ORLANDO - On Friday night, UCF held its fifth annual “UCFInSpace” game against Memphis. Despite the theme of rockets taking off into the sky, the star of the offensive show was the ground and pound attack.
UCF got a huge boost with running back Isaiah Bowser returning to almost full health for the first time since a week three loss at Louisville. With Bowser back in the fold, the offensive line had a busy night run blocking.
The offensive line bullied the Memphis defense, opening up holes that led to UCF totaling 215 yards on the ground. Bowser took 26 of the team’s carries for 111 total yards on the day. Running Back Johnny Richardson added 47 yards of his own, with Ryan O’Keefe and Joey Gatewood combining for another 52.
Bowser talked after the game about UCF’s run game improving throughout the game, “Obviously as the game went on we were able to get more holes open, and get outside. With O’Keefe breaking all those tackles, you know that was big for us.”
The offensive line’s performance started along the edges of the offensive line, where tackles Sam Jackson and Marcus Tatum made critical blocks . Tatum was the lead blocker on what ended up being the longest play of the night for both teams, a 31-yard sweep to O’Keefe.
During the postgame press conference, Jackson discussed how he enjoyed blocking during sweeps.
“It gives you a chance to show how athletic you are as a tackle. You know open field blocks are kind of how you make your money. Just have to have fun with it, you know those guys are athletic. So when you show them you’re just as athletic, it’s fun.”
The interior rushing attack also did well, with center Matthew Lee, as well as guards Cole Schneider and Lokahi Pauole providing an exceptional performance.
Tight ends Jake Hescock and Alec Holler were also critical to blocking within the run game, and did a lot of the dirty work that allowed plays like the following one to take place.
O’Keefe took a short Joey Gatewood two-hand pass in for a thirteen-yard UCF touchdown, as the play was essentially a running play with the pass going about one yard.
The interior of the offensive line also dominated the Tigers. They helped the Knights rush 41 times for 215 yards and one touchdown. Anytime a college offense rushes for over 200 yards and averages 5.3 yards per carry like UCF did versus Memphis, the offensive line deserves credit.
Further, the lowest rushing total for UCF all season long would be 148 yards versus Navy, with the largest output being 290 yards versus Bethune-Cookman. For the season, UCF holds the nation's No. 27 rushing attack by averaging 205.7 yards per game. When starting, freshman quarterback Mikey Keene averaged just 144 yards passing per game. Therefore, those rushing totals need to keep piling up for the Knights.
Next up, UCF will travel to Philadelphia to play Temple. The Owls rushing defense ranked No. 104 after Friday's game, so there’s yet another chance for the Knights to hammer away with their ground and pound attack.