Florida Atlantic vs Florida International : In the Panthers’ 24-17 victory over Old Dominion last weekend, there are two major takeaways heading into Saturday’s rivalry game against Florida Atlantic – injuries are starting to take its toll on FIU and the team’s secondary will give them a chance to win in almost any contest.
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Starting with the banged-up players for FIU, receiver/returner Maurice Alexander was injured late in the fourth quarter of the ODU game. He announced on Twitter earlier in the week that he would miss the remainder of the season. The injury hurts the Panthers in both the return game and on offense, as Alexander is arguably C-USA’s most dangerous special teams’ player and is FIU’s Swiss Army knife as an offensive weapon.
On the offensive line, starting center Shane McGough was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury, forcing Dallas Connell from guard to center. Then, starting right tackle Devontay Taylor exited with a lower-body injury. His replacement, Lyndell Hudson Jr. had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter. That caused starting guard Shacquille Williams to have to play right tackle – a position he hadn’t practiced or played at.
“Huge credit to Shaq Williams, he played the last three possessions at right tackle, he hasn’t played a snap at that position in three years,” said Butch Davis postgame.
As for the secondary, for FIU to upset their rivals to the north, it’s going to take the efforts of the seventh-ranked pass defense in FBS football, allowing just 165 yards per game through the air. They’ll have their hands full with the conference’s fourth-ranked passing attack, as Florida Atlantic averages just under 280 yards passing in nine contests.
Where FIU has to get their offense going is the passing game – which has suffered somewhat as a byproduct of the inconsistency of the O-Line. Quarterback James Morgan – when given time, can be one of the most deadly passers in C-USA. However, he’s spent a majority of the season under duress, in addition to playing through an early knee injury.
FAU’s pass defense has been susceptible to allowing chunks of yards, as they sit last in the conference (261.6) in passing yards allowed per game.
The annual FIU Panthers-Florida Atlantic Owls football game — a rivalry that will be renewed for the 18th consecutive year Saturday in Boca Raton — is personal for a lot of people, and Noah Curtis feels that more than most.
Curtis is a 6-5, 260-pound junior defensive end at FIU, and his Panthers (5-4, 3-3 Conference USA) would be eliminated from the East Division race if they get beat by FAU (6-3, 4-1).
An FIU win, however, would keep its title hopes alive and make the Panthers bowl eligible for the third straight year.
So, yes, it’s a big game for those reasons, but it’s more than that for Curtis, who grew up in West Palm Beach, which is FAU country. He posted 24 sacks in his final two years at Delray American Heritage, earning first-team all-county status.