COLLEGE PARK, Md. (CBSMiami) – A new era kicks off for Florida International University Saturday when head coach Ron Turner takes the Panthers to Maryland to battle the Terrapins of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
FIU will have the element of surprise on their side because no one has seen what Turner’s offense will look like just yet. The first-year head coach at FIU has a long history in pro and college football and what is known is that he has scrapped the spread for a West Coast-type offense.
FIU’s task is to stop an offense that suffered through more injuries last year than almost any team in the country. The Terrapins lost multiple quarterbacks throughout the season and it showed in the team’s scoring offense, which was just 20.1 points per game, 109th in the nation, according to cfbstats.com.
The Terrapins couldn’t run the football last year, averaging just 103 yards per game under head coach Randy Edsall. Throwing the football wasn’t much better with the team’s quarterback problems. Maryland averaged 181.8 yards passing per game in 2012.
Surprisingly enough though, Maryland was able to throw more touchdown passes than interceptions, even with multiple quarterbacks under center.
With an offense as bad as Maryland’s, the Terrapins were marginally better on defense. The Terps gave up 27.4 points per game last year, ranking the team 56th in the country in scoring defense.
The run defense for the Terps was stout, giving up just 129.3 yards per game, 27th best in the country. Passing wise, the Terps held opponents to just 207.5 yards per game through the air, but gave up 24 passing touchdowns to just 4 interceptions on the season.
When FIU has the football, it’s going to be a mystery because as stated before, no one really knows what to expect from the offense.
The Panthers do return a star quarterback in the making in junior Jake Medlock. Last season, Medlock completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,127 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in nine games.
But, FIU’s offense has lost its top two running backs to dismissal and the leading rusher from last year’s team is Medlock, who had a grand total of 236 yards rushing last season on 87 carries.
If FIU can’t establish a running game and becomes one dimensional against the Terrapins, it’s a recipe for disaster.
FIU, like Maryland, struggled to stop teams last season even with a second-round draft pick patrolling the secondary. FIU gave up 31.7 points per game last season, 90th in the country. FIU’s run defense was decent, 37th in the nation at 140.8 yards per game.
FIU’s pass defense was bad last season, giving up 262.1 yards per game and almost 7.2 yards per completion. The Panthers’ passing defense was torched for 24 touchdowns and picked off just 10 passes.
However, four of those interceptions came from Jonathan Cyprien, who will be playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year. According to cfbstats.com, FIU will return two players who had a total of two interceptions from last year’s team.
The pressure will be on Maryland in this game not to slip up at home. Not much is expected out of FIU, but an upset of the Terrapins in College Park could start the Panthers on a special season. If Maryland loses, the howls for head coach Randy Edsall’s scalp will start again.
The game will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Net affiliates.