Despite the limited success moving the ball in the first two games, FIU is not short of O. Not Offense, of which there’s a paucity. Optimism.
And it’s not because the Panthers’ next game is Saturday — at home — against FCS school Bethune-Cookman. They sounded like they were on the sunny side of the street right after Friday’s 38-0 home loss to UCF.
“I thought we improved 100 percent,” redshirt junior quarterback Jake Medlock said of the offense. “We started moving the ball, we got first downs, and we kept the defense off the field. We have to keep pushing, keep learning, keep watching film and strive to get better.”
Redshirt sophomore receiver T.J. Lowder, who had three catches for 40 yards against UCF, said, “Our confidence is still strong. We’ve got to keep working as a group together.”
FIU (0-2) had a modicum of success against Maryland running the ball — 118 yards on 35 carries not factoring in sacks — but totaled only 80 passing yards. Against UCF, the Panthers run game got completely stuffed, while they got something resembling a passing game going at times, particularly in their hurry-up offense.
But drops, bad throws or running patterns a yard short of the first-down marker led to going 3 for 15 on third down. Which led to FIU being shut out for the first time since a 42-0 loss at Iowa in the second game of the 2008 season.
Coach Ron Turner took the offensive line — anticipated to be a weakness because of its inexperience and down a starter in injured right guard Jordan White — off the hook for the offensive maladies.
“You can’t look at the offensive line because we are not getting yards,” Turner said. “We have to make some plays. We are not making plays down the field. The offensive line got better [Friday]. They battled. They made some mistakes, but we have to have guys making plays. I believe we have guys that will and can. It’s just a matter of time.”
Against UCF, Lowder and sophomore DeAndre Jasper actually got open occasionally downfield.
Medlock missed Lowder on a post pattern for a touchdown late in the first half and underthrew Jasper when he was behind the defense in the third quarter. He also threw behind Lowder on an out pattern against a blitz that would have picked up a first down with FIU driving and trying to keep the game from slipping into a rout.
FIU punted two plays later, and UCF scored in four plays to take a 24-0 lead.
“What we need right now is a shot of confidence. Unfortunately, I can’t inject it,” Turner said. “It’s got to happen on the field.
“We’re so young that there is not a ton of confidence right now, and we don’t have a huge group of seniors to give them that. The only way it’s going to come is to do it on the field and the only way you do that is to make plays and take advantage of opportunities. That will come. We will do that.
“I believe in this team. I know they have a lot of heart, a lot of character and a lot of want to. It’s going to come. We just have to stay the course.”