FIU’s MacIntyre preparing Panthers for trip to Arkansas

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-11-15 17:34 PM


One upon a time,  Mike MacIntyre was the head coach of a Colorado football program electrifying the Buffaloes fan base similar to what Deion Sanders was doing at the start of the 2023 season.

MacIntrye was named the 2016 consensus national college coach of the year after leading Colorado to a 10-2 regular season and a No. 9 ranking.

He’ll arrive in Fayetteville Saturday as the second-year head coach of Florida International University (4-6), a Conference USA program that will take on Arkansas (3-7) in a 6:30 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPNU.

“We have a big contest against Arkansas,” MacIntyre said. “To me, it is the biggest, strongest, most physical football team we have played all year. 

“I know their record is not that good, but they should have beaten Alabama, they definitely could have beat another couple of teams and they are a good football team.

“Especially against the people we have played this year, to me they would be the best team we have played. So we have a tough contest for ourselves and our kids are excited about going there and playing and playing on ESPNU, which is big for us and for exposure for our conference and for our school.”

MacIntyre’s  long coaching career has seen college stints as a head coach at Colorado and  an assistant at Georgia, the University of Tennessee-Martin, Ole Miss, Davidson, Temple, Duke and Memphis, the last four serving as the  defensive coordinator.

He was also a defensive back coach with NFL teams Dallas (2003-2006) and the New York Jets.

McIntyre, whose team has lost five of its past six games,  will be coaching against an old friend in Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman, whose Razorbacks have lost seven of eight contests since opening 2-0.

“Sam Pittman is awesome,” MacIntyre said. “He has a genuine love for football and an understanding of what college football is all about. He was definitely to me, being around him as much as I have, he is the kind of guy that I would love coaching my sons. He cares about young people, he cares about the process of college football and he cares about the game. 

“To me, he is a very humble person, which is really genuine and I appreciate.”

MacIntyre is familiar with Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (6-3, 245), who he saw as a recruit, and Razorback tailback Raheim “Rocket” Sanders.

Jefferson has passed for 1,918 yards and 16 touchdowns this with 8 interceptions.

“KJ Jeffeson is bigger than some of our defensive linemen,” MacIntyre said. “He’s powerful, he can run, he has a very strong arm. He has played good football there for awhile now.

“He is from North Panola High School right outside of Oxford, Mississippi, so I knew about him when I was coaching at Ole Miss. He was a heck of a player there.

“And their running back, he was All-SEC and then hurt his knee and, Raheim, is bigger than our linemen, too. He is big, powerful, strong. He can run.

“So they are a physical, powerful football team. Their O-line is huge and have big, talented wide receivers. 

“It is going to be a tough contest for us and we have to wrap up and tackle and we have to tackle better than we have the last couple of games.”

MacIntrye notes tackling was was an issue  in last week’s 40-6 loss to Middle Tennessee State University.

“That is one of our big problems,” MacIntrye said. “We were tackling well earlier and we worked on it hard during our off week and kept working on it,  but we just haven’t and didn’t tackle well (last week). We have worked on it the last few days and hopefully we will tackle better. We have to tackle and wrap these guys up better for sure.”

Florida International’s offense is led by freshman quarterback Keyone Jenkins, who has thrown for 1,900 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, and wide receiver Kris Mitchell, who has 50 catches for 845 yard and seven touchdowns.

MacIntyre pointed to offensive failures in red zone as another factor in the loss.

“It was good defense by MTSU, but if you get four trips down there…you want to score at least three touchdowns and a field goal,” MacIntrye said. “That’s what you need to do. You want to score all four times,  but you better come away with that.  But we just came away with two field goals, which is not good.”

Florida International will be trying to win its third road game of the season, which would be the schools most since 2018, while Arkansas will be trying to break a thee-game losing streak in games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

It will be the Panthers’ first game against a Power 5 team since a 62-3 loss at Florida back in 2009.

Florida International, located in Miami, began its football program in 2002, and has not played before a crowd this season of over 20,000, which happens to be its stadium’s capacity.

But MacIntyre is looking to play at least one Power 5 team per season.

“We do have other Power 5s,” MacIntyre said. “Next year we open up with Indiana in the first game of the year. When I got here and met with Scott Carr and different people, we were talking about different things and we felt like for our overall athletic program that our football team  needed to play a Power 5 each year that we could.

“We are getting a big paycheck (from Arkansas) and that helps our overall athletic program, every sport in our program and so that is something that us a football program will do to help this overall sports program.

“They haven’t done that in the past here a lot and we are trying to do that basically every year. So it is good exposure for us, but overall what it really does is help our overall athletic program.”

(Last updated: 2023-11-15 17:34 PM)