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Knights’ Roundtable: Happy Homecoming

Jeff Sharon, Chas Short, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy answer questions regarding this weekend’s game against Navy.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming events in UCF Knights sports. It’s a way to get the staff to come together as well as the rest of Knights Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.

This week, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener, Chas Short, and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer this week’s questions about tonight’s game against the Navy Midshipmen.

1. After last week’s win over Temple, what did we learn about this team that we didn’t know before?

Jeff Sharon: That they have absolute confidence in the offense. Nothing seemed to faze this group, even down two scores. They knew they could run Temple ragged in the second half, and that’s what they did. That kind of confidence is powerful.

Chas Short: I’ll make this one personal. It’s now clear to me Greg McCrae is the best running back on the roster. I recede from my previous position on this.

Jeremy Brener: It shows that even against the most elite of defenses, UCF finds a way to overcome. The offense won that game last week and any doubts with McKenzie Milton’s slew of injuries were squashed after his performance against Temple. The Owls brought likely the best defense UCF will face between now and the end of the season, so that means the offense has no excuses moving forward. This is one of the Top 5 best offenses in the country and they need to continue to play like such.

Brian Murphy: I’ll give you two answers:

a. Greg McCrae should be this team’s lead running back between the 20s. Right now, that role still belongs to Adrian Killins, but UCF’s coaches must reward McCrae with more carries for what he is doing right now. Sure, he does seem to be the beneficiary of huge running lanes more often than Killins, but part of that is a credit to McCrae’s patience and ability to set up his blocks. He is better than Killins at letting those inside runs develop and still has enough speed to tear off big gains when something does break open.

b. UCF’s defense is cognizant that the third quarter belongs to them. A few defensive players have said as much during this week’s press conferences. For whatever reason -- be it halftime adjustments or greater focus or some dumb luck, etc. -- UCF is outscoring opponents 87-16 in third quarters this season. They have recorded five shutouts in their eight third quarters. The players know how good they have been in Q3, and the fans should know it by now as well.

2. How will UCF fare against Navy’s triple option?

Jeff Sharon: If they don’t tackle better at the point of attack, not well. Last year’s game was a panic button-masher as Zach Abey was running all over the place on UCF. But then he got hurt, and the game changed. This year, he’s back at QB after a foray at receiver, and he still pretty good. The Knights are 93rd in FBS in run defense, giving up 188.3 yards per game. I think if they hold Navy to that average (Navy’s averaging 286 yards on the ground per game, 3rd best in the nation), it’s a HUGE day for the defense.

Chas Short: Better in the second half than the first.

Jeremy Brener: Considering how poor the tackling has been, especially in first halves, I expect UCF to struggle out of the gate, but find their way to maintain it. With Navy running the ball (and clock) on every play, their goal should be to try and keep the clock running so McKenzie Milton and Co. have as few opportunities to score as possible. However, Navy has not been a good football team this season. At 2-6, they just got shut out by Cincinnati last week 42-0. UCF should find their rhythm by the second quarter and cruise to a victory.

Brian Murphy: That UCF defense will come out of Saturday’s game sore and exhausted. That’s just a fact of life when you go up against Navy’s offense, which pounds you with triple-option running plays over and over and over again. Ultimately, however, I think the Knights will catch on to what the Midshipmen present to them and pull away. This Navy team is nowhere near as good as last year’s squad that took UCF to the brink.

3. What is your favorite UCF football moment ever?

Jeff Sharon: No question it was last year at the Peach Bowl. I brought my three-year-old son with me on a daddy-and-me trip to Atlanta. Our seats were high up and he was scared, so we made our way down to the concourse on the second level and watched the game from there. My son slept next to my feet most of the game, but woke up in time to see this with me:

I met so many old and new friends that day, and to watch my alma mater complete an undefeated national championship season with my son on that stage was an adventure I’ll never forget as long as I live.

Chas Short: Can it be something other than the Peach Bowl win to cap an undefeated and Colley Matrix National Championship season? I watched the game in a bar that was empty but for 30 or so of my fraternity brothers and their spouses, all gathered together for a wedding weekend. Oh, I mean otherwise empty except for the one family of Auburn fans. It was priceless.

Jeremy Brener: Probably last year’s Conference Championship against Memphis. I had missed the previous game with prior commitments against USF, so I knew I had to go to the Bounce House for the Memphis game. It was as packed as I had ever seen at Spectrum and UCF should not have won that game. So many variables were going against us, but we also had so many things going for us that day and to pull out that win, in front of all of Knight Nation, with my closest friends, it was unbelievable.

Brian Murphy: The Fiesta Bowl win is tops for me. It’s the only UCF bowl game that I have attended as a fan, not media, so I got to actually enjoy it. To realize in that third quarter that no matter what happens Baylor -- a two-touchdown favorite with one of the best offenses in America -- absolutely can not stop UCF’s offense was surreal.

4. With Homecoming taking place this week, what is your favorite UCF moment from your time as a Knight?

Jeff Sharon: In 2005, I was about to graduate, and we at the student radio station at the time (WNSC) would go on the road on our own dime to broadcast games for both basketball teams. The folks at the A-Sun Conference really liked us and allowed us to broadcast audio of ALL of the tournament games over the web - a rare thing at the time. So we went to Belmont University in Nashville to cover the A-Sun Tournament, and I got to call play-by-play of UCF’s last conference tournament title in 2005 - the second of two in a row. Afterwards, Gary Johnson, our point guard and best player that year, gave me a piece of the net they cut down that day. I still have it.

Chas Short: An impossible question unless I focus on a sports memory from my time as a Knight. It’s got to be in 2005, UCF breaking the nation’s then-longest active losing streak (0-17) by beating Marshall. Being on the field after the game was incredible, and I can’t forget seeing a pickup truck drive by after the game with a huge chunk of the goal post in the back.

Or going to campus to see the goal post thrown in the reflection pond.

Or when the police came and everyone scattered.

That was pretty memorable.

Jeremy Brener: I’m currently a junior so this is an incomplete list. However, there are just so many to count. Freshman year was incredible. I got to see President Obama speak at CFE, witness Johnny Dawkins, Matt Williams and the basketball team stomp on Illinois to reach the NIT Final 4, work with the fine ladies and gentlemen on Hitting The Field. I also caught two ducks with my roommate at Spirit Splash my freshman year. It’s a book that still has a lot left unwritten and I can’t wait to see what’s to come. Happy Homecoming Knights!

Brian Murphy: Call this a copout, but I can’t pick one moment. I lived on campus for three years, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and brought a lot of lifelong friends into my life.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the experiences and relationships I had during my four years on the Central Florida Future (RIP). There are simply too many moments to choose from in those two categories.

5. Give your score and attendance prediction.

Jeff Sharon: 41-21 UCF. 44,000.

Chas Short: UCF 49, Navy 20.

Jeremy Brener: UCF 55, Navy 20. With it being Homecoming, attendance spikes up to 40,000.

Brian Murphy: Knights win, 49-17. I think the noon kickoff time will keep the attendance to less than 40,000.