MIAMI (AP) -At the FIU bookstore, they're having trouble keeping football items in stock.
This is not an unheard-of problem for most major colleges, but at FIU, it's definitely a new trend. A three-game winning streak has the Golden Panthers tied for first in the Sun Belt Conference and may have erased any remaining stigma of the ballyhooed brawl against Miami in 2006 and the 23-game losing streak that FIU lugged around for nearly two years.
It's a new day, and FIU (3-3, 2-0) is basking in it.
``You look around and instead of seeing University of Texas sweaters and University of Miami sweaters, you're seeing FIU sweaters,'' quarterback Paul McCall said Wednesday. ``It's starting to feel like a Division I college campus around here, which is great.''
Funny what a few wins will do.
FIU's wins over the past three weeks came against Toledo, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State, by a combined 108-47 margin. Those three opponents have a combined 4-14 record, which ordinarily wouldn't raise any eyebrows.
Until one looks at which schools those teams have actually beaten this year.
dle Tennessee knocked off Maryland last month, so clearly, the Blue Raiders had some talent. And the stunner came last weekend, when Toledo visited the Big House and stunned Michigan 13-10, two weeks after FIU went on the road and easily beat the Rockets 35-16.
The attention is nice, but FIU coach Mario Cristobal warns that the rebuilding process is by no means complete.
``Everyone in the state of Florida knows what FIU is going to be and where it's headed,'' Cristobal said. ``I don't think anyone questions it, and the ones that have, when they set foot on our campus and watch our players practice or come to a football game, they're seeing guys truly giving all they've got.''
Cristobal came to FIU before the 2007 season from Miami, where he was a highly-regarded recruiter and the school where he played his college football.
Every college football coach preaches hard work, but Cristobal might even take it to a new level. The 18-hour day isn't uncommon for Cristobal, whose energy is boundless, and he's been selling recruits on the notion that someday soon, FIU football - with a new on-campus stadium that opened last month - will turn its fortunes around.
Seeing results on the field further proves to his current players that Cristobal's approach is working.
our butts kicked a lot of times in the past, and if we let up in any way, shape or form, that's liable to happen again. We've come a long way from being that program and none of us want to go back there.''
For his part, Cristobal deflects the credit.
``We still have tons of work to do,'' Cristobal said. ``We're definitely improving, and I think people are waking up and realizing that this place will be special - in time.''
This weekend might represent the biggest opportunity FIU has gotten since making the jump to the major-college level.
The Golden Panthers visit perennial Sun Belt contender Troy (3-2, 2-0), and the winner will take a big leap forward in the quest for a league title and the opportunity to play in the New Orleans Bowl. Hard to believe, considering FIU had to beat North Texas in last year's finale just to end that 23-game skid, but the words ``bowl game'' might actually become a talking point among the Golden Panthers soon.
Cristobal cringes at that notion.
For now, he's only thinking about Troy, and that message has been made clear to the team.
``People are going to say whatever they have to say, but it's all on you, all in how your team feels,'' safety Marshall McDuffie said. ``We had to be patient. We had to wait our time. God allowed this to be our time, so we're definitely going to be focused and take advantage of the situation.''

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