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ASU looking for its first SBC Win

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 16:10


Travis Sharp, Staff Photographer

In the last meeting against FIU, senior Ryan Aplin lead the Red Wolves to a 34-16 victory over the Panthers. Aplin rushed 164 yards during the 2011 campaign against FIU. This year, the Panthers will be up against the defending conference champs with freshman quarterback E.J. Hilliard.

After its first conference loss to Western Kentucky, the Red Wolves (2-3, 0-1) have had a short time to prepare for its match up against Sun Belt Conference favorite Florida International (1-4,0-1).

“We have been in the process to implement a game play, strategically we have tried to take it off our kids physically as much as we can, but at the same time get work in” head coach Gus Malzahn said.

FIU quarterback Jake Medlock is expected to be out for the next four weeks after a foot fracture in Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette giving freshman E.J. Hilliard the reigns to lead the Panthers.

“Hilliard looks extremely athletic, he looks like a dual threat guy that can make some things happen,” Malzahn said.

In his debut against ULL, Hilliard completed nine of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown after coming in for the last drive of the second quarter.

Hilliard has been the first freshman quarterback to start for the Panthers since Jamie Burke in 2002, but will  Hilliard be able to keep up with SBC player of the year Ryan Aplin?
During tonight’s match up, FIU Loranzo Hammonds Jr. could also make an appearance as head coach Mario Cristobal interchanges the two to work off the same offense that was expected of Medlock, featuring read-option runs by the running back or play-actions and midrange passing.

According to the Miami Herald, Cristobal said running back Darian Mallary will return after a concussion during FIU’s match up against Louisville Cardinals, calling it a “big plus.”

With five games down, the coaching staff and players are still faced with the challenge to execute with explosive plays.     “There are a lot of variables-- running the right route and protection, the bottom line is that is the missing ingredient to be a good offense. We are to a point now where we ought to have a good grasp of the basics, and as coaches we have to do a better job of giving them a plan to execute and do it well,” Malzahn said.

The Red Wolves took the field for two days of practice, simplifying things and taking out the physicality to focus on mental preparation for the match up against FIU.

With both ASU and FIU looking for its first conference win, it is a must win game for either teams. “It is a very big game, we are already behind in the conference race,” said Malzahn.

The Red Wolves will take on the Panthers tonight in Miami, Fla. in hopes to win its first conference victory. Kick off will be at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPNU along with EAB Sports Radio Network 107.9FM.


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