So Scott Frost's debut couldn't have gone much better, could it have?
UCF shut out South Carolina State 38-0 in Frost's first game as a head coach anywhere. While the offense got off to a sluggish start, things picked up in the second half, and the Knights didn't leave any points off the board throughout the evening. Bottom line: They got the job done.
This is a continuation of my old recap columns on Sports Talk Florida, which I used to call "Overreaction Sunday." Because I want to change things, and because it's my site, we'll call this "Sunday Morning Quarterback from here on out. So here you go:
WE WON! Look, when your last win was 640 days ago, you'll take it any way you can. It's hard to believe that UCF's last win was Justin Holman's Hail Mary to Breshad Perriman at East Carolina on December 4th, 2014. So much has changed since then. Certainly, Scott Frost's primary objective was to get that first win out of the way, if for no other reason than to give the players the confidence they lacked last year.
The offense looked sluggish in the first half. #UCFast looked like it couldn't get going at first. Justin Holman was 6/17 passing for 28 yards (plus one rushing TD), and Matthew Wright's school record-tying four field goals - all in the first half - had us worried.
But in the second half, Holman went 8/11 with two touchdown passes to finish with 193 on the night. Frost said after the game that Holman was so amped up that he thought he had "11 Red Bulls" before the game. Once he got comfortable, he locked in on his receivers, and the offensive output smoothed out with four TDs in the final 32 minutes of play. Most importantly, the Knights were 5/5 in the Red Zone.
South Carolina State's offense. 223 total yards, 3.2 per play. And that was due to UCF's defense, which also forced three turnovers. QB Caleb York was the Bulldogs' leading rusher with 38 net yards. The Griffin Brothers were all over the place, combining for six tackles, one tackle for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, an interception, two pass break-ups, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Nick Patti. Patti came in when Holman had his helmet knocked off at the very end of the first quarter. He quickly completed two passes for 24, including a 16-yarder to Tristan Peyton on a 4th-and-7 to keep a drive going. Holman later came in and finished off the drive, which led to Wright's third field goal. But the fans got a bit impatient, with chants of "We want Patti" echoing faintly through the stands as Holman continued to scuffle through the first half.
Patti came in again during garbage time with the second unit and finished 5/7 for 48 yards, but he served notice to the coaching staff that, should Holman falter or get hurt, he would be a more than capable replacement.
The Turning Point
In the second quarter, with UCF up 12-0, South Carolina State had a 3rd-and-17 at the UCF 36 in the middle of a 13-play drive. But Shaquem Griffin sacked Caleb York and forced a fumble, which Jamiyus Pittman picked up for the turnover:
Eight plays, 57 yards and 2:49 later, Holman ran it in from 10 yards out, and despite a botched extra point attempt, UCF had its first touchdown of the Scott Frost Era, and an 18-0 lead heading into the half.
Had UCF gone into the break with just four field goals, they could have gotten tight (certainly the fans would have been). But they got the TD they and the fans needed desperately.
Stat of the Night
UCF ran 91 offensive plays against South Carolina State, the most the Knights have run in one game since November 16th, 2002, when they ran 92 plays in a 32-6 win over Kent State. It was UCF's first year in the MAC, Mike Kruczek was the head coach, and Ryan Schneider threw for 269 yards on 23/43 with two touchdowns (one each to Darcy Johnson and Doug Gabriel) and two picks in what he called the "worst game of [his] life." Alex Haynes ran for 149 yards on 23 carries with one score, and Matt Prater kicked four field goals that night.
Kent State's head coach at the time, Dean Pees, is now the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
Total attendance in the Citrus Bowl that night: 7,354.
By the way, UCF's average offensive output last year: 65 plays per game.
Irrational Overreaction of the Week
No. No it's not. If you think a shutout win over an FCS team is "making a loud statement" to a Power Five conference, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Come on, man. Don't be so short-sighted.