LOUISVILLE - The Knights go on the road for the first time in 2021, as they take on the Cardinals tonight. It will be the third meeting between UCF and Louisville, with the all-time series split at one game a piece.
The last game ended in a UCF victory by a score of 38-35, with Knights quarterback Blake Bortles connecting with Jeff Godfrey for a game-winning touchdown.
UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn has started his tenure with UCF with two straight wins, and will be looking to stay undefeated.
Will UCF Sack Cunningham?
Despite a very impressive showing by the defensive front this season, UCF is still yet to sack the quarterback. Big Kat Bryant and Kalia Davis have both gotten close to breaking the goose egg in the sack column, but both were unable to the quarterback down before they released the ball.
The UCF defense now has to deal with a running threat, Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham. However, they should get a boost with defensive end Tre’mon Morris-Brash seemingly back in the fold after he finished serving a suspension from the team earlier this week.
Will We See A Balanced Run Game?
UCF showed in the first two weeks of the season, their rushing attack can both rely solely on the legs of a lead back, or be done by a committee of runners. Against the Boise State Broncos, UCF powered the ball on the ground through 6’1”, 225 pound running back Isaiah Bowser, with the Northwestern transfer carrying the ball 33 times for 172 yards and one touchdown.
However, in last week’s contest against Bethune-Cookman University, Coach Malzahn chose a more balanced approach, seeing nine different players account for 42 rushing attempts. Bowser tallied only 12 rushing attempts for 59 yards, but he crossed the goal line with the football four times before the first half concluded.
With Bowser fresh for the game against Louisville, the Knights star running back looks to have another outstanding performance.
Does Dyllon Lester Continue To Improve?
UCF’s secondary has been seen as a weak point this year, with the defense occasionally giving up gains of 15 to 30 yards. However, Dyllon Lester has continued improving, taking a step up in each of UCF’s prior games.
After being featured in a reserve defensive back role all last season, Lester was named as a backup safety for UCF Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams’ defense to start the season. He got a chance to show his development against Boise State, intercepting a Hank Bachmeier pass to practically seal the victory.
Against Bethune-Cookman, Lester was used in an even larger role as a safety, making play after play in the game, whether it was a big tackle, a broken up pass, or tight coverage giving the quarterback one less option, Lester was the defender often making the play. It will be interesting to see if Lester can keep up his stellar level of play against the Cardinals.
Will Coach Malzahn Install A Gatewood Package?
After UCF extended its lead and led comfortably against Bethune-Cookman, Coach Malzahn started implementing backups and new plays. This included using Kentucky quarterback transfer Joey Gatewood, via a Wildcat-quarterback role. Gatewood has yet to throw a pass for UCF, but he did perform multiple option plays, and three Gatewood runs totaled 30 yards.
Could we see Coach Malzahn inject some Gatewood packages into the regular offense to provide a change of pace?
With Coach Malzahn leading his UCF team into their first road game, look for Dillon Gabriel and the offense to roar out to an amazing start, and the defense to force Louisville’s run heavy offense into passing situations with their stout run-stuffing ability.
Bowser and the running game, including Gabriel and Gatewood, should be able to put the game to rest, with UCF flying back to Orlando with a comfortable victory.
UCF 42 Louisville 30