Panthers Uncaged to face the Blazers

Jorge Corrales/ Staff Writer   The Panthers will finally be let out of the Cage on Sept. 27, when they travels to Birmingham, Alabama, to take on the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on the new American Sports Network. “It was nice having four straight home games,” said Coach Ron Turner. “But now it’s time to go on the road and it shouldn’t factor in at all to how we play. We’re gonna prepare the same way and stay focused.” On top of being their first road game, Saturday also marks the beginning of conference play for the Panthers. The Panthers finished 1-7 in C-USA play last year; their lone win coming in week 5 against University of Southern Mississippi. The Panthers come into Saturday with the top defense in Conference USA– allowing just over 300 yards-per-game. Senior safety Demarkus Perkis leads the Panthers with 29 tackles this year. He tallied a career-high 12 tackles in the loss to Louisville. On the front lines, the Panthers are led by junior defensive end Michael Wakefield. Wakefield is among the nation’s leaders in sacks, with 4.5. He had two sacks on Saturday, against Louisville, and would’ve had three, had the referees not ruled that Cardinals sophomore quarterback Will Gardner make it back to the line of scrimmage on a close play. Junior defensive end Denzell Perine trails Wakefield with four sacks on the year. The Panthers will need that defense if they hope to contain UAB. The Blazers are third in Conference USA with 41 points per game. The Panthers offense sits at the bottom of the conference with only 12.3 points per game. “We’ll prepare for them just like we do anybody else,” said Turner. “First of all we focus on ourselves. It’s about us, number one. When we take care of our business. Then we prepare for what they do offensively and defensively. It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to focus on ourselves first.” Freshman quarterback Alex McGough is coming off his first rough game against Louisville. He was 5 of 13 for 47-yards and two interceptions. Those two picks were the first of his career and they came on back-to-back throws during a Cardinals’ scoring flurry in the second quarter. He was pulled early in the third quarter after an apparent leg injury, but he was medically cleared after the game. McGough has once again been named the starter for Saturday and he hopes to get back on track in Birmingham. “We gotta work on the basics [with McGough],” said Turner. “Techniques and fundamentals. Just stay with the basics like we’ve been doing.” The Panthers are 0-1 all-time against the Blazers. Their lone matchup was last season, where FIU fell 27-24 despite recording a season-high 396 yards of offense. The Panthers will try and hand the Blazers their second loss of the 2014 season. “They’re obviously a very good team, very well coached. They score a lot of points. They play good defense. They play hard and fast,” Turner said. “We’re gonna go out and play our best game; which we haven’t done yet.”

Photo by Brian Trujillo/ The Beacon

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