Key Things The Panthers Must Work On Heading Into UMass

The Panthers have had a subpar start top their much anticipated 2019 season. Coming off a 9-4 season where they finished second in C-USA and were the highest-scoring team in the conference, they have been a shell of themselves to start the season. 

In all fairness, the Panthers have faced some adversity with James Morgan going down in the second game against WKU and losing Sage Lewis in their last game against LA Tech. 

Regardless, the Panthers have shown flashes of their 2018 selves but have failed to capitalize on big moments through the first four games of the season. 

Converting on third downs has been one of the Panther’s glaring weaknesses thus far. The Panthers are an abysmal 14-50 on third down a low 28%. This comes as a surprise considering FIU lead C-USA in third-down conversions last year.  Many of the Panther’s third downs have been either third and long or third and medium, which over time are tough to convert. 

This leads us into the second point of emphasis for the Panthers, more creative play calling. 

In the first four games of the season, the play-calling has lacked creativity. Too often the Panthers find themselves running it on first and second down and turning to their quarterback to bail them out in a third and long. 

Whether it’s Morgan or Kaylan Wiggins in at quarterback, first down play calling remains relatively the same for the Panthers. The Panthers arguably had their best game of the season in their loss to LA Tech when they let Morgan loose for a career-high 394 yards. 

The Panthers can not continue to be so predictable on first down and need to shake things up with the play calling. Morgan and Wiggins are more than capable throwers under center and that should be a part of the offense the Panthers lean on more. 

Kicking has been an issue that has plagued the Panthers so far this season. Kicker Jose Borregales is 2-6 on field goals for the year and has continued his shaky start. Borregales has left 13 points on the field this year, points that matter particularly in close games. 

Coach Butch Davis has expressed his support for Borregales and hopes that he gets out of his slump. Hopefully, the bye week is exactly what the junior kicker needs to get back on the right track. 

The run defense has been abysmal to start the season. The Panthers are giving up an average of 219 rushing yards a game. Losing Lewis doesn’t help, but FIU has had a tough time stopping the run this season. In their last game against LA Tech, running back Justin Henderson had a career-high 141 yards along with three touchdowns in what was a great night for the run game as a whole. 

This is not the Panther team we anticipated coming into 2019. While they are not of the conference race just yet, the Panthers will need to fire on all cylinders for the rest of the season if they plan on making a bowl game trip this year. 

“We did an awful lot of self-analysis, we looked at our first four games, looked at the things that we’re doing good, worked on the things we weren’t doing as good,” said Davis.  “We needed to try to do some analytical studies as far as positions of personnel groupings and trying to change some of those things for the next couple of weeks. It’s been a very positive the last two days.”

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