As great as a win over Maryland would have been two weeks ago, UCF's 47-29 win at East Carolina on Saturday was a bigger win that that game would have been. It was a conference game, on the road, in a very difficult place to win (UCF had won in Greenville only three times in nine tries), and the Knights racked up 47 points, including 24 in the fourth quarter, and turned this game, which I had thought would have been a likely loss at the start of the season, into a laugher.
This is the plot Scott Frost wants to see in conference play. It didn't take a miracle. The Knights' offensive attack, led by a quick-snapping, high-speed run game, put UCF out on top early, and then sealed the deal late.
Here then is your breakdown:
The quick-strike offense. Of UCF's six touchdowns, four came on offense on drive that lasted 56, 28, 53 and 20 seconds. The Knights totaled 28:44 of possession, mostly because East Carolina also played right into UCF's hands with their pass-heavy offense. Even though UCF ran 73 plays to East Carolina's 102, the Knights' emphasis on the run (44 rushes, 219 yards, 4.9 yards per rush) while maintaining that pace enabled them to wear down East Carolina's defense by the fourth quarter.
Finally, there was this:
For some reason, the O'Leary Era Knights rarely went over to the traveling fans after road games to pay their thanks. But this isn't the O'Leary Era Knights.
The pass defense. East Carolina came in as one of the top passing teams in the nation (eighth in FBS at 368 yards per game coming in), but UCF's defense did very little to stop the Pirates' air attack, giving up 488 yards on 70 attempts.
That said, the Knights held the Pirates to 32 rushing yards on 33 carries, and forcing East Carolina into a one-dimensional offensive game is what enabled UCF to unleash its fourth-quarter avalanche.
The passing game. Justin Holman's first start since Michigan was a surprise for the media and the fans before the game. And it looked like it was for him, too, as he finished 11/29 for 156 yards and two picks with no scores.
Holman got the start because McKenzie Milton is still feeling the effects of an ankle injury, and though Holman was not quite 100% either, he was still in better shape than the freshman, and got the nod.
Speed kills, especially in the return game.
The Turning Point
After watching a 23-7 lead evaporate to 23-21 following two quick ECU scores, things were starting to look bleak, like they did when the same thing happened two years ago:
This is starting to feel eerily familiar to 2014. Huge UCF lead gets cut down in the 3rd quarter. 13 seconds left until the 4th.— osknights (@osknights) October 1, 2016
But three plays into the fourth, UCF was back up 30-21 on a Dontravious Wilson TD run. Two plays later, Brendon Hayes' stunning deflection and pick-six effectively ended any entertainment of an ECU rally:
That was the nail in the Pirates' coffin.
Stat of the Night
Last time UCF scored on O, D and Special Teams? Nov. 10, 2010 at Tulane in a 61-14 win!#ChargeOn— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2016
Found the highlights of that game here:
Irrational Overreaction of the Week
Secondary gets an F. Refs get an F, Holman gets an F. Frost hovering around a D right now.— The Peoples Champ, UCF (@VinDiGioiaUCF) October 1, 2016
That was around the time UCF was still up 23-21. Wonder what the grades improved to by the end of the day.
It's a short week by one day leading up to Friday night against Tulane at Bright House: