There’s a theory that what happened with FIU football Saturday night in The Alamodome against Texas-San Antonio could be considered inevitable. A Panthers team infused with the spirit of youth got infected with youth’s inconsistency.
A young defense lost containment on UTSA quarterback Austin Robinson, in his first extended college action, enough that he ran for 64 yards on 15 carries. Freshman running back Alex Gardner hadn’t fumbled all season. Gardner fumbled twice Saturday, losing one at the UTSA 1-yard line. Freshman quarterback Alex McGough had thrown two interceptions and fumbled twice all season. He did that Saturday, although the second interception was a Hail Mary on the last play of FIU’s 16-13 loss.
FIU coach Ron Turner allowed for that theory to a point.
“It’s a young team. We’ve got to learn how to prepare in all areas, each week,” Turner said. “We’ve got to learn how to play with that chip, that edge. We didn’t play with the edge. we didn’t play with the chip we’ve had. I talked to them all week to them. We didn’t play with the hunger we’ve played with the last couple of weeks. [If] we get it back, we can be a good football team, win a lot of games. If we don’t, we’re not. We’re not good enough just to go out there and play. We’ve got to prepare and play as well as we’re capable.”
FIU clearly didn’t, fumbling six times. The last, by fifth-year senior Glenn Coleman on a kickoff return, set up Sean Ianno’s 39-yard game-winning field goal with 50 seconds left.
Turner dismissed the idea that The Alamodome crowd noise played a part in the offense jerking along to a mere 259 yards of offense, three false start penalties and three offside penalties.
“Crowd noise should not have been an issue. And that wasn’t on the quarterback,” Turner said. “We practiced it every day this week. It was twice as loud in our practices as what it was today. The coaches were getting on me, saying, “They’re going be deaf” because it was so loud. We handled it extremely well in practice. It’s a matter of playing as well as we’re capable of playing and we didn’t come close to it.
“It’s a great venue here, great stadium, but it really should not have been a factor.”
Meanwhile, the end of UTSA’s four-game losing streak behind a third-string quarterback after three lost fumbles greatly moved former University of Miami coach Larry Coker.
“I’ve been around this thing for a while, but I’ve never been prouder of,” Coker paused as he teared up. “…can’t even say it. … I just can’t — I can’t say enough about our football team tonight and our coaching staff.”