UCF Knights Week 11

UCF Knights vs UConn Huskies Observations

In typical Florida weather fashion, between sun and rain, the 18th ranked UCF Knights move to 9-0 with a 49-24 win over UConn. Here are some observations from the game:

Pregame

This was a unique game for me. I attended UCF games as a student from 2001-05 and was a season ticket holder from 2006-16. This was the first game I sat on the home side. The weather definitely played a role in the turnout as there it rained before the game and during a good chunk of the first half. If you have never been to Spectrum Stadium, it’s a lean steel based stadium, similar to how Florida State’s stadium started out.

UCF recently split their student section between both end zones and it’s balanced the sound. UCF has a loud and rowdy student section. Starting this year, the section near the press box and home side club seats are blocked off to non-club seat holders. You have to walk the long way around. This does not help with the stadium experience.

The UCF Knights uniforms for Veteran’s Day looks great. It’s a full pewter uniform with a red/white/blue UCF logo and center stripe with each player picking a branch of the armed forces for the center stripe. Check out ESPN College Gameday’s story about UCF’s Rory Coleman. It’s worth it.

First Half

*In typical UCF fashion this year, the offense struck quickly, jumping out to an early lead. UConn helped the drive with a 4th down penalty, which continued the drive. This was a recurring theme for the Huskies throughout the game with bad timing in penalties.

*UCF QB McKenzie Milton has a very quick release. Last year, he pushed many of his short and medium range throws and they would sail high. He’s settled down for the most part and has been able to keep the quick release while not overthrowing his receivers. He has a great corps of receivers, including ace Tre’Quan Smith and freshmen Gabriel Davis and WR/RB combo Otis Anderson. No relation to the NFL player. More on him later.

*The UCF WR corps can block really well. This has helped this offensive lead the nation in points per game and be in the top 10 in yards per game. UCF thrives on the big play, both in the air and on the ground.

*It’s totally cliché to say, but the referee work was well below par. In one case, UCF coach Scott Frost got mad at a call and proceeded to challenge it. The review ultimately came from the booth, but the ref gave Frost an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. I almost never see coaches get penalized, but I can understand the frustration. The refs took forever to call for reviews. Not a good grade.

*Frost struggled with his playcalling. For the second straight game, UCF had a really bad 4th down conversion miss. With an offense that focuses on the shotgun, UCF is handicapping themselves by adding extra yards to get back to the line, which is already stacked by the Husky defense. One has to wonder if the offense was keeping their variety of plays to a minimum ahead of their big game against South Florida?

*UCF special teams is a mixed bag. Punter Mac Loudermilk had an outstanding day. While not the strongest leg, his punts had amazing bounces and ended up getting the Ray Guy award for the week by averaging over 51 yards a punt. He’s not short on personality and is a fun guy to watch on the field. Kicker Matthew Wright has struggled on getting enough leg on kickoffs and keeping them in-bounds. His UConn counterpart, Michael Tarbutt, had no trouble getting touchbacks on his kicks. This adds extra pressure on the special teams’ defense.

Halftime

UCF recognized the military with a tribute to the armed forces from the Marching Knights. It’s the same show that I performed when I was a member a dozen years ago. UCF hosted the National Guard when they were stationed for Hurricane Irma recovery efforts back in September. This is a large reason why UCF and Georgia Tech canceled their game.

Second Half

The UCF Knights were incredibly flat in the 3rd quarter. UConn QB David Pindell, who started the game due to injury, had a great day running against the UCF run defense, just missing on a 100-yard day. UCF was working on a 4-2-5 nickel defense for the most part. The Knights had trouble maintaining outside containment and Pindell was able to get positive yards at times they should have been stopped behind the line. UConn ended up racking up over 200 yards on the ground. UCF will need to tighten up their tackling big time before they have to face South Florida’s trio of runners.

*Otis Anderson had a great catch and run, but didn’t protect the ball. UConn stripped it for a turnover. He’s going to make freshman mistakes.

*UCF center Jordan Johnson had a bad day on the field. He had multiple holding and false start calls. He won over the crowd with some dancing during some stoppage in play.

*Shaquem Griffin is a machine. The motor never stops. The reigning AAC defensive player of the year might only have one hand, but that’s all he needs. People should look to emulate his work ethic. His twin brother is a rookie in the NFL and if teams are smart, he will be too.

*Once the 4th quarter started, the UCF Knights got to work and immediately scored on a big 65-yd touchdown run by Otis Anderson. What a way to get past the big fumble earlier. Anderson is such a dangerous multi-position threat. There was great blocking downfield.

*You can’t underestimate the talent of Tre’Quan Smith. The guy catches everything. He had an amazing 40-yard reception despite the defender pushing him for a pass interference call. It didn’t matter. Smith is also the best non-tight end blocking receiver.

*UCF was only up 28-17 going into the 4th quarter and completely shut down the Huskies offense. UCF’s offense got back on track and built up to a 49-17 lead. The last touchdown was the first play by the second unit offense as Noah Vedral took advantage of a defensive breakdown with a long pass to Cam Stewart.

*I don’t see many offensive pass interference calls due to an illegal pick. This was another of UConn’s bad placed penalties.

*UConn ended up scoring with less than a minute to go.

Notes

The UCF Knights continue to be a high-octane offense. While they struggled in the 3rd quarter, the team was able to get back to what they do best and built up a comfortable lead before a garbage-time touchdown brought it down a bit. The fan turnout for one of the last 4 remaining undefeated schools is not where it should be. The announced attendance was 29k and change for a 44k seat stadium. The UCF faithful will get another shot as their Black Friday game against rival South Florida will be nationally televised on ABC at 3:30 pm. UCF has not been getting the attention from the CFP, so this opportunity is huge. For the third straight game, the UCF Knights missed on the Vegas line. This isn’t helping their place in the rankings, which have been largely stagnant over the last couple of weeks.

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