ORLANDO - From the running game to the ability to shut down a big-play wide receiver, UCF’s overall team effort deserved special mention. The Memphis game was arguably the Knights’ most satisfying victory due to all the injuries of late.
With a key player back in the lineup, here’s the first of five thoughts about where the Knights did a really good job against Memphis.
Thank Goodness Barber Returned to the Lineup Against Memphis
For the evening, defensive tackle Ricky Barber did not record a sack or tackle for loss. He still may have influenced the game as much if not more than any other UCF front seven defender.
With the frame of Barber back in the lineup alone, it helped to change UCF’s defense. When one considers just how quickly Barber moves laterally during a pass rush or attempt to penetrate into the opponent’s backfield, Memphis had to weary of him.
In short, he had moments where he caused issues for the Memphis offensive line with size and athleticism. When Barber is healthy, he presents a defensive tackle that will make plays even if he’s no place near the football because his presence opens up paths for other defensive lineman, as well as linebackers to flow to the ball carriers.
It’s good to see Barber back in action for the Knights.
Depth at Running Back Continues to Shine
32 carries for 158 yards. That’s the rushing total between running backs Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson. The Knights could not move the ball by air, so they went with the ground assault.
Considering how poorly UCF threw the football, honestly, it’s amazing that the two primary running backs shined like they did. Making defenders miss, grinding out extra yards after contact, and making sure to squeeze out every possible piece of real estate on the gridiron possible. That’s what Bowser and Richardson did for UCF. That leads to the next point about which players helped to pave the way for their success.
Offensive Line, Steady and True
UCF did not yet rush for less than 148 yards during a game in the 2021 season. It’s a testament to the UCF offensive coaching staff’s determination to run the football, the running backs doing their jobs, and especially the offensive line setting the tone. That’s exactly what happened during the first quarter against Memphis, and it literally helped UCF win the game.
UCF pounded the football during the first stanza, rushing for 64 yards. That helped to allow for UCF to hold a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, and it’s a lead the Knights would never relinquish.
Throughout the contest, when UCF needed plays to be made, the offensive line continued to show why it would be the most consistent unit on the entire UCF team. Hats off to the big fellas once again.
Secondary Coming Of Age
The secondary had good moments as well as its struggles during the first six games of the season, and that’s especially true for the cornerbacks. That’s no longer the case.
Whether it was keeping the football away from the intended target or helping in run support, the entire secondary seemed to be energized and charged up more than usual. As will be detailed in an article today, UCF’s cornerback position is on the rise.
Also of note, the safeties did not allow any deep passes and helped with run support, as well as Divaad Wilson coming up with the charum interception originally deflected by cornerback Davonte Brown.
The UCF secondary began to show signs that they can truly create big plays. Two more statistics of note:
The starting secondary collectively made 24 tackles in the game; that’s quality play against a big-play offense like Memphis. Calvin Austin III also struggled, as the talented Memphis wide receiver only caught seven passes for 44 yards.
The Pass Rush Came Alive
Six sacks against Memphis proved to be clutch for UCF. There were many plays this year that appeared to be sacks in the making, but alas, the quarterback would find a way to escape.
Against Memphis, the UCF defense corralled signal caller Pater Parrish and harassed him for much of the game. Much like the UCF offensive line, the defensive front seven of the Knights won the line of scrimmage.
If UCF’s front seven plays like it did versus Memphis moving forward, it will be a difficult defense to move the football against when the Knights play the Owls in Philadelphia, as well as for the rest of the 2021 season.
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