FIU Loses Key Game to UMass in Ugly Fashion

Jacob Spiwak

Asst. Sports Director

FIU had quite possibly their worst loss in over a year on Saturday, Oct. 3. Prior to this weekend, they were an improving team looking to be above .500 with what many thought was a realistic shot to compete in Conference USA. Now, there are doubts that this team will even find themselves playing in a Bowl Game at the end of the season.

This drastic change in the direction of the team came after the Panthers (2-3) dropped their final nonconference game of 2015 against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen (1-3) by a score of 24-14. Yes, THAT University of Massachusetts. The program that, before defeating FIU, had only won five games since joining the FBS.

To the Minutemen’s credit, they’ve improved a lot over the past couple seasons and they were quite frankly the better team on both sides of the ball this weekend. FIU didn’t have an answer for former Marshall University quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and the stout UMass defense didn’t allow the FIU offense to move the ball whatsoever.

I would give you my keys to why FIU lost the game, but there are honestly too many to list. Saying UMass outplayed the Panthers is a huge understatement; they dominated the game from start to finish. Other than FIU winning the turnover battle 2-0, UMass owned basically every aspect of the game and the statistics show that.

The main stat that really jumps out at you is that UMass outgained the Panthers 495-188. That’s over 300 more total yards on offense than FIU! Given how much the Minutemen outperformed FIU, the Panthers are lucky they only lost this game by 10 points. The chilly New England weather certainly played at least a minor role in this, but there’s no logical reason for a team with as many talented players on offense as FIU to put up less than 200 yards of total offense and convert only 13 first downs.

FIU certainly didn’t play well defensively either, but it could’ve been much worse. The Panthers offense was forced to punt eight times and also turned the ball over on downs once, which put the defense in a very difficult spot having to constantly be on the field trying to keep the UMass lead in check with little-to-no support from the offense. Factor that in with the many injuries the FIU defense had to work through and it was a very tough game for the defensive corps.

There were also a lot of questionable calls from the officials all game long, including a very suspect personal foul called on senior lineman, Michael Wakefield, in the second quarter. This took away what would’ve been cornerback Richard Leonard’s first interception of the season, and led to a four-play, 63 yard touchdown drive for the Minutemen. However, FIU can’t blame the officials for losing this game regardless of the bad calls. The refs certainly didn’t help the Panthers’ cause, but that’s no excuse for how poorly the team played.

What matters most now is how this team responds to this terrible loss. I wrote in my column last week that this game was extremely important, and could set the tone for the rest of the season. Hopefully I was wrong (as I was with my prediction that FIU would win), because if the UMass game is any indication of how this team is going to play moving forward, FIU fans are in for another long season.

FIU’s next game is a must win for them, as they return to Ocean Bank Field on Saturday, Oct. 10 against the University of Texas at El Paso Miners. After FIU’s abysmal loss against UMass, the UTEP game has to be viewed as a must win if the Panthers want to salvage their season.

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