FIU faces tough competition in first ever C-USA schedule

Jonathan Jacobskind/staff writer

The 2013 season will offer a number of firsts for the FIU football program. It will be Head Coach Ron Turner’s first year at the helm when leading the Panthers into their first year in Conference USA.

FIU’s upcoming season schedule was released on Jan. 30 and the first kickoff of the 2013 campaign is slated for Aug. 31 in College Park, Md., where FIU will go head-to-head with the Terps of the University of Maryland.

The new season features matchups against six different teams that FIU will be facing for the first time in program history with contests against East Carolina University, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, University of Texas El Paso and the Blazers of University of Alabama-Birmingham, which is FIU’s annual Homecoming games.

In its 12-year history, FIU is 1-2 against teams in C-USA, two of those contests being against University of Central Florida. The Knights, however, will be switching over to the Big East Conference this coming season. Aside from a 33-20 loss, FIU suffered to the Knights in 2012, the other loss stems from a FIU’s second bowl game appearance when it coughed up a 20-10 loss to The Thundering Herd of Marshall in the 2011 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Their sole C-USA victory came from a 17-10 win over the Knights back in 2011 in  the first matchup between the two programs.

Although FIU has not met six of the teams on the gridiron prior to the 2013 season, senior middle linebacker and vocal leader Markeith Russell downplayed the unfamiliarity factor and stressed that the Panthers are solely concerned with improving themselves at each position and putting in that extra work.

“Even though we got our media guys working day and night to try and get film on the opponents we’ll be facing next season, as a team, we weren’t too concerned about other teams,” Russell said. “Right now, we’re just working on holding ourselves accountable and trusting each other on and off the field. We’re just making sure we do things the right way first before worrying about our opponents because we are our worst enemies and once we take care of ourselves then we can move on.”

As if the challenge of encountering teams FIU has never played was not treacherous enough, Turner, who wasn’t available for comment for this story, won’t exactly be waltzing into conference play, as all four non-conference games including the season opener against the Terps will be in the first five weeks of the season. Following the Maryland contest, FIU will return to Miami to host UCF in their home opener at The Cage for the third time in as many seasons.

To wrap up the season-opening gauntlet, the Panthers take on the Louisville Cardinals, Sugar Bowl champions, on Sept. 21 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium where FIU drew the upset victory on national television just two years ago. However, the Cardinals returned the favor by holding off the Panthers here in Miami last season in a 28-21 triumph that saw Jake Medlock go down with an injury to his right foot.

With arguably the three toughest games on FIU’s schedule taking place in little over the first month of the year, Russell and his teammates are well aware the obstacles they may have to face right off the bat. In fact, they’re embracing this three-game gauntlet with open arms.

“I think it’s a great thing to start of the season with such a big challenge. It allows us to see where we stand as a team and correct some the weaknesses we may have on offense, defense or special teams,” Russell said. “At the end of the day, those four games in the first quarter of the season are going to be a challenge, but we also need to focus a lot on our conference games because those are the games that matter the most.”

FIU 2013 schedule

 

Aug.31- at Maryland

Sept.7- vs. UCF

Sept.14- vs. Bethune-Cookman

Sept.21- at Louisville

Oct.5- at Southern Miss

oct.12- vs. UAB

Oct.26- vs. Louisiana Tech

Nov.2- vs. East Carolina

Nov.9- at Middle Tennessee

Nov.16- at UTEP

Nov.23- vs. Marshall

Nov.30- at FAU

Home games in bold.