First Half Thoughts and Trends: Bethune-Cookman at UCF

UCF had a great offensive first half, and the defense found its way out of some tough situations.
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ORLANDO - The Knights had to wait almost an extra hour to play against the Wildcats, but it was well worth it as the Knights came out hot. Here are some quick takes from the first half between UCF and Bethune-Cookman.

**UCF running back Johnny Richardson has explosive speed, and it was shown during the opening kickoff. He’s just electric!

**Tremendous play calling during the first drive. Power football with Isaiah Bowser, mixed in with a short pass to Ryan O’Keefe, a screen to Brandon Johnson, and finished off with a toss sweep back to Bowser for a 17 yard touchdown.

**Bowser’s touchdown allowed UCF to reach 3,000 points at the Bounce House, all-time.

**For the Wildcats, running back Que’Shuan Byrd is really hard to tackle. His first carry produced multiple misses by the Knights. It was for good reason. Byrd can stop and start that very few players are capable of matching. He’s going to be a handful all night.

**Bethune-Cookman quarterback Shannon Patrick has a great throwing motion; he also knows where to go with the football.

**The Knights are playing very aggressively, calling man defense and bringing pressure during the first possession for Bethune-Cookman.

**Impressed with UCF safety Dyllon Lester (he played quite a bit at nickel cornerback last season). He’s been near the football three different times during this first drive.

**For the Wildcats, running back Que’Shuan Byrd is really hard to tackle. His first carry produced multiple misses by the Knights. It was for good reason. Byrd can stop and start that very few players are capable of matching. He’s going to be a handful all night.

**UCF hybrid linebacker/safety Bryson Armstrong made a fantastic one-on-one tackle versus Byrd. He’s a very instinctive defensive player.

**The first drive and subsequent touchdown pass to Darryl Powell, Jr. displayed why it was important for UCF’s offense and its defense to come out focused. The offense did its job, scoring on the first drive. The defense, not so much.

For the defense overall, there have been missed tackles and missed assignments. Further, it's a concern that really bad coverage from Corey Thornton continues to happen. Case in point, during the touchdown pass he gave up, he never looked for the ball. He’s in a total funk after last week’s performance. It’s an issue the Knights need to correct or there will be long-standing issues throughout the 2021 season. Cornerback play cannot be this inconsistent.

**UCF’s fast-paced offense is really hard to stop. It also produced an easy 5 yard penalty because the Wildcats could not get everyone off the field in time and the Knights snapped the football. Tempo is an offensive weapon all by itself, if planned properly.

**UCF center Matt Lee was limping during the second drive. Looked like he caught a cleat on his lower leg. The two plays after Lee’s injury, a loss for Bowser and a sack of Gabriel.

**From the Wildcats first 15 offensive plays, there were 12 passes and three rushes. That’s an 80% to 20% ration for pass and run. It was not realistic to believe that Bethune-Cookman would run all over the UCF defense, but the first two drives did not see the Wildcats even really try to run the football.

**UCF’s offense was very aggressive against Bethune-Cookman, going for it on fourth and long. Great pass to Brandon Johnson for the first down. Two plays later, Johnson caught a post for a score. 14-7 UCF leads with 3.00 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

**Patrick is definitely a more poised passer than last week’s quarterback, Hank Bachmeier from Boise State. Bachmeier did not handle having players in his face very well. That’s not the case with Patrick.

UCF blitzed him several times to lay some licks on his body. Thus far, he has not flinched. He’s a good football player. If UCF’s defense does not create some negative yardage plays against the Wildcats’ rushing attack, Patrick could throw for 300 yards tonight. He’s legit.

**UCF tight ends have dropped a sure touchdown (Jake Hescock), and a bomb that was absolutely on the money from Gabriel (Alec Holler). Neither play is acceptable. That’s points off the board, and missing an opportunity to have first down and ten inside the Wildcats 20 yard line.

**With Matt Lee out of the game, right guard Cole Schneider is now playing center. He’s a really powerful player. He cleared the running lane for Bowser’s second touchdown run.

**Nice tackle for loss for Big Kat Bryant. He charged inside and made an excellent play. Thus far, Bethune-Cookman’s rushing attack has been held to seven carries for 12 yards (1.7 yards per carry).

**It’s a great first half for O’Keefe. He’s such a great option when in the same lineup with Robinson. Can’t double them both.

**O’Keefe is absolutely terrorizing the Bethune-Cookman secondary. With five minutes to go in the first half, O’Keefe already made six catches for 77 yards. He also rushed for a 17 yard gain.

**With four minutes remaining in the first half, Bethune-Cookman is four of eight on third down, while UCF is one of four.

**Bowser has four rushing touchdowns in the first half. He’s an absolute workhorse and future NFL running back.

Overall Thoughts - Offense

When the Knights want to run or throw, Bethune-Cookman does not have the size or speed to consistently handle the Knights. It’s been a dominant first half. Gabriel looks locked in, as expected, and he has hit teammates on point as well.

That was the theme in today’s article previewing the game. It’s great to see that Gabriel and the offense accepted playing the Wildcats as an opportunity to improve. Too many teams would have gone through the motions.

Overall Thoughts - Defense

The Knights held on during several drives, but Bethune-Cookman is doing its best to keep drives going with accurate passes that move the sticks. Patrick is legit, but a lack of a true rushing attack eventually hindered Bethune-Cookman’s ability to place the football in the end zone more than one time. The first half’s defensive performance still brings up a concerning question.

Can the Knights play aggressive man coverage in the secondary? Through two games, the answer would be a no. A resounding no. Too many wide open wide receivers. That’s eventually going to cost UCF games. There is a positive on defense that needs to be brought up and applauded.

UCF’s ability to just dominate the line of scrimmage is phenomenal. Yes, it’s Bethune-Cookman, but it’s domination folks. That changes games. Hats off to the UCF front seven across the board. The secondary has come up and played run support well, too.

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