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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 8, 6:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (25,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Akron 0-1, FIU 0-0. Away Record: Akron 0-0, FIU 0-1. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, FIU 0-0. Series Record: FIU leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The FIU Panthers hope to find success in their home opener when they welcome Terry Bowden and the Akron Zips to Miami for a non-conference battle at FIU Stadium.
Bowden's tenure at Akron endured a rocky start as the Zips fell behind 35-0 to UCF before the Knights ultimately claimed a 56-14 victory at InfoCision Stadium. Bowden spent the past three seasons coaching North Alabama at the Division II level. Bowden's immediate struggles were not unexpected as he took over a program that went 2-22 overall the past two seasons under former head coach Rob Ianello. Dating back to last season, the Zips have lost nine games in a row.
FIU's quest for a third straight bowl season became a little more difficult when it fell, 46-26, to the Duke Blue Devils in its opener on Saturday. Head coach Mario Cristobal, now in his sixth season, has guided his team to a 7-4 record at home over the past two years. The Panthers dominated their Sun Belt Conference rival North Texas, 41-16, in last season's home opener. FIU was picked to win the SBC by the leagues coaches prior to this season.
The Panthers prevailed 27-17 in the first-ever meeting between these schools last season in Ohio. FIU outgained the Zips by 252 yards behind a strong performance from departed star receiver T.Y. Hilton.
The Zips were led by Clayton Moore's 157 passing yards in their first encounter with FIU. Dalton Williams will be under center this time around. In his Akron debut, Williams completed 30-of-50 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked three times and threw an interception.
L.T. Smith led Akron with 87 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Marquelo Suel added 62 yards and a score on seven receptions.
While the passing offense was moderately effective, Akron's rushing attack was non-existent. Jawon Chisholm gained just 17 yards on seven attempts and the Zips had a team average of 2.6 yards per carry.
Akron's defensive coordinator Chuck Amato saw his team get worn down by UCF's rushing attack in week one. The Knights rushed the ball 46 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns. The Zips' ability to stop opposing runners was a concern coming into this season after they ranked 108th in rush defense in 2011 (219.6 yards allowed per game).
When Akron's star linebacker Brian Wagner transferred in the offseason, an already weak defensive unit lost its only real leader. Senior linebacker Troy Gilmer finished second on the team in tackles in 2011 and needs to fill that role this season. Gilmer recorded six total tackles versus UCF, while freshman defensive lineman Cody Grice had a team-high eight stops. Sophomore linebacker Justin March made a diving catch to record his first career interception versus UCF.
FIU's sophomore quarterback Jake Medlock will make it difficult for March to record an interception in back-to-back games. Medlock threw for a game-high 348 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his debut as the team's full-time starter against Duke.
Medlock's solid performance was accompanied by a breakout showing from junior tailback Kedrick Rhodes, who became the first Panther to eclipse both the 100- yard rushing and receiving marks in a single game. Rhodes totaled 245 yards with two touchdowns. Senior wideout Wayne Times notched his first 100-yard receiving game with a career-high nine grabs for 114 yards.
The Panthers gained 513 total yards, against just 420 from Duke. The Panthers gave up only 19.4 points per game and led the Sun Belt with 2.7 sacks per contest in 2011. Senior DE Tourek Williams was selected as the Sun Belt's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, but he was quiet in the opener.
Senior safety Johnathan Cyprien recorded nine tackles in the opener to give himself 281 career tackles, which leaves him just 21 shy of Scott Bryant's program record. Cyprien is a hard hitting defensive back and a 2012 Thorpe Award Candidate. Richard Leonard and Winston Fraser both had 10 total tackles against Duke and junior defensive back Sam Miller recorded his third career interception.
FIU's defense was picked apart in its opener, but that was by an offense led by an experienced senior quarterback. The Panthers should look like the 2011 unit versus the rebuilding Zips. Akron's defense will struggle to contain the numerous weapons on FIU's balanced offense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: FIU 38, Akron 17
09/05 10:32:35 ET
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