So how will FIU’s football team, after six games of crowds swallowed by the surrounding stadium, handle a trip to the raucous Alamodome for Saturday night’s game against the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners?
Naturally, the volume on the fake crowd noise in practice got turned up to 11. And FIU got carnivorous Friday night at a restaurant with a Texas theme.
Texas de Brazil, a meat lover’s nirvana as far as volume, hosted the Panthers’ (3-3, 2-0 in Conference USA) night-before dinner for the third consecutive week Friday night. It’s a custom that, like FIU’s two-game winning streak, started two weeks ago on the weekend of FIU’s win at Alabama-Birmingham.
Of course, FIU coach Ron Turner made clear superstition plays no role in this week’s meal planning. The dictating element is the 7 p.m. Eastern kickoff instead of the 3:30 p.m. kickoffs for FIU’s other three road games this season. Upon further review, there seemed to be no reason to rush to San Antonio.
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“I do like routine,” Turner said. “We’re doing it because we’re leaving at 7 [p.m.]. Originally, we were leaving at 3 o’clock. We wouldn’t have done it.”
“Instead of getting there so early and then doing meetings, we’ll do all our meetings — everything — here,” he continued. “Practice in the morning [on Friday], bring them back for short meetings, then get on the plane and go. I think they like it. When we get there, have a five-minute team meeting to focus them back in, have a snack and get to bed. It’s almost like more of a home routine.”
He said he’s undecided about whether to do it for the remaining road games: Nov.8 at Old Dominion and Nov.22 at North Texas.
“Some games, we’ll do that, some we won’t,” Turner said. He chuckled, “Sometimes, it depends on the airlines.”
That’s where this all started back on Sept.26. Mechanical problems grounded the team charter out of Fort Lauderdale. Time and football appetites wait for no man or maintenance. While a new plane got flown in, the team got shuttled to Texas de Brazil at the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale.
They ate. They held team meetings in South Florida. And the next day, despite getting into their hotel rooms around 11:30 EDT, FIU’s defense treated UAB’s offense like they treated the churrasco the night before in a 34-20 win.
Five days later, the Dolphin Mall location gave FIU a private room for the chow-down as they did Friday night. Eat big one night, eat big the next: FIU devoured FAU, 38-10.
The bigness that worries Turner belongs to UTSA (1-4, 0-1). In the nation’s most senior-laden team — with 36 seniors — Turner sees a corresponding physical maturity.
That said, UTSA’s desperate for a win, and not just because of Saturday’s Homecoming at the Alamodome. A four-game losing streak flings dirt on what was expected to be the climax of the program’s first four years. Former University of Miami coach Larry Coker’s Roadrunners returned 20 starters from last year’s team, which rolled up a 6-2 Conference USA record.
And now, Roadrunners starting quarterback Tucker Carter is dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that could necessitate injecting true freshman Blake Bogenschutz into Carter’s role. In two appearances, Bogenschutz has completed 18 of 30 passes for 251 yards and thrown two interceptions.
“I see from Blake kind of what we thought we’d see,” Coker said to the media earlier this week. “He’s going to be really, really good. I’m encouraged by him, without question. I think he needs to play. He does [have poise]. The team believes in him also. Without question, he has the ability.”