FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (20,000) — Miami, Florida.
Television: FS1. Home Record: Louisville 2-0, FIU 1-2. Away Record: Louisville
0-1, FIU 0-0. Neutral Record: Louisville 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record:
Louisville 1-1, FIU 0-0. Series Record: Louisville leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Louisville Cardinals will step outside of the ACC for the
second time this season, as they close out a two-game road swing with a
matchup against the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon.
New to the ACC this season, Louisville opened 2014 with a solid 31-13 rout of
Miami-Florida. After another lopsided win over FCS foe Murray State (66-21),
Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals got another taste of conference play, but were
upended last weekend on the road at Virginia, 23-21.
Ron Turner is in his second season at the helm of FIU. The Panthers finished
just 1-11 in 2013, but the hope was that a four-game homestand to start 2014
could get the team off on the right foot. Things got off to a rough start with
a season-opening loss to FCS foe Bethune-Cookman (14-12). That was followed by
as lopsided win over Wagner (34-3), but last weekend saw the Panthers take on
another ACC opponent in Pittsburgh, allowing the visiting Panthers to run wild
en route to a 42-25 decision.
This marks the fourth all-time meeting between these two teams, with
Louisville holding a 2-1 series advantage thanks to last year’s 72-0 shutout
at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
The Cardinals had a late lead on the road at Virginia, but four turnovers,
including a late fumble on a punt return allowed the Cavaliers to overcome the
deficit and hand Louisville its first loss on the season.
The 60+ points against Murray State have skewed the offensive numbers a bit
for Louisville, but the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater this season
doesn’t seem to be too bad. In his stead, sophomore Will Gardner have
performed well enough under center, completing 56.0 percent of his passes, for
503 yards, with six TDs and just two INTs.
Gardner has been hampered a bit in the passing game with All-American
candidate DeVante Parker sidelined for at least half the year. Senior wideout
Eli Rogers (12 rec, 135 yds) and senior tight end Gerald Christian (12 rec,
127 yds, 2 TDs) lead all receivers but lack the playmaking ability that Parker
The ground game has been above average overall at a solid 178.0 yards per
game. Senior tailback Dominique Brown (4.4 ypc, 257 yards, 3 TDs) spearheads
the attack out of the backfield.
Defensively, the Cardinals have been forced to fill some big shoes, with the
departure of stars Marcus Smith and Calvin Pryor to the NFL. The unit has done
its job for the most part, allowing a mere 273.7 yards of total offense per
game, showing to be stingy against both the run (75.0 ypg) and the pass (198.7
ypg). In addition, Louisville has allowed only 39 first downs through the
first three games, ranking sixth nationally.
Sophomore linebacker Keith Kelsey leads the team in tackles with 20. He also
has one of the team’s six sacks and one of the two fumble recoveries. Junior
safety Gerod Holliman (11 tackles) has been a ball hawk early on, recording
three interceptions already.
The Panthers aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch. FIU comes into
this contest averaging a meager 285.3 yards per game, as the team has had its
problems on the ground (82.7 ypg). Despite that, freshman tailback Alex
Gardner has had his moments, leading the team with 228 yards (5.8 ypc).
Freshman quarterback Alex McGough is completing under 50 percent of his throws
(.493). He does however, have five touchdown passes and no interceptions to
date. Junior QB E.J. Hilliard has seen time under center as well. Sophomore
Jonnu Smith has been far and away the top target down the field for FIU,
leading the team in receptions (18), yards (209) and TD grabs (2).
Despite the sub par record, FIU’s defense has held up its end of the bargain.
The Panthers rank No. 16 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 291.0
yards per game. The run defense has been a little soft at times (167.7 ypg),
but the pass defense has been stellar (123.3 ypg). That is thanks to the squad
being among the nation’s best in terms of sacking the quarterback (13th at
3.67 sacks per game).
Junior defensive end Denzell Perine (15 tackles) has been a big reason for the
success, leading the team with 5.5 TFL and 4.0 sacks. Senior safety Demarkus
Perkins leads the defense in tackles with 16 stops.
The Panthers will not back down from the Cardinals in this one. However,
expect Louisville to wear down FIU much the same way Pittsburgh did, and find
its way back to the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 33, FIU 20