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FIU Panthers not about to lie down, especially at homecoming against Middle Tennessee State

Halfway through the season, FIU has one win. The two most important runners on a run-based team, the starting quarterback and running back, might be absent again this week for homecoming. And the homecoming opponent rolled Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

Don’t look for any songs sung blue around FIU, however, with Middle Tennessee State coming in Saturday.

“Yesterday, I told the whole team, ‘We can stand up or lay down right now,’” senior safety Johnathan Cyprien said. “A lot of people say that — stand up or lay down, stand up or lay down — but right now, at the point we are, it’s the perfect time. It means a lot right now. We all can do it. I don’t think anyone on our team will lie down.”

FIU coach Mario Cristobal insisted the team remained upbeat during the weekend practices and Monday.

“First and foremost, I always teach our guys to be grown men,” Cristobal said. “Grown men don’t pout or whine or point fingers when times get tough. That’s the way our program’s going to be. They practiced with a tremendous amount of energy. They’ve pushed each other and themselves.”

Those grown men live, work and play on a campus that has shown increasing disenchantment, almost from the season-opening loss, if one judges by the crowds at FIU Stadium.

“Our fans are loyal,” Cyprien said. “We just get the same questions [on campus] we get from everyone else: ‘What happened last night?’ We just stick together through it all, and tell them we’re going through a process and don’t give up on us.”

If nothing else, this senior-laden team can draw on the experience of 2010, when an 0-4 start got turned around with six wins in the remaining eight games. Then again, that team didn’t have freshmen at quarterback and did have T.Y. Hilton.

After interceptions played a big role Thursday against Arkansas State, the second consecutive loss with freshman E.J. Hilliard and redshirt freshman Loranzo Hammonds Jr. splitting quarterback work, Cristobal said redshirt sophomore quarterback Jake Medlock might be back for Saturday’s game. The original prognosis put Medlock, who had not thrown an interception this season in three and a half games before breaking his foot, out for at least two more games.

But one more loss pushes the Sun Belt title, already far away, off the edge and two more losses means no bowl eligibility.

After Tuesday’s practice, Cristobal said Medlock was able to do only a “little bit. Day by day, we’ll see what he can do.”

Then, about junior running back Kedrick Rhodes and Rhodes’ ankle, he said, “Nothing today. We’ll see how it is tomorrow.”

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