FIU got a reprieve.
The FIU Panthers, mired in a 0-3 start and facing a visit this week from the 19th-ranked and undefeated Marshall Thundering Herd, have postponed Friday’s football game for reasons relating to COVID-19 and not enough available players.
“The [postponement] follows Conference USA’s guidelines, which require a threshold for the game to be played safely,” said a statement issued by FIU on Tuesday afternoon. “The shortage [of scholarship players] is due to quarantining and contract tracing, as well as injuries.”
This marks the second time in three weeks that FIU has postponed a game because of COVID-19 cases on its team. FIU also postponed its Oct. 17 game at Charlotte. It’s possible FIU could play Charlotte and Marshall on the two open dates — Dec. 5 and 12 — before the Conference USA title game.
Ten C-USA teams have played more games than FIU this season, and only two — FAU and Rice have played fewer.
And while Marshall is 5-0, FIU and coach Butch Davis are on a dreadful five-game losing streak that stretches to last season.
This is Davis’ 18th year as a head coach in college or in the NFL, and it’s also the first time he has ever started a season 0-3.
FIU’s 0-3 start is its first since 2016, when the Panthers lost their first four games, leading to the firing of coach Ron Turner.
Davis replaced Turner and has led FIU to three consecutive bowl appearances, but this season has been a struggle, on and off the field.
The Panthers had zero spring practices and no full scrimmages in the fall, both due to COVID-19. They have lost by two points to Liberty, by three to Middle Tennessee and by nine to Jacksonville State.
Following last Friday’s game to Jacksonville State, Davis said: “Between injuries and coronavirus, we are down 24 players, and we probably lost more tonight. It’s not like it’s just a sprained ankle. When you have guys having knee and shoulder surgeries, they’re not coming back [this season].”
The list of sick or injured FIU players, Davis said, includes left tackle D’Antne Demery, who is an NFL prospect; starting center Shane McGough; and running back Shaun Peterson, who had rushed for 117 yards in his most recent full game.
In addition, FIU has been hit hard at wide receiver, where they are without veterans Shemar Thornton and JJ Holloman and freshman Teddy Richardson.
THIS AND THAT
▪ FIU is now one of two winless teams in Conference USA. The other winless team is 0-1 Rice, finally got on the field this past Saturday and lost 40-34 in double overtime to Middle Tennessee.
Rice could’ve won in the first overtime, but kicker Collin Riccitelli missed perhaps the craziest field goal in history as the ball bounced off the right post, the crossbar, the left post and the crossbar again. His next field-goal try was blocked.
▪ FIU’s special teams have been solid, led by kick returner Lexington Joseph, who ranks fifth in the nation (33.0); punt returner Bryce Singleton, who ranks first in C-USA (18.0); and punter Tommy Heatherly, who ranks 25th in the nation (43.8).
▪ FIU’s run defense, allowing 213.3 yards per game, is one of the worst in the nation, ranking 86th out of 101 schools.
▪ FIU ranks 96th in the nation at 92.7 passing yards per game.