Louisville’s defense has played superbly in 2014 picking up where it left off in 2013. The Cards are big upfront, fast at linebacker, and have had very few coverage breakdowns in the secondary. In fact, the secondary has been a big part of Louisville creating 7 turnovers on the season.
Despite playing Wagner and Bethune-Cookman Florida International’s offense hasn’t looked very good and has piled up just 285.3 yards per game (120th) in 3 games. Last season the Louisville defense allowed just 27 yards of total offense for the game and while the Cards are averaging 22 yards worse per game on defense from a year ago, UofL is still pacing to be the #3 Defense in the country if they keep the same pace.
FIU uses two Quarterbacks E.J. Hilliard (6-3, 205, Jr.) & Alex McGough (6-3, 215, Fr.). Hilliard should be familiar to Louisville fans as he has played in the last two contests. But right now Hilliard is true Freshman McGough’s back-up and brought in as a change of pace. McGough hasn’t set the world on fire and has completed just 49.3% of his 75 attempts but has yet to throw an Interception. 401 yards, 5 Touchdowns, and 6 sacks in just 3 games. Hilliard got extensive work vs. Wagner and completed 14 of 16 passes for 169 yards and was sacked three times. Neither FIU has thrown an INT thus far in 2014, and Hilliard is a much more capable runner than McGough.
The main target is Tight End Jonnu Smith (6-3, 230, Soph.) who was named Pre-Season 1st Team All-CUSA and on CFPA Tight End Trophy Watch List after his All-CUSA Freshman. Jonnu has lead FIU in receptions in 10 of 15 career games and has 18 catches for 209 yards and 2 Touchdowns so far. Against Pitt Smith had 7 grabs for 62 yards and a TD. The Tight End is the primary aerial weapon by far for the Panthers.
With just 6 catches a piece Wide Receivers Dominique Rhymes (6-4, 216, Jr.) & T.J. Lowder (5-11, 185, Jr.) are the next most used receivers in the passing game. 2 catches per game each for these two is hardly worth spending much more internet ink on. Just 1 TD between these two.
Running Back Alex Gardner (5-9, 192, Fr.) is FIU’s main back and has 39 carries for 228 yards on the season. Gardner tallied 138 yards vs. Wagner, and just 44 vs. Pitt. His primary back-up is Lamarq Caldwell (6-0, 222, Jr.) who has just 15 carries for 37 yards………..
FIU’s offense hasn’t been great, and that is really due to the pressure that the offensive line is allowing. FIU allows 4 sacks per game (121st) and 7.67 (120th) Tackles for Loss per game. Even if the Panthers had been playing top competition these numbers would be bad….maybe more understandable. But Wagner & Bethune-Cookman should pad your stats, so I’m wondering just how bad this FIU offense is. Still Left Guard Jordan Budwig (6-4, 324, Soph) was named Pre-Season 3rd Team All-CUSA, and Center Donald Senat (6-3, 293, Sr.) is on the Rimington Trophy Watch List.
Cornerback Richard Leonard is a major weapon in the return game both on kickoff and punts and actually leads the Panthers in All-Purpose Yardage despite playing defense.
Will Louisville shutout Florida International again? Maybe. Will the Cards hold FIU under 30 yards again? Unlikely. But this is a good tune-up and an opportunity to potentially play a bunch of players. Louisville should dominate this game on the defensive side of the football, this isn’t a good offensive team.
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