdowns came from first timers – Lowder and freshman tight end Jonnu Smith, who caught a 1-yard pass from sophomore quarterback E.J. Hilliard when Hilliard had to come in for Medlock because Medlock’s helmet came off during a play.