Playing consistent football will be a priority for the UCF offense against Bethune-Cookman. The Knights turned it on from the second quarter onward against the Broncos, but now that UCF has a game under its belt, there needs to be marked offensive improvement.
To do that, the Knights need to be efficient running and passing the football. Here’s a look at the defensive players the Knights will be going against this Saturday night as they try to put together a full offensive game.
There are several players to watch against Bethune-Cooman, a school that plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Do not be fooled. Like several FCS schools, the Wildcats possess quite a few players that can absolutely play football at the FBS level. Here are some facts about Bethune-Cookman’s team and how they match up with the Knights.
In 2020, Bethune-Cookman did not play sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Wildcats might have been a little rusty when they traveled west to play UTEP in El Paso, Texas this past weekend. They played hard, but eventually fell 28 to 38.
Overall, the defense struggled, giving up 472 total yards, including 289 yards on the ground to the Miners. Two running backs went over 100 yards for UTEP, and both players broke runs of over 30 yards. The passing defense did not execute as poorly as the rushing defense.
Sans a 52 yard passing play, the Wildcats held their own. In total, UTEP passed for 183 yards, far below what most teams pass for in today’s modern college football. With those statistics in mind, here are some offensive numbers to consider for the Knights:
Bethune-Cookman Players to Watch
Big and talented cornerbacks are always in demand, and Bethune-Cookman’s Caleb Sutherland fits the profile of what a college defensive coordinator wants. He’s 6’0”, 187 pounds, and he’s a physical player. Against UTEP, Sutherland recorded 13 tackles, including nine solo tackles.
He’s also from the Tampa area, playing his high school football for Armwood High School. Coming back to near his home to play a college football game will likely be important to Sutherland so watch out for No. 26.
The Wildcats also possess a really talented linebacker at 6’1”, 240-pounds. Untario Johnson was one of the leaders against UTEP, registering nine tackles and seven of them being solo.
Up front, defensive end Jamarquis Reeves will be a player that UCF must contend with. He’s a 6’3, 265-pound edge defender and he could move around to different positions to mix up defensive looks. Reeves had a fumble recovery that he returned to inside the 10 yard line against UTEP.
Note: Many of Bethune-Cookman’s defensive lineman range from 240 to 260 pounds. This is a somewhat undersized unit. Look for the Wildcats to try and shoot gaps and play fast. They are not going to overpower the UCF offensive line, but quickness and speed will be attributes UCF needs to be ready for.
If UCF plays hard and maintains focus, there’s no reason not to win this game going away. The first five to 10 minutes of the game are critical. If the Knights come out and score two or more touchdowns in the first quarter, it could demoralize the Bethune-Cookman defense. From there, the Knights can go after the Wildcats as they see fit. Just need to light it up from the outset of the game.
What to Expect: UCF’s Rushing Attack
The game plan is simple. Make Bethune-Cookman commit to stopping the run. That means forcing the Wildcats to use six or seven defenders in the box, leaving talented wide receivers in one-on-one coverage.
Whether it’s inside zone, outside zone, misdirection, power, or run-pass option plays, the UCF offensive line will be at a size advantage and should be able to open holes so that Knights running backs have room to run. The Knights beat up Boise State’s front seven, so there’s no reason to believe Bethune-Cookman will slow down UCF’s rushing attack either.
After gashing Boise State for 255 yards rushing, this area looks like a mismatch and one that UCF should dominate. More importantly, it’s about execution for the Knights. Consistently running the football, not missing assignments, and finishing drives with touchdown runs inside the 10 yard line. Those are noteworthy objectives and ones that this experienced offensive line should relish while attempting to accomplish them.
In particular, keep an eye on No. 55, Matthew Lee, the Knights starting center. He played very well against Boise State and will be a prime component for the inside zone to be successful.
Pick to Click: No question that Isaiah Bowser will see significant action after last week’s great performance. He should surpass the century mark and could do so before halftime. Also watch out for Johnny Richardson.
The Knights need to get him going and UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn admitted during his Monday press conference that using a rotation at running back would be his preference. Let’s see how much No. 25 totes the football against Bethune-Cookman, as his explosiveness should lead to a few game-changing plays.
What to Expect: UCF’s Passing Attack
More consistent play will be the biggest area for improvement. Cleaning up two critical interceptions, a few dropped passes, and of course running better routes will be a priority as well.
Because of the running game’s likely success, look for the Knights to go up top and utilize play-action passing after establishing the running game. Much like last week, there simply will not be enough speedy defensive backs to stop UCF’s collection of fast wide outs.
Pick to Click: Look for Dillon Gabriel to find his best friend and go-to wide receiver Jaylon Robinson to make big plays in the first half. Overall, Robinson will go for 100-plus yards receiving and two more touchdown receptions.
Additionally, look for Ryan O’Keefe and Titus Mokiao-Atimalala to finish off the game in the second half by catching passes, making defenders miss, and gaining yards after the catch. It could be a game where the size of Brandon Johnson allows him to make some plays down the field, too. He did a great job to catch the fade-stop pattern for a score against Boise State. Look for a couple more of those plays on Saturday.
Offensive Question to be Answered
Will the Knights find a way to get the football to the tight ends? Yes, it’s a really talented wide receiver core, but the Knights need to continue to throw to Alec Holler as well as get Jake Hescock more involved in the offense. No time like the present, so let’s see how the Knights attack Bethune-Cookman’s defense with the tight ends.