No. 22 UCF Vies for a Celebratory Homecoming Versus East Carolina

UCF vs. EAST CAROLINA PREVIEW

Dredrick Snelson UCF
UCF wideout Dredrick Snelson. (Photo: Derek Warden/Black and Gold Banneret)

The UCF football team feels like it was shortchanged.

They were ready to play the fourth quarter in Cincinnati last weekend. They really wanted to. There were numbers to attain, at least on offense, which entered the weather delay with 515 yards.

“We wish we would’ve had the fourth quarter,” sophomore center Jordan Johnson said. “We could have padded our stats a little bit more. … The week before, we got 600 yards and we were trying to surpass that.”

Will they be able to reach that mark this Saturday against the East Carolina Pirates? “We’ll see,” Johnson said.

We will indeed. And looking at the matchup, 600 may be within reach.

Kickoff

The Knights and Pirates will meet on Saturday night at 7 inside of Spectrum Stadium in Orlando.

TV

  • CBS Sports Network
  • Play-by-play: Rich Waltz, who just wrapped up his 13th season as the television play-by-play voice of the Miami Marlins on Fox Sports Florida. Waltz is in his third year with CBSSN.
  • Analyst: Aaron Murray, a former standout quarterback at Georgia. He served as CBSSN’s analyst for UCF’s season-opening game versus Florida International.
  • Reporter: Cassie McKinney, an Austin-based reporter who is on the sidelines for college football and college basketball games for CBSSN.

Series

East Carolina leads, 10-5

Last meeting, 2016: The Knights opened up conference play last year by grabbing a road win over the Pirates. You could see then what everyone knows now: Adrian Killins has special speed.

Last meeting in Orlando, 2015: There was nothing pretty about UCF’s 2015 season, and that certainly included the last time these two teams faced off in Orlando.

Three Things You Should Know

We’re No. 1!: Despite not playing a fourth quarter in its last game, UCF’s 51 points versus the Bearcats catapulted them into first place among all offenses in the FBS. At 47.5 points per game, the Knights have the nation’s highest-scoring offense. They haven’t scored fewer than 38 points in any game thus far.

“That’s what our offense is supposed to do, even last year. But we’re executing this year,” wide receiver Dredrick Snelson said.

A College GameDay precursor?: At first glance, a game between a 4-0 team and a 1-5 team doesn’t look to have many special implications. But for the Knights, a win this weekend could open the door for them to be showcased for the first time ever on ESPN’s College GameDay next Saturday at Navy. Go read Eric Lopez’s piece on just how likely it is that we might be seeing Lee Corso wearing Knightro’s head on Oct. 21 in Annapolis, Md.

Fresh threads: Another 600-yard day may not be crazy, but UCF’s uniforms versus East Carolina will be simply out of this world. Check out the space-themed jerseys that the Knights will be rocking for their Homecoming game.

East Carolina Coming In

It’s been a rough year for the 1-5 Pirates, to say the least. Their offense ranks 106th in the FBS. Their defense? Dead last at 129th. I asked Snelson what it meant to him knowing that the Pirates are giving up 50 points per game (it’s actually 47.8; I was looking at outdated stats when I asked the question):

“We’re going to have a fun time Saturday night,” he said. “But we’re still not going to sleep on them. They’re still a good football team to us and we still prepare the same way.”

Snelson then said something that I’m sure is making the rounds inside the Pirates’ locker room. But we’ll get to that.

When UCF Has the Ball

UCF Offense: Take nothing for granted. The Knights are heavy favorites in this game and are expected to have yet another blowout on their hands at home. Yet, that’s what the college football public expected from Oklahoma when it hosted Iowa State last week. How’d that go?

Head coach Scott Frost mentioned that game to his players before they hit the field against Cincinnati to hammer home the point that everything must be earned. To their credit, Frost’s players are holding tight to that message.

“Just try to treat every game like it’s the best team you’re ever going to play,” Johnson said. “Coach said it today after practice: Treat every game like it’s the Super Bowl. Don’t play down to your competition.”

East Carolina Defense: Limit the big plays. This is obviously easier said than done for ECU, but the Knights piled up nine plays of at least 20 yards versus the Bearcats last week. The Pirates must find a way to keep this explosive offense in front of them. If they don’t, UCF is going to have a pretty good chance of reaching that 600-yard mark.

Oh, and guess how many yards this defense is allowing per game this year. 599.5.

When East Carolina Has the Ball

East Carolina Offense: Not doubting Thomas. If the Pirates want any chance of becoming this week’s Iowa State, they will have to lean on quarterback Thomas Sirk. He orchestrates what Frost called “as good a passing attack as anybody in our league” and ranks 20th among FBS players in total offense. East Carolina is averaging just 3 yards per carry, so the Pirates’ hopes of pulling off the upset will rest almost solely on Sirk’s right arm.

UCF Defense: Rebound. Lost in last week’s triumph is the fact that the Knights’ defense wasn’t at its best in Cincinnati as it allowed a season-high 23 points. That’s still not bad, but it’s below the standard this defense has set for itself. Linebacker Pat Jasinski and Coach Frost both mentioned that there were miscommunications inside the unit that led to some chunk plays for the Bearcats. Frost also pointed out that Cincinnati converted on nine of its 15 third downs, an area where the Knights have been excellent otherwise this year.

Frost said: “We can never feel like we’ve arrived and our defense has played really well, so it’s almost good for them to have a little bit of a letdown or not quite as good a game so they can go back to work and make sure to fix the things that went wrong in that game.”

Final Details

Line: There’s a lot of money being placed on the Knights right now. They opened the week as 29-point favorites, but that line has since moved up by a full touchdown to 35. The over-under is 72.5 as of Wednesday night.

Weather: Saturday should be a rainy one early, but the clouds should clear prior to the nighttime kickoff. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a temperature around 80. A 5-10 mph wind will be streaming through from the east-northeast.

Pick: After he was done giving credit to the Pirates, Snelson took a second to think again about how many points East Carolina’s defense permits. And he had one more thing to say before departing the interview room:

“Yeah, we’re putting up 70.”

UCF 70, ECU 13

About Brian Murphy 25 Articles
Brian Murphy graduated from UCF in 2009 following four years as a sports writer for the dearly departed Central Florida Future. He has been writing about sports -- college, pro or fantasy -- since 2001. Favorite UCF athlete to interview? Former running back Kevin Smith. You can follow Brian on Twitter: @Spokes_Murphy
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