Florida International U

Wildcats’ ground game poses a triple threat to Panthers

To prepare to deal with Bethune-Cookman’s version of the read-option attack, FIU went back to the tape of two games involving losses to Atlantic Coast Conference teams: their own season-opening loss to Maryland and Bethune’s 2012 loss to the University of Miami.

Though the Wildcats succumbed eventually 38-10, they led UM 7-0 late in the first quarter. They ran for 4.4 yards per carry, ripped off runs of 35 and 27 yards and two-thirds of their triple-headed quarterback position averaged 15.0 yards per completion on eight receptions.

“There were times there where they were getting after Miami, a big play here or there, [UM’s defense] not being sound in what they’re doing,” FIU defensive coordinator Josh Conklin said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re sharp all the time.”

Forget settling on one quarterback. The Wildcats don’t even bother to settle on two. For them, three is a magic number as they rotate senior Broderick Waters, senior Jackie Wilson and junior Quentin Williams. Waters started the first game of the season, a 12-9 win over Tennessee State. Wilson started the 66-7 rout of Division II Virginia Union.

The Wildcats aren’t land-locked, but Daytona Beach’s airport sees more weekend action than the 40 passes Bethune has thrown over the first three games. The three quarterbacks have run 30 times for 147 yards so far this season. When whichever ‘W’ quarterback in the game isn’t keeping the ball, he’s handing it to senior running back Isadore Jackson (5.6 yards per carry) or junior running back Anthony Jordan.

“What they want to do is run their quarterback a lot,” Conklin said.

“Obviously, they’ll do that with the one back inside zone schemes and they do a little bit of that with the triple-option schemes. They all throw the ball efficiently, effectively. But their strength is on the ground, all three of them.”

What happened at Maryland, where Terrapins quarterback C.J. Brown ran for 105 yards through the anti-Visa defense (everywhere except where it wanted to be), counted as both embarrassing and instructive for a young FIU defense.

“I feel like from Maryland to UCF, I feel like we progressed a lot in focusing on our keys. I feel like we played a lot better fundamentally and faster. Our technique was better,” FIU outside linebacker Luis Rosado said.

“There’s definitely some carryover [from the Maryland loss], no question about it,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “We made some mistakes in that game, lost leverage several times. Our eye discipline wasn’t very good. We blew some assignments, didn’t take care of responsibilities like we should’ve. That resulted in too many big plays. Hopefully, we learned from that.”

Turner defined “eye discipline,” as “Take your eyes where they’re supposed to go and that’ll take you to your responsibility. People lose track of that sometimes. They watch the ball or they watch something else. They see something they shouldn’t be seeing and they react. If they keep their eyes where they’re supposed to, they’ll react properly.”

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