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Injuries to top players a factor for FIU and Troy

Pain seems to be surrounding FIU football these days. And not just the pain of a 1-6 record.

Once again, the status of junior running back Kedrick Rhodes and his right ankle defines “undefined.”

Or, in the exact words of FIU coach Mario Cristobal, “We don’t know.”

Looking forward, FIU’s next opponent, Troy, might be without junior quarterback Corey Robinson, a three-year starter who sustained a concussion in the first half of a 31-26 loss to Western Kentucky on Thursday.

“He’s day-to-day,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. “The blow was from both sides, not simultaneous — one blow was from behind, the other from the front. We will go with Deon Anthony if Corey’s not available. Certainly, Corey won’t be available until he’s back to normal levels on protocol testing.”

Looking back, Middle Tennessee running back Benny Cunningham sustained what’s likely a season-ending knee injury on the last carry of the greatest rushing night by an FIU opponent in the program’s 11-season history.

A night of FIU opponent records for carries in a game (36) and rushing yards (230) ended when a host of Panthers ran Cunningham out of bounds and to the ground on the Raiders’ next to last offensive play.

Asked on the Sun Belt coaches’ weekly teleconference if he thought the hit was dirty, Raiders coach Rick Stockstill said, “I don’t think so. I don’t think there was anything malicious. It looked as though he slipped, got off balance and got hit.”

FIU knows about going forth without your best running back. Since spraining his right ankle against Central Florida, Rhodes missed the loss to Louisville, played sparingly in the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, then missed the Arkansas State loss.

Saturday, Rhodes started, ran for 47 yards on 19 carries and played on the final drive. He was also FIU’s second best running back behind Darian Mallary, who ran for 51 yards on 14 carries. Not only was Rhodes obviously a half-step slower, but his shifty style seemed less effective than Mallary’s direct bursts.

At the suggestion FIU might handle Rhodes differently at 1-6, Cristobal said, “He’s getting better all the time. Come Friday, if he looks good, he’ll be on the bus.”

Losing Robinson would put Troy both in the situation FIU lived with while quarterback Jake Medlock recovered from a broken foot — Anthony, also a junior, has completed 20 of 30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns over the six games he has played, and he was 9 of 16 for 147 yards and a touchdown against Western Kentucky.

“Our backup has been in and out of the games a bunch,” Blakeney said. “We’ve tried to play him in certain situations. He’s proven he can win if we do everything else right. Certainly, we’ll miss Corey if he can’t play. We’re going to prepare this guy. And our backup is Dallas Tidwell, a redshirt freshman.”

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