The Maryland football team has its first FBS game on Friday against Florida International, and we’ve enlisted Cyrus Smith of the always wonderful Underdog Dynasty to help us get to know the Golden Panthers a little better. For our corresponding Q&A, click here.
Testudo Times: FIU opened the season with a closer-than-it-seemed loss to Indiana. Was this performance surprising? What did you see that gives you hope for the rest of the season?
Underdog Dynasty: The performance wasn’t surprising. FIU had the talent and “home-field advantage” to keep that game close. What was disappointing was how everything unfolded in the fourth quarter. I think the defense for the first three quarters really seemed capable of carrying the team again. Freshman receiver Dennis Turner also looked great in his debut and should give Alex McGough a much needed weapon to go alongside speedy tailback Alex Gardner and the most reliable recover on the team, Thomas Owens.
TT: Quarterback Alex McGough was 23-of-46 against Indiana for 263 yards. What are you expecting from him as a junior?
UD: More consistency and better decision-making. No one will ever question McGough’s toughness as he will dive for first downs, extend for the pylon, and stay in the pocket and take a hit. But his decision-making and accuracy are still problems. Last week he threw a backbreaking pick-six in the fourth quarter on a screen pass, a pass he should not have ever thrown. If the offense is to take the next step McGough must raise his game to the next level. He’s pretty mobile so I would also like to see him take what the defense gives him and pick up some yards on the ground too.
TT: Which defensive player or players should Maryland fans have their eyes on?
UD: Jeremiah McKinnon made some plays in the secondary last week and recorded an interception. The secondary has a ton of guys to be on lookout for as Shermarke Spence and Niko Gonzales are veterans and players to watch for should Maryland decide to test the secondary’s speed and go deep.
TT: Indiana floored FIU with a 22-0 fourth quarter. What happened? Do you think this is something the Panthers can clean up?
UD: A lack of offensive innovation, turnovers, and lack of depth is what happened. FIU is not good enough to commit mental lapses and defeat a P5 team, much less one that has a dynamic offense such as Indiana’s. I think as long as Ron Turner is the head coach these issues will remain. His hybrid pro-style offense requires exceptional athletes and though FIU does have some talent on offense, they don’t have the offensive line (nor the creative play calling) to really showcase their athletes.
TT: As I type this, Maryland is the second-highest-rated opponent FIU will play in 2016, according to S&P+. How important is this game for the Golden Pathers' season?
UD: If FIU loses this game they aren’t going to a bowl game, so I’d say this is a pretty big game. Expect the Panther to throw everything at the Terps as Ron Turner desperately needs a win to show FIU is making some type of momentum in his fourth season in Miami. An 0-2 start to the season with two straight home losses will really get FIU fans worrying and should they lose the next home game to UCF, the sharks will be out for Turner.
TT: Complete this sentence: ____ will win because ____.
UD: Maryland will win because they are the more talented team and should be able to figure out any outdated offensive scheme Turner tries to throw at them.