ORLANDO - A rebuilding Connecticut team comes into the Bounce House today to take on a UCF team that has not lost this season at home. It’s a chance for the Knights to get back on track against a Huskies squad that’s truly struggling.
Connecticut has lost nine of 10 contests this season, with its only victory coming against Yale, an Ivy League institution. This will be a game where the Knights overwhelm the Huskies.
More speed, more size, more depth, those categories alone will provide UCF with numerous chances to build a lead early in the game and work on getting better as an overall team from the outset of the contest onward. Here are some key categories to watch for when these two teams take to the gridiron.
Attitude and Commitment
The UCF players know they are the far superior team. They read the statistics and articles just like anyone else. With that in mind, how mentally focused will each player for the Knights be?
Bottom line, UCF needs to improve with each play, each series, and finish the game with a resounding win that helps them prepare for the War on I-4 next Friday against USF in the Bounce House.
Offensive Line Leads UCF
UCF’s offensive line continues to be its backbone. The big fellas in the trenches, those are the players that open holes for the running backs like Isaiah Bowser, Johnny Richardson and Mark Antony-Richards among others.
Look for UCF to come out and pound the football right at Connecticut, daring them to place more defenders in the box. Even if the Huskies do place for defenders at or near the line of scrimmage, look for the Knights to still run the football well.
Connecticut’s defense did slow down Clemson last weekend in Death Valley, however, limiting the Tigers to 129 yards from 43 carries. While Clemson’s running game is not good, with a national rank of 80th and 145.8 yards per game, Connecticut still held down the running game for the Tigers to below their average.
It might be a challenge for a little while, but UCF should be able to consistently knock out four and five yard runs, leading to a rushing performance of over 200 yards. The rushing attack is going to make it easier to use play-action passing for quarterback Mike Keene.
Deep Shots, Passing Game
The passing game for the Knights will see a mixed assortment of what Connecticut will do defensively, due in large part to wanting to keep extra defenders back in the secondary to keep receivers Ryan O’Keefe and Jaylon Robinson from running by them. That’s not an easy task.
UCF will certainly throw deep, with at least a couple of downfield attempts earning big yardage. That's also going to help other avenues of the passing attack.
UCF's screen game could be even more deadly if the Connecticut secondary plays cover three or any other coverage that gives up the short passes to the Knights. Carving out five-to-10-yard gains from screens is a way for the Knights to keep the chains moving and keep the Huskies on their heels.
As an additional note, this will be a game where Richardson has a chance to catch a few short passes and show what he can do in the open field.
Overall, UCF should end up with 200 or more passing yards, accented the rushing attack when needed.
UCF Run Defense
Domination. There’s no reason to believe that UCF will not smother a team averaging just 15.3 points per game, ranking it No. 127 out of 130 teams in the FBS. Connecticut’s young running back, Nathan Carter, will likely be UCF’s focus.
If the Knights slow down Carter, this game could be over by the end of the first quarter. Carter’s season totals include 109 carries for 488 yards and one touchdown. He’s also a receiver out of the backfield with 14 receptions for 76 yards.
Look for the Knights to keep close tabs on Carter, and attempt to funnel his runs towards the interior of the UCF defense. That will create issues for the Huskies when attempting to pass.
Pass Defensive Will Thrive
This is arguably the biggest mismatch with how UCF’s pass rush has been during the second half of the season. The Knights will continuously push the pocket from the interior, while edge rushers like Josh Celiscar, Tre’mon Morris-Brash and Big Kat Bryant close in for the take down. In all, if UCF does not record at least four sacks it will be quite disappointing. Connecticut gave up 27 sacks already this season. That’s also going to help a secondary that’s continuing to grow.
With such a young overall group of players in the UCF defensive backfield, playing Connecticut will be a test mentally and physically. How well each cornerback and safety reads his keys and stays in rhythm with his teammates will dictate whether or not the Knights come up with turnovers.
As noted above, the Huskies struggle in pass protection. If the secondary for the Knights can cover for even three seconds on any given play, there’s a good chance UCF will apply pressure on the quarterback. That’s an opportunity for not only sacks, but some passes that probably should not be thrown.
Who gets a pick today? Will it be Davonte Brown or perhaps Divaad Wilson?
The Knights will have at least one shot at a pick-six, and it will also be a chance for multiple interceptions overall.
UCF 49 Connecticut 6
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