UCF Knights wide receiver J.J. Worton (9) celebrates with teammates Billy Giovanetti (32) and Phil Smith (75) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the game between the UCF Knights and the UAB Blazers at Bright House Networks Stadium. (Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE / November 24, 2012)
It has been a rare moment when UCF has put together a complete game.
The Marshall outing was probably the closest it has come this season. So it was not necessarily surprising that it did not happen against UAB last Saturday. It did complicate the matter, however, that the Knights struggled so mightily against the pass. With a week to prepare for Tulsa and the biggest game of the season, UCF suddenly has more to worry about.
Why was the pass defense so vulnerable? How could they allow Tulsa to exploit the middle of the field so often?
While Tulsa is a run-first team, they threw three touchdown passes in the 23-21 win over the Knights. And they will see on tape how effective a fast-paced UAB offense was on UCF.
In a week where I thought UCF’s biggest concern would be continuing to look at its offense and how it can be more effective against Tulsa, the Knights must now also work overtime on patching together the defensive problems, too.
It’s an unusual circumstance going into championship week. UCF has a nine-win season, and yet there will be a sense of unfulfillment this season if they don’t leave Oklahoma with the C-USA title. A win gives them the 10-win benchmark and a match-up against an SEC team in the Liberty Bowl. A loss likely sends them to St. Pete or Hawaii, though with SMU bowl eligible the former seems the more likely option.
One game with so much at stake.
BY THE NUMBERS
599: Yards allowed by UCF’s defense on Saturday, the most all season. The previous high was 461 against Tulsa one week before.
7.2: Average yards per play allowed in the win. The most ever allowed by a UCF team in history is 8.4, to Georgia Southern on Oct. 20, 1989.
1,072: Total yards in the game on Saturday. The most net yards ever by both teams in UCF history was 1,191 against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 5, 1992.
510: Net passing yards by UAB. The most-ever allowed by UCF was 597, to Louisiana Tech on Oct. 23, 1999.
4: Career rushing touchdowns by UCF WR Quincy McDuffie, three of which came on Saturday.
5: Times in school history the program has posted nine regular-season wins. They also did so in 1993, 1998, 2007 and 2010.
33: Wins in four years by this senior class, tied for most in school history with the 2010 class, which went 33-20 from 2007-10.
6: Times this season UCF has posted a shutout in the first quarter, including on Saturday against UAB.
3: Penalties for UCF, which remains one of the least penalized teams in the country. The Knights are fifth nationally, averaging 3.67 penalties per game.
29: Rushing touchdowns this season for UCF, fourth-most in school history.
346: Career tackles for Kemal Ishmael after racking up 10 against UAB. Amazingly, Ishmael has just one career sack, however, which he registered on his final defensive snap at Bright House.
3: Catches for 45 yards for Dontravious Floyd, who had four catches all season entering the game.
212: Rushing yards given up by Tulsa against SMU. The Mustangs found success when QB Garrett Gilbert took off with the ball. He had 12 rushes for 111 yards, including a 74-yard run.
64: Passing attempt by Tulsa QB Cody Green, who threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns. The Golden Hurricane rushed for 178 yards on 38 carries, but no runner had more than 58 yards.
+10: UCF’s turnover margin, good for 18th in the country. Only SMU at +12 ranks higher in the C-USA.
WHAT WE LEARNED
UCF will mix things up on offense this week against Tulsa. The Knights looked different on offense from almost the first snap, as they came out with multiple tight ends and H-backs and overloaded the line of scrimmage, and yet still were willing to drop back and throw the ball deep. I imagine you’ll see more of those formations against Tulsa after UCF was less effective against the Golden Hurricane last week. The WildKnight formation proved fruitful, too, and UCF mixed things up more with its playmakers to keep UAB’s defense off balance. Reverses and spread, heavy formations and run options. Tulsa will have plenty to look at when it watches film this week.
The Knights are vulnerable in the passing game right now. UCF gave up 510 yards through the air, giving up several big plays over the middle of the field. Knights coach George O’Leary seemed exacerbated after the game that it was the same guys and same plays that continued to be effective for UAB. Remember that Tulsa all found success through the air against UCF, connecting with Keyarris Garrett for three touchdowns. Some issues could come from a lack of pass rush, an issue O’Leary also highlighted in his post game press conference. On 56 dropbacks on Saturday, UCF had two sacks. They had zero the week before against Tulsa.
It was hard to pretend all eyes weren’t on Tulsa. It’s an easy thing to say the next game is always the biggest and the focus is always on whatever team is up next, but UCF couldn’t pretend that it hadn’t been looking beyond to a rematch in Oklahoma. O’Leary himself said he told Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship he’d see him again in two weeks. This is a monster game with so much on the line this Saturday. By putting the NCAA appeal in motion, UCF clearly wanted this shot at a C-USA title. There will be massive disappointment if they fall short. It’s hard to beat a team twice in two seasons, and especially to do so twice in two weeks. Plenty to look forward to if you’re a UCF fan this week.