ORLANDO - Old school power football. It never completely dies. UCF would be one college football program keeping that ideological concept alive and from going to the grave.
Even from the shotgun formation, UCF likes to be the hammer and watch its opponent be the rock. Many people may not know UCF’s rushing attack leans on the power football style of play without taking a closer look, and here’s the evidence to prove UCF’s philosophy about running the football.
Rushing Attack Thriving
The 2020 UCF offense was known for its high-flying passing attack, but the offensive line actually opened up as many running lanes as it provided time for quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
The Knights rushed for 2,170 yards from 10 games, averaging 210.7 yards per contest. That’s impressive, especially for a spread offensive attack. 2021 started out even stronger.
The Knights bludgeoned Boise State (255), Bethune-Cookman (290) and Louisville (212). Yes, bludgeoned. The Knights prefer to run through a team as opposed to run around them. Here are the Knights' rushing statistics thus far for 2021:
This blunt-running style operates well with UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s offensive philosophy, as he prefers to play power football based on his coaching history.
Here we come. Try and stop us.
757 rushing yards and a 6.1 yards per carry average later, it’s obvious that the Knights know how to play power football. So far, there’s no reason to believe the running game will not continue to prosper, injury included.
Next Man Up Mentality
It’s one thing to lose an offensive guard or offensive tackle. Losing the starter center is a potential catastrophe. There’s a certain comfort and feel for a quarterback receiving a shotgun snap.
There’s also the obligation of a center being responsible for line protections and helping the offensive line with changing a blocking scheme when a defense shifts or simply comes out in an unexpected formation.
Therefore, when a center must leave the lineup many things can and often do go wrong.
The Knights thrived, however. In stepped starting guard Cole Schneider to take over for Lee, and Adrian Medley took over at left guard for Schneider.
From the outside looking in, that might be a big concern. Well, the collection of UCF running backs did very well against Louisville, one of the most physically gifted defenses the Knights played so far this season.
After those rushing totals, the men up front need to be recognized. From left tackle to right tackle, the Knights lined up like this: Marcus Tatum (LT), Medley (LG), Schneider (C), Lokahi Pauole (RG) and Sam Jackson (RT).
They should be applauded for their efforts. An offensive lineman rarely gains attention, and an entire offensive line receives attention even less often. Consider the following statistic and ponder it for a moment.
When all three of your running backs average 6.2 yards per rushing attempt or more, that means the offensive line is opening holes.
Regardless of the year or era of football, if a team can run the football between the tackles, there’s a chance to consistently score points. The Knights did a great job from the running back position as well, and that group was detailed in an article yesterday:
It all starts with the offensive line though. Especially with Medley playing left guard, as he stepped in and made his first career start. The rushing totals were truly impressive overall.
There’s an added incentive to run the ball moving forward as well.
Ground and Pound with Gabriel Out of the Lineup
To the point, there’s one Gabriel and he’s lost for over a month due to injury, at the very least. The next quarterback is not going to be as proven in general, nor will that signal caller have the same rapport with the wide receiver corps like Gabriel did.
Therefore, it’s likely to be even more of, “‘Here we come. Try and stop us.’”
Based on the way the UCF offensive line blocked against Louisville, optimism should be the theme. This group of offensive linemen proved it, on the road, against a team with some serious athletes on the defensive side of the football. It also accomplished that task without its starting center and a brand new starter in the lineup at left guard.
UCF will be going against challenges without Gabriel behind center moving forward, but the running game should thrive based on recent history.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast; it will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For Twitter, @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!