Senior linebacker Dexter Heyman is going to be a key for the Cards’ defense this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In another nationally-televised game shown on ESPN, Louisville plays its second-straight home game when FIU invades Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in a 7 p.m. contest.
FIU is picked by many of the experts to win the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Championship, as well as picking senior WR/KR and Heisman hopeful T.Y. Hilton as the Offensive Player of the Year.
The Panthers are coming off a 7-6 season that saw them capture the program’s first-ever conference championship as well as the the team’s first bowl berth and victory, a 34-32 win over Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Quarterback Wes Carroll returns to lead the offense, throwing for 2,623 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago, completing 61.6 percent of his throws.
Offensive Player to Watch
Senior wide receiver/kick returner and Heisman hopeful T.Y. Hilton, the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, is one of the most dangerous and explosive players in the entire country.
In his career, Hilton has already returned four kickoffs for touchdown, including one in 2009 against eventual BCS National Champion Alabama, and has averaged 26.5 yards per kick return.
Last December, Hilton wowed the football world with his performance in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, leading FIU to a 34-32 victory. In the game, Hilton caught one touchdown and scored another on an 89-yard kickoff return. However, the biggest play of the game was a 4th-and-17 play in which Hilton was on the back-end of a “Hook and Ladder,” and tip-toed his way down the sideline to pick up the first down and keep FIU in the game.
A former Freshman All-American, Hilton is already FIU’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 5,602. Last season, Hilton led the Panthers with 59 catches for 848 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 282 yards and four scores. Perhaps the biggest game of his career came against ULM on Nov. 6, when he amassed 291 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns, two on receptions, one rushing and one on a kick return.
Defensive Players to Watch
Josh Forney (DL), Tourek Williams (DL), Winston Fraser (LB) and Jonathan Cyprien (DB) are All-Conference caliber players. Forney, Williams, Fraser and Cyprien are all coming off stellar seasons that helped the Panthers’ defense lead the conference in total defense, scoring defense and turnover margin.
Forney, playing defensive tackle, recorded 26 tackles, including three for loss and 1.5 sacks. Williams, a junior defensive end, had six sacks in 2010, which is the most among returning players. Fraser had 72 tackles in the 2010 season, including nine for loss. He also had a key interception late in FIU’s victory over ULM. Cyprien, a Second-Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2010, led the Panthers in tackles last year with 113, which is the fourth-best single-season total in FIU history.
FIU assistant coach Greg Laffere and Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt both played at the University of Miami. Laffere’s playing career included two years at the University of Miami (Fla.), where he started 16 games on the offensive line and helped the Hurricanes win a National Championship in 2001. As a senior at Miami, Laffere was part of an offensive line that only allowed eight sacks in 340 passing plays on the season. He also helped anchor an offense that totaled a school-record 469 points, while averaging a Big East-best 460.8 yards of total offense per game in 2000. Afterwards, he was named the winner of Miami’s Unsung Hero Award presented annually by the Hurricane coaching staff. Hurtt was a three-year letterman for the Hurricanes as a defensive lineman. He signed with Miami in 1997 and played extensively as a freshman before redshirting in 1998 to recover from an injury. Hurtt returned to the lineup and saw extensive action in 1999 and 2000 before an injury prior to the 2001 season ended his playing career.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.