LOUISVILLE - The Knights were oh so close but could not quite get over the hump against Louisville. Big plays plagued UCF as the Cardinals went through spurts where they struggled to move the football.
Then, inexplicably, the Knights allowed a wide open wide receiver or missed a run fit and allowed chunk-yardage plays. It was a wild ride watching the UCF defense.
If there was ever a defense that was on the cusp of being very good but just did not quite play consistently enough, it’s this UCF defensive unit. Those random big plays hurt the Knights during the first two games of the season as well.
Whether it’s a wide-open receiver in the flat or a missed tackle, many plays were right there for the Knights and they simply did not finish quite the way they should have. On the bright side, this is a team that showed incredible resiliency.
Despite giving up several big plays throughout the evening, UCF battled to the bitter end. It was an incredible contest to witness, and one that provides several correctible techniques and teaching points.
Defensive Trends and Statistics
- The end-of-game interception for Tre’mon Morris-Brash was an absolutely spectacular play. He recognized where the football was going, timed his reach to deflect the pass, then possessed the wherewithal to immediately locate the football in the air and intercept it. Few defensive lineman would complete all the phases from that play consecutively. Just a tremendous play by Morris-Brash.
- Through three games, the Knights have now allowed 73 points (87 in total, but two touchdowns were pick-sixes). UCF’s defense is allowing 24.3 points per game.
- Seven different UCF defenders recorded five or more tackles against Louisville. The overall depth of the UCF defense is improving, and that will aid the Knights’ efforts for the rest of the 2021 season.
- After surrendering just 44 rushing yards through two games, the Knights gave up 191 yards rushing to the Cardinals. With 37 carries, Louisville averaged 5.2 yards per carry against UCF.
- The Knights recorded their first sack of the 2021 season, as defensive end John Celiscar brought down quarterback Malik Cunningham with 3:39 remaining in the second quarter. In totality, that means it was quarter No. 10 of the 2021 season before UCF earned a sack.
- After giving up seven of 15 third down conversions to Bethune-Cookman, UCF’s defense only allowed five of 15 conversions to Louisville. Additionally, Louisville was only one of three when attempting to convert a fourth down. Good job of getting Louisville off the field.
- While only having five receptions for 56 yards coming into the game, Louisville sophomore tight end Marshon Ford caught eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Ford was arguably the biggest thorn in the side of the Knights, as he led all receivers for both teams in yardage. He was targeted nine times and caught eight. UCF had no answer for Ford.
- Despite being injured and out of the game for a short stint, linebacker Tatum Bethune accounted for seven tackles and a pass breakup. He was active throughout the game.
- Cunningham was up and down as a passer, but when he was on he was red hot. He threw for 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Although known as a streaky player, a few of Cunningham’s over-the-top passes would remind a person of a polished and consistent NFL signal caller. Friday night saw him play one of his best games as a college player and that quite frankly was bad luck for UCF. When a quarterback is threading in passes in tight windows, just tip your cap to that quarterback. Cunningham made several of those throws last night.
- As for the Knights, the primary concern comes with how much yardage Cunningham passes earned. Even with several short passes being a part of his final statistics, Cunningham averaged 12.8 yards per completion. That’s elite passing. 12.8 yards per completion is the type of statistic that if it happened for an entire season could help lead a college quarterback win a Heisman Trophy. In 2020, Dillon Gabriel’s fantastic season only witnessed 8.6 yards per completion as a comparison.
- Through three games, the UCF secondary hauled in just one interception, and three overall as a defense. There have now been 127 passes attempted against the Knights.
- Going into the Louisville game, UCF defensive backs collectively accounted for eight pass breakups. Safety Divaad Wilson registered the only pass break up for a UCF defensive back against the Cardinals. This is an area that continues to cost UCF’s defense; the Knights secondary absolutely must get their hands on more passes.
- UCF safety Quadric Bullard continued to pace the Knights in tackles as he made nine tackles for the evening, seven of which were solo, upping his season total to 25 tackles.
- Four of UCF’s top five tacklers against Louisville were linebackers, led by Bryson Armstrong’s eight stops.
After a week off to help prepare to play Navy, a week the Knights likely need to heal mentally and physically, it will be interesting to see what type of resolve and determination UCF’s defense comes out with against the triple-option attack of the Midshipmen.
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