Inside The Press Box: FIU

  • Austin Maloney of Florida International University runs with the ball during the Umass football game against Florida International University Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Amherst.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2018 3:17:45 PM

This week, I had a lovely conversation with Pete Pelegrin, who has covered Florida International for the past 17 years, including the last seven for FIU’s website. The Panthers enter this week 1-1 after coming back from an early 17-0 deficit to defeat Old Dominion 28-20 last week in Norfolk, Virginia. 

In a special treat this week, Pete and I actually swapped five questions for each other. To read my answers about UMass, click here, and of course, Pete’s answers about FIU are below. Per usual, answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: How is the second year of the Butch Davis regime different from his first year at FIU?

A: In year two at FIU, the players know what to expect from the coaches and vice versa. The practices are more crisp and everything seems to flow better. One thing that hasn't changed is the players belief in Butch and his coaches. They know the NFL pedigree that Davis has, having won a pair of Super Bowls with the Cowboys, and the players trust that what Davis teaches and says will help them not only in college football but in trying to get to the next level. Also, Davis and the coaches know their players better in year two. They know what they can do and what they can't do on the field.

Q: What has been the most surprising aspect of FIU's start to the season?

A: There hasn't been any big surprises. FIU competed with Indiana and won at Old Dominion, which was expected. I think what was encouraging was the way they came back down 17-0 to ODU on the road and having to deal with about three hours worth of weather delays. The Panthers stuck together and dominated the Monarchs, outscoring them 28-3 in the second half. FIU is a relatively young team and for them to overcome adversity on the road last Saturday showed some growth.

Q: FIU also seems to use a dual-quarterback system on offense. What are the differences in the skillsets Christian Alexander and James Morgan bring to the offense?

A: I think Morgan may have separated himself a bit from Alexander after last Saturday's comeback win. Davis announced that Morgan will start Saturday. Morgan has the stronger arm and more experience having been a starter at Bowling Green. Alexander is more mobile and has been in the Davis's offense for the two years whereas Morgan arrived at FIU about four months ago.

Q: Sage Lewis already has 28 tackles through two games, which is mighty impressive. What has made him such a tackling machine this season?

A: Lewis is probably the most experienced linebacker FIU has. He's always been a playmaker on defense but the last few years he's been overshadowed by two of the better linebackers in FIU history, Anthony Wint (now with the New York Jets) and Treyvon Williams (graduated). Lewis is the guy now on defense and he's showing it. Lewis also talks with Wint and Williams all the time about the linebacker position so those two are helping still even though they are no longer at FIU.

Q: FIU wins if...

A: The Panthers keep producing on offense like they did late in the second quarter and in the second half last week. Last year was an offensive shootout between FIU and UMass. I don't think FIU wants to keep playing from behind like it did last week. Morgan had the offense humming in the second half. The Panthers running game might be the strength of their offense, getting it on track last week helped in the rally.

The FIU pass defense will be tested by Andrew Ford, who threw for 349 yards and 4 TDs last season against the Panthers. FIU needs to get better pressure on Ford. The Panthers have just three sacks through the first two games.

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