Turns out those fears about FIU being a danger game for Louisville were right on the mark. The Cardinals were simply never really in the game Friday night and lost 24-17 to the Panthers. A bit of history was made, too, though not the kind Louisville wants to be a part of -- FIU won its first game against an AQ opponent.
So much for the Big East starting the season 8-0.
The game broke down in a variety of ways:
Louisville had no answer for dangerous all-purpose player T.Y. Hilton, who had a school-record 201 yards receiving. He scored on touchdown receptions of 74 and 83 yards, burning the Cardinals with his incredible speed. Louisville could not figure out a way to cover him in the first half. On one of the touchdowns, a linebacker was covering him because he was lined up as the third receiver on the formation. It wasn't just the inexperienced cornerbacks who got beaten, though. Junior safety Shenard Holton was out of position on one of the long touchdown runs as well, and was simply caught flat footed.
The Cardinals have some major problems on offense. The offensive line has five new starters and in two straight games has not played well. Mario Benavides was supposed to anchor the line at center as the lone returning starter, but he has been out with an injury. Left tackle Hector Hernandez has struggled in particular.
As for the quarterback situation, Will Stein threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter, and that basically set the tone for the rest of the game. He was constantly on the run or throwing under pressure because of breakdowns along the offensive line. Several of his passes were batted down on the line as well. Teddy Bridgewater only got in for one series, with Louisville down 21-3. There simply was no chance to get him in the game with Louisville having to come back from such a large deficit.
Down 21-10, Louisville continued to take its time, trying to establish the run in the second half. The turning point came on fourth-and-1 at the FIU 7 yard-line with 10:28 to go. Jeremy Wright ran the ball but really had no chance because FIU knew exactly what was coming. He ended up losing 4 yards, and the Cardinals never really threatened after that. Despite trailing for most of the game, the rush-to-pass attempts ratio was about the same (45 pass, 41 run), an indication that they really wanted to stick with the run. But the Cardinals only averaged 2.3 yards a rush.