Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton played only a few plays in the second half of the Panthers’ 17-10 win over Central Florida after doing down with a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
But the senior wide receiver, who is a major weapon on special teams as well as on offense in both receiving and running, is expected to be available for FIU’s upcoming game against Sun Belt Conference colleague Louisiana-Lafayette.
“T.Y.’s a competitor,” senior quarterback Wes Carroll said. “I know he is going to do everything possible to get back if he can. I know he has progressed in his rehab.
“T.Y. is the type of guy you know will do everything he can to get ready. If he is ready, it is because he has pushed himself.”
Off to a 3-0 start, the Panthers will be looking for their second conference win of the season when they host the Cajuns, who are 2-1 overall but playing their first league game.
FIU opened defense of the conference title they shared with Troy last year by beating North Texas in their season opener.
There is a bit of mystery in the matchup with the Cajuns. Louisiana coach Mark Hudsepth has divided time between two quarterbacks, senior Chris Masson and junior Blaine Gautier, in the Cajuns’ first three games.
Masson missed last year’s game against FIU because of a knee injury. Gautier rushed for 112 yards and threw for 186 as FIU posted a 38-17 win.
“They’re different, but they both have similar capabilities, if that makes any sense,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “One runs a little bit better than the other one but has the same arm strength and same type of accuracy. The other has been around a little bit longer.
“They’ve both been effective.”
•FIU is averaging five sacks a game after getting to UCF’s Jeff Godfrey six times in the 17-10 win. CB Sam Miller leads with three followed by LB Winston Fraser, DE Greg Hickman, and DE Tourek Williams with two each and LB Jordan Hunt, SS Jonathan Cyprien, DT Isame Faciane, DE Joshua Forney, LB Luis Rosado, and CB Tevin Blanchard with one apiece.
•Senior RB Darriet Perry needs one more rushing touchdown to set a school record in the category. His 24 TDs are five behind teammate T.Y. Hilton for the all-time lead in touchdowns. Hilton has scored 20 touchdowns receiving, four on kickoff returns, four rushing, and one on a punt return in his career.
•Despite Louisiana-Lafayette’s early dominance in the series, FIU has won the last two meetings. The 2009 game went to overtime with FIU holding on for a 20-17 win when then freshman Tourek Williams blocked a potential tying field goal attempt by the Cajuns.
Series History: Louisiana-Lafayette leads FIU 6-2 (last meeting, 2010, FIU 38-17)
Scouting The Offense: FIU’s spread attack relies a lot on the big-play ability of WR T.Y. Hilton, but the Panthers also have a nice stable of running backs who complement one another with their styles. Senior Darriet Perry gives them a power guy inside, sophomore Kedrick Rhodes has the speed to get outside, and junior Jeremiah Harden has speed to go with his power. QB Wes Carroll is completing 62.5 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 72 attempts. Nine different receivers have caught balls through three games.
Scouting The Defense: FIU has made big strides in its rushing defense and is limiting opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground a game. The Panthers also have 15 sacks in just three games with sophomore CB Sam Miller leading with three. The front four is developing depth, and LBs Winston Fraser and Jordan Hunt are emerging as stars.
Quote To Note: “I didn’t know we led the Sun Belt. That’s nice to hear. But, you know, our goal is always bigger than leading the conference in stopping the run or whatever. We want to be leading the nation in stopping the run.”—DE Tourek Williams, told the Panthers lead the Sun Belt Conference in run defense, giving up under 100 yards per game on the ground.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week‘S GAME: Louisiana-Lafayette at FIU, Sept. 24—The Cajuns are 2-1 under their new coach, Mark Hudspeth. The loss was 61-34 to Oklahoma State in their season opener. This will be the third road game in four outings for the Cajuns.
Keys To The Game: Keep pressure on the passer. The Cajuns have split time with two quarterbacks (Blaine Gautier and Chris Masson), and FIU’s defense must be ready to adjust to which one comes into the game. Protecting QB Wes Carroll is a priority as the Cajuns have 12 sacks in three games.
Players To Watch:
QB T.Y. Hilton—Hilton injured a hamstring against Central Florida but the injury was not thought to be too serious. He’s a big-play guy who can break open a game in many different ways—receiving, rushing, returning, even throwing a pass if called upon.
DT Isame Faciane—Faciane shared Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week honors with Troy’s LaDarrius Maden for his performance in the win over UCF. The sophomore, who wowed coaches in the spring, returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown just before halftime, and he dominated the line of scrimmage to free up his linebackers to make plays.
LB Winston Fraser—A junior, Fraser has been a major factor in FIU’s improved defensive play. He is second in the conference with 29 tackles and also had an interception return for a touchdown in the win over Louisville.
•Sophomore DE Greg Hickman is tied with junior DE Tourek Williams for the team lead in tackles-for-loss. They have 4.5 each.
•Sophomore RB Kedrick Rhodes leads the Panthers in rushing with 182 yards, but he trails senior RB Darriet Perry in rushing touchdowns with two to Perry’s three.
•Senior QB Wes Carroll has thrown three touchdown passes, all to senior WR T.Y. Hilton.
•Junior CB Junior Mertile got his first start of the season when the Panthers hosted UCF. He was credited with four tackles.