Located a mere 11 miles apart, Florida International University (0-6, 0-3 Sunbelt) and the University of Miami (3-2, 1-1) will face each other for the first time on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Orange Bowl.
The two teams will head into the contest after polar opposite games last Saturday. FIU endured a heartbreaking NCAA record seven-overtime loss to North Texas 25-22. At the same time, the Hurricanes gained confidence from their first Atlantic Coast Conference after defeating North Carolina 27-7.
“The attitude has been great,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “We fought through some of the negative stuff that is out there and that’s encouraging.”
There will be a large amount of familiarity among coaches and players entering this game. Over 50 of the players from both teams are acquainted from the high school football scene. FIU wide receiver Lloyd Moss is the younger brother of former Hurricanes Santana and Sinorice Moss. Several Golden Panther coaches have coached or played at Miami as well. The most interesting match up however, pits FIU center Xavier Shannon against his father, UM Defensive Coordinator Randy Shannon.
“[Xavier] walked on and got a scholarship,” Shannon said. “He’s the star center at FIU. He and I don’t get into Miami versus FIU. We come by every Sunday and talk about what he did in the game and about life.”
Regardless of the familiar faces on both sidelines, Miami will have to take this game seriously.
On offense, the ‘Canes are in need of improving the passing game. Quarterback Kyle Wright has yet to make a connection with a wide receiver for a touchdown pass.
With the news that wide receiver Darnell Jenkins is likely done for the season, freshman Sam Shields and Ryan Hill will be left to fill the gap. The game against FIU will be a chance for these receivers to become comfortable with the offense before Miami travels to Georgia Tech in two weeks.
“They’re getting better each week with the more work they get,” Coker said. “We have to make sure to not over work them because we want fresh legs on Saturday.”
FIU’s best offensive weapon is A’mod Ned, who has rushed for 331 yards on 62 carries. Passing the ball has been a problem for quarterback Josh Padrick.
Miami’s defense will look to capitalize on potential mistakes by the Panthers.
The safety blanket for the offense will continue to be freshman running back Javarris James. To date, James has carried the ball 52 times for a total of 361 yards and three touchdowns.
“I just try to make sure I stay humble,” James said. “I can never get satisfied. I go back and look at film and every mistake I made in order to get better in any way that I can.”
Denis Brown may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.