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#19 UCF 38 vs. SC State 0: Defense Improves, But Cracks Show in the Offense

Knights Struggle a Bit in Home Opener, still shut out SC State

Otis Anderson (Photo: Derek Warden)
Otis Anderson (Photo: Derek Warden)

The Game

The National Champion UCF Knights came home for the first time since beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl to cap off their perfect 13-0 championship season. A near capacity crowd of 43,269 came out to help them celebrate and cheer them on against FCS South Carolina State in a convincing 38-0 victory.

That's the largest home-opening crowd after the stadium opener against Texas in 2007. Helping the cause was, I believe, a record student attendance of 13,309.

The offense started off shaky, but the defense definitely came to play with purpose and pride as they registered UCF's first shutout since an identical beating of SC State two years ago. The was some definite deja vu as that game was Scott Frost's first home game, just like this was Josh Heupel's

The Good

The Fans: The Bounce House was once again electric in what has become more the standard than the exception. As one who has stood on the field before a raucous "Zombie Nation," I can personally attest that there is no greater high or home field advantage than a bouncing UCF home crowd.

The Defense: After taking a lot of flack last week, the guys obviously worked on their craft and made some strides in Week Two. For the second week in a row, they forced three turnovers with S Kyle Gibson, Richie Grant, & Antwan Collier all getting an interception.

Although SC State is not known for their air attack, UCF did a great job, allowing only 66 yds on 4/17 passing. This was helped by a pass rush that finally was able to apply pressure with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

Titus Davis, Neville Clarke, Rashard Causey and Brendon Hayes all had sacks. Davis, Shawn Burgess-Becker, Joey Connors, Randy Charlton, and Dedrion Bacote-Sweat all added QB hurries.

Pat Jasinski once again led the way with 8 (3 solo) tackles, with Richie Grant having another strong game with another 7 (5 solo). Clarke led the team with 2 TFLs, with Jasinski, Burgess-Becker, Hayes, and Kalia Davis all chipping in with 1.5 TFL each.

The Running Game: For the second consecutive week the UCF offense has put up close to 300 yards rushing. Credit to all our talented backs led by Adrian Killins Jr., who had 89 yds on 6 carries and 2 TDs.

The Offensive Line: Also, props to our offensive for paving the way on the ground game and for the second week in a row having no sacks allowed. There were, however, 7 TFLs by the opposition despite not getting to the QB.

The FG Block/Return Teams: Credit A.J. Wooten with UCF's first blocked kick of the year and Kyle Gibson with a nice 57 yd return. Otis Anderson looked great on the punt returns with 74 yards on 3 returns, including one for 48.

The Bad

The Tackling: The good news is that this is no longer ugly, just merely bad. I honestly feel that to truly correct this is should become an official statistic just like incomplete passes. Only when players see the enormity of their errors in print will they make a conscious effort to not get put out on "Front Street."

If QBs can get docked for misses and WRs for drops, so too should defenders for whiffs on the defensive side. Then don't only count made FG's for the kickers or good kicks for punters do they?

Speaking of Punters: I do realize there are limited opportunities to get your rhythm or whatever kickers need to be consistent, but this is UCF. It has been the same now for three years. Get used to it.

Practice punting once every hour during the week if that's what it takes to get used to it. It's not a good look when your FCS counterpart punts 8 times for a 43.8 avg and you have 3 for a 29.7 avg, including a 16-yarder howitzer that nearly cost UCF its shutout.

Through two games that's a 30.0-yard average. It's too early to panic, but that's not good.

Tysten Hill: Hill was not available for this game. After being listed with the second team to start the season, this is not a good omen for arguably UCF's best defensive player. Hopefully, he will get back on track and be the force on the field we all know he can be.

The Ugly

McKenzie Milton: I didn't think I would ever associate this with his game, but never say never in football. Milton statistically hadn't been this bad since Black Friday two years ago, but to be honest he looked worse Saturday.

He was off from the beginning, throwing his first pick on the second play. It would thankfully be overturned, but KZ tossed another one two plays later.

It wouldn't get much better as Milton looked like he was channeling Justin Holman from two years ago throughout the game. Even the simplest of throw seemed to be a challenge as he had neither his trademark accuracy or touch.

He also looked as if he either didn't want to run, or was told not to run on certain rollouts. On a particular play when UCF was in the red zone he had a pretty clear path to the end zone but tried to dump it Killins instead, who was clearly surprised by the pass. Very un-Milton like.

Milton was only 21/39 for 243 passing with one TD and 3 INTs. He had a 4th INT overturned, and a few other close calls. He also carried the ball only 3 times for 16 yards.

His 4 turnovers and 6 fumbles in the OT against Maryland in 2016 is the only thing I can compare it to. And that was his first collegiate game as an 18-year-old true freshman.

Penalties By The Offense: It was bad enough that Milton was off, but UCF compounded the problem by being very undisciplined against an inferior opponent. The offense was flagged for 9 of the team's 11 penalties for 91 of its 101 yards. Two more were declined. Unacceptable.

On a particularly ugly sequence to finish the game, Eric Seidelman and Parker Boudreaux, Orlando high school teammates, both got 15-yard personal fouls on consecutive plays. Those negated 35 yds of running by Darriel Mack, for a net loss of 65 yards. No wonder we only scored 38 points.

Inside The Numbers

  • UCF: 566 yards Total Offense (318 run/250 pass), SC State 257 (177 run/80 pass)
  • UCF had 29 first downs, SC St only 14
  • UCF's running game was on point again: 316 yds/47 car/4 TD/6.7 avg
  • Milton not so much: 21-39/243 yds/3 int/1 TD
  • Gabriel Davis had his best game as a Knight (9 rec/111 yds/1 TD)
  • Darriel Mack Jr had 4 car/41 yds, but lost another 35 yds via 2 penalties
  • Anderson (125), Killins (115), & Davis (111) were all over 100 total yds
  • Anderson was 3/74 yds on Punt Returns, including a 48-yarder
  • UCF penalties were bad (11/101 yds)
  • UCF's Rush Defense gave up only a 3.4-yd avg on 52 attempts
  • UCF's Pass Defense allowed only 80 yds on 6-19 passing and recorded 3 INTs
  • UCF offense only converted for 7 points off the 3 turnovers and were 4/6 in the red zone
  • Time of possession (UCF 23:48/SC State 36:12)
  • UCF had a TD drive lasting 4:48 to close the 1st half on 20 plays, their most in over a decade
  • UCF's other 4 TD drives averaged 34.5 seconds, the longest lasting 42 seconds
  • 6 UCF players had over 30 yards rushing, Killins Jr (89), McCrae (62), Anderson (42), Mack Jr (41), Thompson (34) & McGowan (33)
  • UCF Defense had 11 TFL/4 sacks/3 INTs/5 QBH's
  • Avg Field Position: UCF (own 37), SC St (own 24)
  • 3rd Down Conversion: UCF (7/13), SC St (3/15)
  • UCF Defense forced 4 three-and-out possessions in 13 drives
  • SC St was inside the UCF 35 three times, but got 0 points
  • UCF Offensive Line gave up 0 sacks for the 2nd straight game
  • UCF passed 25 out of 41 times on 1st down, only 18 on all other downs
  • After scoring TDs on 8/9 drives at UConn, UCF was only 5/14 vs SC St.
  • UCF extends its winning streak to 15, longest in the nation, one shy of AAC record
  • UCF also has a nation-leading 15-game streak of scoring 30+ points
  • UCF has shut out SC St all 3 times they have played

Final Thoughts

I said in my 2018 UCF Preseason Preview how much I hate FCS games and this is exactly why. Nothing is to be gained from them and plenty can be lost. UCF got the win and got out without any injuries, but in the strength of schedule, this game hurts more than it helps.

The offense showed glitches and because they didn't put up 70 like everyone else, UCF was jumped by Boise St. in the race for an NY6 Game bid. Not to mention it always feels like neither the offense or defense wants to show to much before the real games begin.

Let's hope at the very least that Milton got this one bad game out of his system and the team got a reality check that maybe we aren't all that just yet. There are bigger fish to fry down the road so let's quickly fix the mental mistakes and move on with what I would call a draw.

Up Next: North Carolina FAU

The North Carolina game has been canceled due to Hurricane Florence, with no makeup likely, next game is now FAU at home.