BOZICH | Louisville at FIU -- bring your own potato salad and crowd noise
Louisville visits Florida International Saturday. FIU said it drew more than 10,000 for its game with Pitt last Saturday. The Miami Herald estimated the crowd was closer to 3,000.
Monday, September 15th 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Want to know what a crowd of 10,147 looks like at an FBS football game?
Me, too. I wish that I could show you. I can't.
What I am showing you are several pictures from the crowd at the football game that Pittsburgh played at Florida International last Saturday. FIU announced that crowd as a gathering of – cough -- 10,147.
If that's the truth, I want the folks from FIU counting the loose change in my desk drawer. I'd have enough for a new top-of-the-line Lexus – or two.
FIU Stadium seats 20,000. Using the school's crowd estimators, a full house would have been closer to 101,470. Instead of 10,147, I'll go with the Miami Herald estimate:
For a game matching an Atlantic Coast Conference team against a Conference USA program.
Contraction in major college football, anyone?
FIU has played three home games. Officially, the Panthers are averaging 11,394, the fourth-lowest home average in the FBS division.
I open with the FIU crowd count today because Louisville plays the Panthers in Miami Saturday afternoon. Bring your own potato salad, beverages and crowd noise. It is the fourth – and thankfully, final -- game in the four-game series between the programs.
I also file the snapshot under evidence that some programs that have maneuvered their way into FBS status are several tackling dummies short of reality. I've seen larger crowds in the produce aisle at the grocery store.
The next question is a natural: How do the Louisville players motivate themselves to play in a place that figures to have all the competitive fervor of a book store?
There are two answers to that:
1. The Cards (2-1) lost an extremely winnable game at Virginia last Saturday. They're out of the Top 25 – and won't be returning unless they put together a four-game winning streak that would include a victory at Clemson in mid-October.
Even a bad win will look awful on their resume. They need to rout the Panthers by 30 or more.
2. The Louisville roster is stuffed with players from Florida, especially the Miami area. I'm talking about prominent players such as James Burgess, Eli Rogers, Gerod Holliman, John Miller and Michaelee Harris. They need to impress their friends and family members because they're likely to be the liveliest people in the "crowd.”
“We're coming off a loss,” said defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, who grew up in Georgia. “That's motivation enough.
“You never want to lose a game like that. So coming into this week, regardless of who we're playing, we're going to have that chip on our shoulders. We've got to go out and prove to everyone that we're the team we say we are.”
As I said, the Cards have played the Panthers three times, a decision that was slightly reasonable and defendable before the Cards moved into the Atlantic Coast Conference and added another Miami team – the Hurricanes – to the U of L schedule.
FIU has to go.
I realize that the four-game series began with a 24-17 FIU victory in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium three years ago. The Cards beat FIU by a touchdown in Miami two years ago and then blitzed the Panthers, 72-0, last season.
Lorenzo Mauldin, the Cards' defensive leader, remembers when the games were not one-sided.
“We've played these guys before,” Mauldin said. “They have different plays. They have a different style, probably. The motivation (for Louisville) is off the game that we just lost.
“We can't really go into this game and say, “These guys, we played them before and beat them.' So what?”
Bring your own pretzels, sunscreen and crowd noise, that's what.
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