No T.Y. Hilton, no problem.
Florida International overcame the loss of their all-around star to a hamstring injury in the second quarter but still had enough to post a 17-10 victory over Central Florida.
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The win moved the Panthers to 3-0 for the first time in school history. In fact, never before had the Panthers, who began playing football in 2001, been 2-0 until their win at Louisville a week earlier.
“That’s about as physical of a game as you are going to see, and we knew it,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “One that we could buckle down and go out there and get physical, stop the run, play great defense, and find a way to get points on the boards, which we had to, when our best player went down with an injury.
“I cannot say enough about the guys in that locker room.”
UCF came into the game averaging 275.5 yards per game rushing while holding opponents to just 106 yards total on the ground in its two wins.
The Panthers got 89 yards from sophomore running back Kedrick Rhodes on their way to 111 for the game and held the visiting Knights to 119.
“We practiced knowing they had a good running game,” said sophomore defensive tackle Isame Faciane, who returned a fumble 51 yards for a tying touchdown just before halftime.
“We just made sure we kept to our assignments. We swarmed. We ran to the ball, and that helped us stop their running game.”
Next up for the Panthers is a home game against Sun Belt Conference colleague Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 24. They also are at home the following week (Oct. 1 vs. Duke) before going to Akron on Oct. 8.
•FIU finished with six sacks in the win over UCF, giving the Panthers 15 on the season in just three games. LB Winston Fraser accounted for two. LB Jordan Hunt, SS Jonathan Cyprien, CB Sam Miller, and CB Tevin Blanchard all had one each. The Panthers are nearly halfway to their 2010 total of 33 sacks and are just five away from their season total of 20 in 2009.
•With T.Y. Hilton out with a hamstring injury, junior WR Wayne Times picked up a lot of the slack in the passing game. He accounted for six of QB Wes Carroll’s 15 completions, and they were good for a team-high 68 yards.
•DT Isame Faciane’s return of a recovered fumble (caused by Blanchard’s sack) gave FIU a defensive touchdown for a second consecutive week. The Panthers had scored on LB Winston Fraser’s 71-yard interception against Louisville.
Keep An Eye On: LB Jordan Hunt—The junior college transfer had a big night against UCF. He led the Panthers in tackles with 11, one of them a sack for a 14-yard loss,
Looking Good: FIU’s defense held UCF to 300 yards and surrendered just the one touchdown. Opponents have scored only 24 points in three games against FIU’s defense. All 16 points North Texas scored in the opener were a result of mistakes by the FIU offense and special teams. The Panthers got to UCF QB Jeff Godfrey for six sacks. LBs Jordan Hunt (11) and Winston Fraser (10) combined for 21 tackles and three sacks.
Still Needs Work: The Panthers weren’t able to mount a consistent offense as turnovers led to both of their touchdowns. They returned one for their first touchdown and needed to negotiate only eight yards for their second TD when Colt Anderson recovered Josh Robinson’s fumble on a punt return.
Quote To Note: “We had to spread the ball around more, but we have so many other weapons on offense, and I think that helped us tremendously. It definitely threw off their defense.”—Sophomore RB Kedrick Rhodes, on the impact of the loss of WR T.Y. Hilton.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
•Senior RB Darriet Perry’s touchdown in the third quarter was the 24th of his career, tying him with Rashod Smith for the school record in career rushing touchdowns.
•Senior QB Wes Carroll was only 15-of-29 passing for 127 yards, but he didn’t throw an interception for the third consecutive game. He has thrown 78 consecutive passes without a pick going back to one he threw in the Little Caesars Bowl win over Toledo last December.
•Junior PK Jack Griffin missed his first field goal attempt of the season, a 52-yard try in the second quarter. But he came back to connect from 27 yards late in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 17-7 lead. He is 4-of-5 on the season.
•Freshman CB Richard Leonard first took over punt return duties when T.Y. Hilton was unable to handle the job because of his hamstring injury. Leonard ran his first back 18 yards, but fumbled on his next. Junior Wayne Times assumed the responsibility but did not get an opportunity to run one back.
•Senior WR T.Y. Hilton will be evaluated this week as to his availability for the game against Louisiana-Lafayette. He injured a hamstring on a reception in the second quarter.