To sum up the devastation visited upon 0-4 FIU on Saturday by No. 7 Louisville: Louisville scored 72 points. FIU didn’t manage 72 yards. Or, less than half that — 30 yards.
The 72-0 annihilation, the most points allowed and biggest drubbing in FIU’s football history, also featured the Panthers on the receiving end of a high school humiliation Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium: a running clock late in the third quarter and some parts of the fourth.
FIU coach Ron Turner denied asking for that mercy rule.
“I don’t know anything about a running clock,” Turner said. “I just thought they were setting it [the ball] quickly. I did notice it was going quicker. First of all, I don’t have the authority to request it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have, but I did not request it.”
A statement issued by Gerald Austin, Conference USA Coordinator of Officials, said:
“Coach Turner made a comment to one of the officials that, given the amount of injuries and the limited numbers of players he had available, he wanted to run the ball in the second half. One official misinterpreted that comment. Coach Turner, at no time requested that the clock run. FIU threw just one pass in the second half.”
After reviewing the tape there were five times the clock should have been stopped and it did not. Four times were on first down and one play where the runner went out of bounds, based on a quick review of the video.”
After the game, Turner said FIU came out well as far as injuries. Defensive lineman Lars Koht injured his wrist late in the game.
The previous FIU record for biggest loss was set by a 59-0 drubbing at Penn State in 2007. Florida equaled that while setting a record for most points scored against FIU in a 62-3 blowout in 2009. They didn’t even make it halfway to their previous mark for offensive ineptitude, 65 yards against Western Kentucky in 2002, the program’s inaugural season.
Unlike the yards — 33 in the first half, a loss of three in the second half — FIU split its first downs evenly: one in the first half, one in the second half. Four sacks of sophomore quarterback E.J. Hilliard (4-of-9 passing for 27 yards) shrank the overall rushing total to 3 yards on 34 carries.
The Panthers crossed midfield when freshman running back Silas Spearman gained 1 yard to the Louisville 49 on third-and-2 in the second quarter. FIU punted, and Louisville scored two plays later. Dominique Brown’s 77-yard run set up his 1-yard plunge to a 24-0 lead.
“We just couldn’t click from the start,” Hilliard said. “False start penalties, delay of games. I don’t want to say anyone was nervous. We just couldn’t get in the rhythm. We couldn’t get anything in the running game and the passing game.”
Meanwhile, Louisville, behind 210 yards rushing and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s passing, scored on all but two drives. Between no first downs and FIU’s poor punting (32.3-yard average), Louisville’s average starting position for the game was the FIU 45.
Turner said he thought his team didn’t show quit, but showed fear of making mistakes.
“We didn’t give our defense a chance at all,” Turner said. “Offensively, it was the worst performance I’ve ever been associated with. It started right at the beginning. False starts, delay of game, missed calls, wrong formations. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to run any plays. Our defense had no chance. They have a very, very good offense. Our kicking game was as bad as the offense.”
And one of the two punts FIU forced got muffed by sophomore returner DeAndre Jasper into the arms of Louisville’s Charles Gaines at the FIU 15. Three plays later, Bridgewater, 17 of 22 for 212 yards and four touchdowns, hit Gerald Christian with a 9-yard touchdown pass to make the score 31-0.
The next time Gaines touched the ball wound up even worse for FIU: a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown to start the second half and put Louisville up 45-0.
“You don’t work that hard all week, all summer long for that,” FIU redshirt junior safety Justin Halley said. “I guess at times we mentally break down, don’t do our responsibilities. The results showed today.”