FIU’s Saturday night 2012 home opener meal can end in two ways: starting rehabilitation or even greater humiliation.
See, there’s comfort food on the table in front of the Panthers after last week’s rich diet at Duke left them ill.
Akron’s in flux — a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, new defense, a change to a spread offense after two 1-11 seasons in a pro-style offense — and took a 42-point shellacking from Central Florida in its season opener.
But you can choke on comfort food, too.
Doing so as a 20-point favorite on a night the school honors FIU’s first football team would enhance the stomachache of the 20-point loss at Duke.
And the way that loss occurred should keep FIU looking at who they are and not who’s on the other sideline.
(Besides, they wouldn’t recognize who’s on the other sideline anyway. New Zips coach Terry Bowden started his renovation of the Akron program with a roster remodeling — 32 new players, 10 of which have Florida ties and six who are freshmen from Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties.)
“When we think about how we played against Duke, that’s what hurt us,” said fifth-year senior linebacker Winston Fraser regarding the 46-26 defeat. “We weren’t really attentive to the small, little things.”
Fraser said FIU’s defense worked on communication and details after what was considered the Panthers’ given asset got strafed by Duke.
Akron doesn’t have the experience running its pass-heavy, sped-up spread offense that Duke has, but the Blue Devils often left FIU looking confused at the conceptual wrinkles.
As is a coach’s wont, FIU’s Mario Cristobal cringed most over fumbles, of which FIU had three, each costly.
“Especially early in the season, just being sound and preventing mistakes often leads to winning football games,” Cristobal said. “So, I want to make sure we play clean football. We did for the most part from a penalty standpoint. But the critical errors involving ball security would be the No. 1 thing that was addressed on film day and in practice so far. It’s probably the biggest thing that needs to be corrected.”
If what happened to them Saturday didn’t slap some wariness about Akron into the Panthers, other results around the nation should have.
For example, at Pitt, which tried to make Cristobal a Christmas present to its fans last December, those Panthers got a Youngstown tune up, 31-17, from FCS team Youngstown State. McNeese State, also of the FCS (nee Division I-AA), went to the Sun Belt’s Middle Tennessee State for a 27-21 win.
Also, FIU didn’t exactly swat Akron aside last season. The Zips led FIU 10-3 in the second quarter before FIU pushed out a 27-17 win.
“Last year, everybody could agree we came out a little flat,” Fraser said. “Even after the win, we went back into the locker room, and it was kind of unsure. Even though we won, we know we should’ve beaten them by even more.
“The effort … it just wasn’t there. Something was missing. So, we’ve got to make sure this week that we’re attacking, first quarter, second quarter, second half. We have to make sure to finish strong.”