ORLANDO - If the Knights cannot find a way to slow down an offensive unit that’s scored at least 28 points in every game this season, plus surpassing the 40-point plateau once and 50-point plateau once as well, UCF could be in trouble.
How will UCF handle the big-play Memphis offense? That’s the biggest question coming into Friday night’s game at the Bounce House. With that concern, it’s compounded by UCF’s lack of creating big plays during the past three games, while allowing four game-changing plays this season that just cannot happen again.
Here are the prime concerns from UCF’s recent games and how they could impact the game against Memphis, including The Daily Knight podcast going into further detail about the Knights and how they must turnaround their own misfortunes.
Third Down Conversions
Even with the seven of 17 third down conversions for a 41.1% success rate against Cincinnati, the Knights only possessed a 34.1% third down conversion rate through the last three games combined.
Against Memphis, the best way to keep the Tigers from scoring would be controlling the football, consistently gaining first downs, and keeping quarterback Seth Henigan and his teammates on the sidelines.
If UCF does not improve to at least a 40% conversion rate against Memphis, it will be difficult to keep up with the Tigers and their ability to score points.
Creating Big Plays Early, Keeping the Crowd in the Game
UCF’s offense hit one huge play against Cincinnati -- the 51-yard reverse for wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe -- that came too little and too late against the Bearcats. The beginning of the game caused even more issues.
UCF’s offense was absolutely putrid in the first quarter. Not scoring a point during the first quarter against Memphis will lead to playing from behind. Further, the Knights must keep the home crowd in the Bounce House energized with better play during the opening stages of the football game.
After the blowout loss to the Bearcats, UCF fans need something to cheer about and they need it as soon as possible.
UCF created nine turnovers this season while giving up nine turnovers. Here’s the larger issue: three of UCF’s interceptions went for touchdowns, plus the blocked kick for a touchdown against Navy.
The Knights have been on the losing end of the big turnovers this season, and that needs to change post haste against the Tigers.
Changing the Narrative
Simply put, the Knights need a play against Memphis like a quarterback sack, fumble, and a UCF player picking it up and rumbling into the endzone. That type of play can turn a football game on the scoreboard, and do so with momentum, too.
This type of play simply comes from execution. Pass rush technique, reading the keys, and simply adhering to defensive fundamentals. Too often this season 10 of 11 UCF defenders will do their job but one player does not and it really causes issues.
The Knights must be more consistent, on each down, to be a better defense. That’s the same situation with the offense since Mikey Keene entered the lineup at quarterback.
A missed block, a missed read by Keene, a dropped pass, and of course the three interception returns for a touchdown. Those are unacceptable.
Against Memphis, UCF needs to be the aggressor. The Tigers certainly possess plenty of talent on defense, but they often make similar mistakes to UCF and it allowed opponents to score an average of 30.4 points per game this season. The Knights must take advantage.
Run double moves with wide receiver routes, a throw-back pass to Keene (like the one to Dillon Gabriel against Louisville), and do not hesitate to attack the Memphis defense with an uptempo attack from the outset of the game.
Minus the Cincinnati game, UCF has won or been in the game until the very end five times. To get over the hump against a quality opponent like the Tigers, UCF needs to execute better from a player perspective, and the coaching staff for the Knights need to be more aggressive with offensive play calling.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!