For the fourth consecutive week, FIU played an out of conference team well enough to be in the game in the fourth quarter, whether it be with a lead or a short disadvanatage.
And for the fourth consecutive week, the team could not finish out its opponent and get a win. For the third consecutive week, the team allowed big play’s down the stretch that zapped the Golden Panthers of all it’s momentum.
This time, Pittsburgh ran up the score a little bit en route to a 44-17 win over FIU, but that score wasn’t indicative of what happened. The Panthers led, well, the Panthers, 23-17 in the fourth quarter and broke out shortly thereafter.
In the post game, Cristobal pointed out the reality.
“We haven’t had strong fourth quarters,” Cristobal said. “I think there is a depth factor there in us continuing to pound the ball away and playing these out of conference games with some of these opponents that have this kind of depth.”
Is it acceptable to pull the depth card in Cristobal’s fourth season at the helm? Yes, because he did not use it as an excuse, merely mentioned the realistic situation. FIU is close, but not their yet. Many of the team’s primary contributers are underclassmen, and this is the team’s first season without having to deal with scholarship losses.
Justifying these close losses can get tiring to fans, but its the truth. FIU lost to four team’s in its non-conference schedule who were better than them. The question now becomes how much FIU has improved over 2009 in comparison to the Sun Belt Conference. Going .500 over the last eight games of the year is a fair prediction and would fall right in line with my preseason prediction. In SBC games, depth is not an issue as it is against Big East, ACC, and Big 12 opponents.
- Ray Graham and Pitt’s offensive line torched FIU on the ground. Geoff Collins is noted for helping team’s be stout against the run, but his front got dominated this time. This game is most likely an anamoly, however. I expect FIU to be one of the conference’s better defenses going forward.
- Wesley Carroll did not throw an interception vs. Pitt. That was a welcome site for FIU’s offense.
- Darrian Mallary is evolving into a very nice piece in FIU’s backfield. Mallary is only a sophomore, and once led Dade County in rushing at Gulliver Prep. As a third down back or even a quick spark in the slot, Mallary can make play’s in space and is as elusive as any Golden Panther on the team besides T.Y Hilton. He only had five carries against Pitt, but late in the game showed nice burst and ended up with 35 yards.
- If T.Y Hilton’s leg injury is serious, FIU is severely limited, again. Last season the Golds were set back by Hilton’s pesky knee issue. Will have an update on this during the week.
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Written by Jay Ramos