Injuries happen in football, and there’s no good time for them. But there’s a higher degree of bad to injuries if they’re cutting down a lineup that already had 11 first-time starters and facing a short week between Games 1 and 2.
Ladies and gentlemen, FIU. Three Panthers starters and a much-used backup left Saturday’s 43-10 loss to Maryland and didn’t return. And the Panthers host Central Florida in their home opener Friday.
Redshirt junior safety Demarkus Perkins, sophomore outside linebacker Davison Colimon and sophomore backup running back Shane Coleman all went down in the first half Saturday and were on crutches after the game.
In the third quarter, redshirt junior guard Jordan White got a foot caught under a Maryland player just before getting pushed over at the end of the play, thus twisting a knee.
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“We had a lot of [injuries],” FIU coach Ron Turner admitted after the game. “We didn’t have a ton of depth. Some guys had to play probably more than we would like them to. Hopefully, those guys who got hurt won’t be too seriously hurt.”
Colimon limped with a walking boot on his left ankle. Colimon’s speed wasn’t replicated by his backup, fifth-year senior Derrick Jones Jr. Fifth-year senior Terrance Taylor backs up Perkins, so there’s no real loss of experience. But Perkins has been one of FIU’s best and most-physical defensive players throughout camp.
White’s injury might be the most damaging to the lineup. Behind White, who started three games during the past two years and missed spring football with a knee injury, the next man up is redshirt freshman Trenton Saunders.
FIU’s experience-lite offensive line already starts freshman left guard Jordan Budwig; redshirt junior left tackle David Delsoin, who started four games last year, but all at guard; redshirt center Donald Senat, whose two starts before Saturday all were at guard; and redshirt sophomore right tackle Aaron Neilsen, a reserve tackle and tight end last year.
The line struggled Saturday both in getting a run game push and protecting quarterbacks Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard. Medlock, who tried to take blame for the offense’s first-half struggles, and Hilliard took five sacks combined and several hits while throwing.
Which brings up UCF. The Knights pounded Medlock last year, especially in a first half during which oft-conservative FIU mysteriously abandoned the run. FIU got back into the game in the second half behind its running game.
“I know we’re a young group,” Medlock said Saturday. “But we can’t fall back and make that excuse anymore. We’ve all got our time in the game. We’ve got to grow up and do better.”