ORLANDO - UCF Football did its job Saturday night, trouncing Bethune-Cookman by the final score of 63-14. More importantly, UCF accomplished another goal -- staying focused on assignments and details -- against an opponent that it was favored to beat by 45 points.
That opening comment inside the preview article, Game Prediction: Bethune-Cookman at UCF, actually came to fruition Saturday evening. In fact, the Knights played inspired football. Even when the offense or defense would make mistakes, the energy remained high and assignments were carried out.
Take wide receiver Ryan O'Keefe as an example. He started well and continued to build upon his momentum, catching eight passes for 110 yards on the evening and playing hard each time he stepped on the gridiron. That's a great way to set the tone and be an example for one's teammates.
Staying focused from play-to-play when the opponent does not have much of a chance to defeat a football team, that’s something that was not common throughout college football on Saturday.
Notre Dame barely escaped Toledo, a solid team but no place near the talent of the Fighting Irish. Miami needed a late field goal to defeat Appalachian State 25-23. No question the Hurricanes should have shown they were the superior football team, but did not. Then there’s Florida State, which lost to Jacksonville State. The Seminoles defeat defines a lack of detail.
With time for one more play, all Florida State needed to do was not allow a 59 yard touchdown. That’s it. Instead, Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper threw a fantastic over-the-shoulder completion to wide receiver Damond Philyaw-Johnson for the catch and subsequent inspired run into the end zone by Philyah-Johnson. Here’s the play call from Florida State’s radio broadcast:
That play defines why UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn consistently harps on paying attention to detail; so do many college football head coaches. Teams that lose focus lose games. Florida State cost themselves a victory and there’s little doubt that the Seminoles need to be more mentally prepared moving forward. The same attention to detail was lost with the Irish and Hurricanes, among others.
As for UCF, the Knights did their jobs, one by one. An offense prepared to be balanced with running and passing kept Bethune-Cookman off balance for much of the evening. The defense, meanwhile, gave up some first downs and two passing touchdowns from great passes by Wildcats quarterback Shannon Patrick, but otherwise the defense held its own and did what it needed to do. The statistics from last night's game proved to be eye-opening numbers.
What will the Knights do for an encore? UCF’s next opponent will also be its first road opponent, Louisville. That makes the next matchup one of the biggest for the Knights from the entire 2021 football schedule. There is a formula for success against the Cardinals, and it starts immediately.
Assuming the Knights pay attention to detail each day leading up to the game, including each and every practice, as well as really dig into the film of the Louisville offense, defense and special teams, the Knights will be in a position to win their first road game of 2021.
Before going into a complete preview of the Louisville game, here is one key statistic that will likely help to define the outcome of this upcoming Friday night’s game:
Even during Louisville’s lopsided 43-24 loss to Ole Miss during week one, the Cardinals managed to run the football. Louisville accumulated 155 rushing yards against the Rebels. On Saturday, the Cardinals rebounded from the week one loss to thoroughly out play Eastern Kentucky. In the game, The Cardinals amassed 158 rushing yards that helped result in a 30-3 final outcome. UCF’s defense has proven to be stout against the run during its first two games, so something must give when the two teams collide.
Against Boise State, UCF’s defense allowed just 20 rushing yards. Against Bethune-Cookman, the Knights stymied the Wildcats rushing attack and held them to 24 rushing yards.
Strength against strength, UCF’s defense against Louisville’s rushing offense. Which team wins this line-of-scrimmage battle will likely come out victorious.