Florida International U

FIU is quietly confident as the Panthers prepare for the Hurricanes

FIU wide receiver Maurice Alexander (1) runs for a touchdown in the second quarter as Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Brian Roberts Jr. (43) on Sept. 15.
FIU wide receiver Maurice Alexander (1) runs for a touchdown in the second quarter as Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Brian Roberts Jr. (43) on Sept. 15. adiaz@miamiherald.com

As FIU prepares to play the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday for the first time since 2007, don’t look for bulletin-board material from the Panthers.

“We’re not really into that,” FIU receiver Maurice Alexander said Tuesday when asked if he and his teammates would be overly hyped.

How about FIU coach Butch Davis, who downplayed his connection with Miami?

“It’s not really a factor,” said Davis, who coached the Canes from 1995 to 2000 and was one of four finalists for the position in 2015. “It’s more about our team.”

But that doesn’t mean FIU has nothing to say.

Keegan Brewer is a symbol for how brazen Conference USA has become.

C-USA, home to FIU, is coming off a big weekend in which North Texas traveled to the SEC’s Arkansas campus and routed the Razorbacks 44-17. In addition, Western Kentucky traveled to play the ACC’s Louisville Cardinals and nearly pulled off another upset before falling 20-17.

Earlier this season, FIU hung tough with the Big Ten’s Indiana Hoosiers before losing 38-28.

Now FIU (2-1) will play the host Hurricanes (2-1), looking for what would be a huge shocker against an ACC team that is favored by 27 points.

That’s where Brewer comes in, or at least the spirit he represents. Last week, Brewer beat Arkansas on a 90-yard, trick-play punt return to give North Texas a 14-0 lead in what became its first win over an SEC school in 40 years.

Brewer froze immediately after catching the punt as if he had made a fair catch. Two Arkansas defenders were close enough to flatten him, making this a potentially dangerous play for Brewer’s health. But the entire North Texas team was in on the fake fair catch, with blockers retreating toward their sideline as if the play had ended and offensive players careful not to run on the field prematurely, which would’ve created a penalty.

Davis — who helped build part of the Hurricanes dynasty with brilliant recruiting during an earlier stop in his career – isn’t about to tell outsiders if the Panthers have any trick plays of their own ready for Saturday.

But Alexander, speaking to the Miami Herald on Tuesday, didn’t seem convinced trick plays will be needed, and he’s not concerned with predictions made by reputed experts, either.

“We have to play football — the game can’t be played on what the odds [are],” Alexander said. “I’ve got a few neighborhood people over there at UM. It’s going to be exciting — a good opportunity to showcase our talent and how far we’ve come as a program.”

Alexander, who had a 69-yard punt return for a score as well as a 38-yard touchdown catch last week in a 63-24 FIU win over Massachusetts, was asked if the Panthers had a realistic shot of beating the Canes.

“Hell yeah,” Alexander said. “Of course — what do you think?”

No one can read the future, of course, but this will be the first time the teams have met since 2007, when Miami won 23-9.

In 2006, Miami won 35-0 in a game marred by an infamous brawl between players on both sides.

THIS AND THAT

FIU running back Anthony Jones, who was seriously injured on Sept. 6 in what police in Opa-locka said was a drive-by shooting, was at Panthers practice on Tuesday.

“We will take the recovery slowly,” Davis said. “He is starting to do a little bit of lifting, a little bit of walking.”

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