Each week during the football season, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming game ahead. 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.
In our seventh roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Brian Murphy and Jeremy Brener take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about tomorrow’s much-anticipated matchup against East Carolina.
1. What does Dillon Gabriel need to do to get back on track?
Jeff Sharon: I think he needs to two things:
1. Run the ball a bit. Show the defense you’re not just a statue in the pocket and make them bring the safeties up. Cincy showed that they were content sitting back and letting him dink and dunk. But to open up shots downfield, you need to be a threat to run for a first down.
2. Keep the pace up in the Red Zone. UCF slows down in the red zone way too much for my liking. You have to keep pressure on the defense, and keeping the pace high will help that.
Brian Murphy: It comes down to protecting the ball. Making smart throws, not rushing his process, completing handoffs, etc. Do that, and the rest sort of falls into place. ECU shouldn’t present that much of a problem for him, so this should be a confidence booster if he can just maintain possession.
Jeremy Brener: Mistake-free football. If he can keep the ball in UCF’s hands, he will gain some confidence back. I think this bye week is a huge developmental point for him. This is his first test to see if he has learned from his mistakes in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
2. Coach Heupel said Darriel Mack would see some reps at quarterback. What should we expect from him on the field?
Jeff Sharon: I’d like to see him in a Tim Tebow Freshman Year mode in short yardage and goal line, to keep the defense off balance and loosen up the secondary. But I wonder if we might see him spell Gabriel the way Gabriel spelled Brandon Wimbush earlier in the year. If he performs we. and Gabriel struggles, things might get really interesting.
Brian Murphy: To be fair, Heupel said Monday that he thinks Mack “will have an opportunity to potentially play in this one.” So, far from a guarantee. If Mack does see some snaps Saturday -- and I expect he will in the fourth quarter with UCF in command on the scoreboard -- you’ll see the same guy that we’ve seen this season and last. I do think he is over his ankle injury; at least it doesn’t seem to be hindering him as a runner. But it’s obvious that UCF has tied its wagon to Gabriel. There is no quarterback controversy to be made here right now.
Jeremy Brener: I think if the Knights are up by multiple scores in the second half, you could see Mack get a shot. However, this is Gabriel’s team. We saw that after that redshirt was yanked off of him. It would be idiotic to move back to Mack after Gabriel started and the keys were given to him.
3. Name one ECU player UCF should keep an eye on.
Jeff Sharon: Kendall Futrell. This guy is first in The American in sacks and tackles for loss. UCF’s O-Line will have to step up to contain him.If they no-show the way they did against Cincinnati, Futrell will be a problem.
Brian Murphy: Defensive end Kendall Futrell seems to be following in the footsteps of Nate Harvey, a Pirates DE who was the AAC
Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. Futrell has six sacks and 10 tackles for loss through six games. He will pose a big test for an offensive line that his sprung its fair share of leaks recently.
Otherwise, East Carolina doesn’t rank among the nation’s top 35 in any significant offensive or defensive stat category. Holton Ahlers is a mobile, strong, lefty QB who gave the Knights problems at times last year up in Greenville, N.C. But there just isn’t much to sink your teeth into in this lopsided matchup.
Jeremy Brener: Kendall Futrell for sure. I would simply be beating a dead horse if I said more. See above.
4. Who needs to step up on the defensive side of the ball for UCF?
Jeff Sharon: Randy Charlton’s not here? OK then...This game has Brendan Hayes’ fingerprints all over it. ECU’s going to play it in the trenches on offense, so he’ll have to dominate on the front for the Knights to do what they want to do.
Brian Murphy: Safety Richie Grant. It’s fairly amazing that we are halfway through the season, and Grant does not have an interception yet. Also, he was put on a highlight reel in embarrassing fashion by Cincinnati running back Michael Warren two weeks ago, so I’m sure he’ll be looking to do something to make people forget about that.
Jeremy Brener: I would like to see more from Eriq Gilyard. The defense has been lacking a real hit-hard linebacker, and Gilyard can be that for the Knights.
5. Score/attendance prediction
Jeff Sharon: UCF 38, ECU 13. 41,000.
Brian Murphy: Score: As always, I won’t think too hard about this and just choose something close to the Vegas projection: UCF wins 45-17.
Attendance: I’m trying to decide whether I care or not about how many people show up for a game with a lackluster opponent and with UCF coming off its second loss. Earlier in the week, I thought I would be interested to see the turnout. Now as we get closer to game time, I think if people want to spend their money elsewhere, that’s their prerogative.
Jeremy Brener: UCF 42-21. 39,999.