NCF Nation: Darriet Perry

FIU Panthers season recap

December, 7, 2010
Here we have yet another program that had been pegged to finish near the bottom of its conference. Given the history, it was easy to see why. FIU had won nine games in the previous three seasons under coach Mario Cristobal, and was still feeling the effects of NCAA sanctions and scholarship losses. But Cristobal was determined to build a program living in the shadow of his alma mater, the University of Miami. He preached hard work and discipline, and got his players to believe. That showed immediately, when the Panthers blew fourth-quarter leads in near upsets to Rutgers and Texas A&M.

FIU started 0-4, but all four losses came to schools from bigger conferences, and they actually served to give the Panthers confidence because they could see the results of their efforts -- even if they were falling short. Wes Carroll stepped up at quarterback after winning a competition over Wayne Younger early in the season. Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary proved to be a good duo at running back, and T.Y. Hilton continued his tear at receiver. Defensively, Anthony Gaitor set the tone as he has done throughout his career. What happened next is the stuff of history. FIU overcame an ugly loss to rival Florida Atlantic and beat conference heavyweight Troy for the first time in school history. That gave the Panthers the head-to-head advantage and eventually led to the first Sun Belt championship in league history, along with the first bowl bid in school history. FIU finished 6-6 and has a chance for the first winning season in school history with a win in the bowl game.

Offensive MVP: T.Y. Hilton. Mr. All-Purpose did it all for FIU once again: 816 receiving yards with four touchdowns; 278 yards rushing and four TDs; 785 yards in punt/kickoff returns and one touchdown.

Defensive MVP: Anthony Gaitor. He finished with 50 tackles, 8.5 for loss, three sacks and two interceptions to lead the defense once again.

Turning point: A 52-35 win over Troy put FIU in the driver’s seat for the Sun Belt. Even though the Panthers dropped the season finale to Middle Tennessee, their win over Troy allowed them to become co-champions.

What’s next: FIU plays Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl on Dec. 26 and could be poised for more success. Nearly everybody returns on offense, though FIU has to deal with the loss of Gaitor.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 11

November, 14, 2010
Time for a few non-AQ helmet stickers:

Tulane QB Ryan Griffin. Threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yard score to Ryan Grant for the go-ahead score with 1:46 remaining to beat Rice 54-49.

FIU offensive line. The Panthers had three players rush for more than 100 yards for the first time in program history, and racked up a program-record 448 rushing yards. Darriet Perry had a career-high 186 yards, while T.Y. Hilton had 158 and Darian Mallary had 118 in the 52-35 win over Troy.

North Texas RB Lance Dunbar. Gained 226 yards and a touchdown in a 23-17 win over Middle Tennessee. Dunbar has gone over 200 yards rushing in two of his past three games.

Western Michigan WR Jordan White and Juan Nunez. Each went over 100 yards in the same game for the third time this season in a 45-30 win over Eastern Michigan. White had 134 yards and one TD, while Nunez had 110 yards on four catches and two touchdowns.

BYU WR Luke Ashworth. Had four catches for a career-high 113 yards in a 49-10 win over Colorado State. All four catches went for touchdowns -- 62, 7, 36 and 8 yards. BYU has won three straight and is one win away from becoming bowl eligible.

Navy QB Kriss Proctor. Ran 20 times for a career-high 201 yards and a touchdown in a 38-37 win over Central Michigan. Proctor started in place of Ricky Dobbs, who was held out with a slight concussion. Navy clinched its eighth straight winning season, the longest streak since 1952-61.

Tulsa safety Marco Nelson. The true freshman had three of the Golden Hurricane's five interceptions in a 28-25 win over Houston. He now has six interceptions on the season.

Fresno State RB Robbie Rouse. Ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-34 loss to No. 21 Nevada. Rouse has posted back-to-back 200-yard games after rushing for 286 last week against Louisiana Tech. Colin Kaepernick had 324 total yards and two scores for Nevada.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • Three-time All-Sun Belt rusher Reggie Arnold is gone and finding his replacement will be their top priority. Derek Lawson, who was third on the team in rushing with 244 yards and two touchdowns, returns and he’ll be the incumbent through spring. But he’ll face competition from Sir Gregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson in the fall.
  • Ryan Aplin, who started three of the final four games last season, should be the leading quarterback this spring. Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield, however, will also challenge him for the spot. Butterfield was in the mix last fall camp before his season ended with a knee injury.
  • Arkansas State is currently without an offensive coordinator after Clay Helton, who came over from Memphis last month, left for USC last week. The Red Wolves still have a month before spring football starts, but trying to fill that void this late is going to make any transition to a new offense tough.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • The Owls lost seven starters from the offense, including four from the offensive line. The only player returning is center Ryan Wischnefski. Several players will be fighting for those spots, including Troy Niblack, Samuel McRoy, Jared Pizzuti and Max Karrick. The 2009 FAU offensive line was the best in the program’s short history. It helped FAU become the No. 2 passing offense in the Sun Belt.
  • FAU returns senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, who started the second half of the season after Rusty Smith was injured. But six of the team’s top seven receivers are gone, including both tight ends Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant. Senior Lester Jean is the lone returning receiver. He had 501 yards and four touchdowns last season. The good thing is that FAU quarterbacks like to spread the ball around, so developing a new rapport with some receivers this spring shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • The team is counting on new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and secondary coach Dick Hopkins to make the defense competitive. The Owls had one of the worst defenses in the country and one of the worst in program history. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, especially since three walk-ons filled those starting roles.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
  • Senior Wayne Younger and junior transfer Wesley Carroll, who came from Mississippi State where he was an all-freshman selection in 2008, will compete for the starting quarterback job after Paul McCall graduated. Younger played in spot time last year and threw four interceptions and no touchdowns.
  • Darriet Perry should be the leader heading into the running back competition, but Perry struggled at times last year, mostly because of injuries. Kendall Berry, who played out of the Wildcat last year, and Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden also will compete for the starting role.
  • New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will be happy to see star receiver T.Y. Hilton back after he struggled with knee injuries most of last year. Hilton is one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference and having him healthy should give the offense confidence.

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