ORLANDO - After rushing 14 times for 147 yards and a touchdown against Connecticut, Johnny Richardson deserved to be recognized. He improved as a runner throughout this season, and that’s especially true based on how he ran against Connecticut as compared to SMU.
Before going into the specific improvement Richardson showed in the last week, consideration for what happened two weeks ago needs to also be included in the discussion. UCF beat up on a bad Connecticut defense on Saturday, but that was also expected when it played Tulane.
Whenever there’s a letdown performance like UCF had versus Tulane, there’s reason for concern. During that game two weeks ago, UCF ran the football 31 times for just 48 yards. Give credit to Tulane, however, as the Green Wave’s defensive scheme worked out well for the Green Wave.
Tulane’s defensive coaching staff devised a scheme that was very high risk and just committed completely to stopping the run with various edge pressures and different looks than it ran prior to the game against UCF.
That game against Tulane also saw running back Isaiah Bowser come away with just 14 carries for 54 yards before leaving with an injured ankle. While it was not surprising for him to miss the last game against SMU, it was unclear as to whether Bowser would suit up and play against Connecticut.
During warmups, Bowser ran pass routes and running back drills, and he even went through all the basic warmup exercises. It was still obvious that Bowser ran with a slight limp. He was not completely healthy.
In a rather unsurprising move, UCF did not place Bowser in the game. Even without the services of the Knights’ top rusher this season with 548 yards and seven touchdowns, UCF’s running attack kept on chugging along thanks to No. 25. This was the game that Richardson proved he had improved his overall running skills.
During the early portion of the game against SMU, Richardson opted to go laterally in an attempt to create a big play. In that effort, he lost the first down and was then tackled about a yard short of the first down marker.
Playing against Connecticut, Richardson toted the football between the tackles as if he was the same size as Bowser. Not all the runs looked pretty as he grinded inside the tackle box, but he did maximize several carries that otherwise would have resulted in just one or two yards.
Hammering on the Huskies’ front wall paid dividends. The further into the game UCF went, the more worn out the Connecticut front seven defenders became. In fact, the first half included Richardson Carrying six times for 76 yards and one touchdown, the game’s first score. That first half also saw an opportunity for Richardson to make a big play.
Richardson Showed Off His Speed
Patience needed to be learned, and Richardson did just that. He did not see a true opening for big yardage during his first few carries, but that opportunity did come about shortly after pounding the football between the tackles.
The Huskies did not protect the edge and there he went! Richardson hit the gas and went around the left end for 38 yards, almost taking it to the house. Unlike the play against SMU, he made the proper read and immediately took the best angle towards the outer left edge of the tackle box. Of course Richardson’s speed went on full display at that point.
Setting Up The Big Run
Once the Huskies believed Richardson would run between the tackles, it became more and more likely that one of the defensive ends and/or outside linebackers would crash down and lose gap responsibility. That’s exactly what transpired during Richardson’s long run.
Whenever a fan heard a television or radio announcer mention phrases such as, “He lost gap integrity” or “The linebacker did not play his gap properly,” there was a reason for their statements.
It only takes one defender to be outside of his gap for a talented runner like Richardson to take advantage. With that left edge exposed, Richardson wasted no time to move into the secondary. Seeing him be so confident with his decision making was great sign for his future in a UCF uniform.
Now, with Richardson having played his best game for UCF, there’s one last thing to bring up with the War on I-4 looming.
Forming a True One-Two Punch
Hopefully Bowser will be able to play and be healthy while going against USF this next Saturday. If so, the events that played out against Connecticut with Richardson could do so again, but also be aided by a 225 pound battering ram in Bowser.
Oh, there’s also running back Mark Antony-Richards to help the Knights hammer the football down USF’s throat. So, a three-headed monster?
Listed at 6’1”, 215 pounds, Antony-Richards ran hard along the interior against Connecticut with 10 carries, 31 yards and an eight yard touchdown run in the first quarter in which he broke multiple tackles to reach the end zone.
UCF’s rushing attack is now averaging 190.1 yards per game after the 280 yard team rushing performance against Connecticut.
Look for a detailed preview of the running game for UCF going up against USF on Monday morning.
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