Before Saturday, junior running back Anthon Samuel’s first season at FIU since transferring from Bowling Green didn’t have the type of results he earned with the Falcons.
Samuel rushed for 1,882 yards over two seasons at Bowling Green. A run here or there, but not the full game’s work.
That changed during FIU’s 38-35 loss to Old Dominion on Saturday when Samuel rushed for 137 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown, on 25 carries.
“It felt good,” Samuel said. “I was happy I was able to contribute more to the team.”
Part of the reason he contributed more was due to opportunity.
Samuel began the season as the No.3 running back behind freshman Alex Gardner and junior Lamarq Caldwell. By the fourth game, Samuel backed up Gardner. With Gardner out the past two games with a shoulder injury, Samuel has taken the lead with freshman Napoleon Maxwell.
On Saturday, FIU employed a run-heavy game plan featuring Samuel and Maxwell. That shortened the game against Old Dominion’s dynamic offense while taking advantage of the Monarchs’ “run defense,” which sometimes resembles a “running-away defense.”
Another part of the reason was inspiration from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler.
“Coach Shankweiler. gave a speech before the game that really motivated me,” Samuel said. “He said, ‘Stop playing the game worrying about mistakes. Just play free. Go back to your young days when you were in eighth grade and didn’t worry about anything like that.’
“I wasn’t worried about making mistakes. I took that speech to heart.”
Neither he nor Maxwell made many mistakes. Samuel started the game and got more snaps, but Maxwell got in enough to run for 70 yards on 14 carries. Maxwell also broke almost as many tackles on his 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown as Samuel did on his 26-yard touchdown.
Samuel said there wasn’t a set rotation for him and Maxwell; rotation was dictated by players’ fatigue levels and the weather. The game was played in 50-degree temperatures.
“We both wanted to stay warm throughout the game,” Samuel said. “Especially since we aren’t really used to this weather.”