With the UCF Knights doing a salute to the armed forces, it was the defense that carried the Knights to a 38-13 win over an outmatched and outgunned Temple Owls. While the game itself might have left wanting, it still gave everyone something to talk about. It’s knee-jerk reaction time.
Hitting the reset button
This is why halftime exists. The UCF offense struggled to create a rhythm in the first half. The offensive had a flat tire. During the second quarter, the offensive struggles got to the point where the Owls were outgaining the Knights despite being UCF leading 21-3. Gabriel ended the half with 5/14 for 84 yards and a pair of sacks with 50 of those yards on a single play. I do want to caveat that this wasn’t all his fault though and the entire offense struggled in different areas. Jacob Harris dropped multiple passes. Marlon Williams had uncharacteristic drops. Cole Schneider had a lot of trouble on the left side of the offensive line. It was a collective failure, full of a lack of timing and synergy.
Enter halftime and a chance to stop and reset.
UCF came back out in the second half with renewed synergy and was able to take control of the game, adding on another 17 points and pulling away. The Knights took the foot off the gas entering the fourth quarter up 38-3 and put the second unit in. This was smart. The game was decided and there is something bigger on the horizon.
The defense needed no such help.
The defense played a marvelous game, keeping Temple from hitting double digit yards of offense on the day until the fourth drive of the game. In particular, the play of UCF’s linebackers Eriq Gilyard, Tatum Bethune, and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste was fantastic as the trio accounted for 24 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and recovery, and an interception. Not bad for a day’s work.
It’s not all doom and gloom
The offense had an off day, but there were moments still worthy of the highlight reel. Marlon Williams turned a 10 to 15 yard gain into a 50 yard gain by using his free hand to prop himself up until he could get his legs back underneath him and took off. As a former football player, bear crawl was a drill in every practice I’ve been in. It’s also one of my least favorite. It definitely came in handy for Williams as the photo below brilliantly showed. Otis Anderson’s 14 yard touchdown run in the first quarter showed the combo of vision, quickness, and surprising power that he’s graced us in the four years he’s been a Knight. He powered through the first level and made a great spin move to avoid a tackle just enough to be able to reach forward for the end zone and break the plane. Lastly, in the third quarter, Jaylon Robinson took a short pass and ran it behind the line like a jet sweep. Using his speed, he turned what looked to be a short gain into a 70 yard sprint. The Knights would score on the next play.
The defense had their share of highlights too. Eriq Gilyard’s literal strip of Re-al Mitchell during the first drive of the game set up UCF’s first touchdown. Not to be outdone by his fellow linebacker, Tatum Bethune broke through two blockers to make an interception. The laugh of the day was Corey Thorton’s interception where Mitchell badly underthrew a deep ball and Thorton was able to line himself underneath it for the easy interception. Easy, right? He probably took his eyes off it and was thinking about the run back since he had 20 plus yards ahead of him and the wide receiver ran himself out of the play. As a result, a tip drill occurred between him and Richie Grant where Thompson eventually got the ball, but fell on the ground in the process, so a 20 to 30 yard interception return turned into zero. At least he caught the ball, right?
The calm before the storm
Temple is not a good team. They have been hit hard with injuries, opt-outs and COVID-19. Their starting quarterback, Anthony Russo, who has been a thorn in UCF’s side, was a late scratch due to COVID-19 protocols and did not travel to Orlando. The point spread for the game was big for a reason. While Temple scored late in the game on the second unit, this game was never really in doubt.
It gave UCF an opportunity to bring in the second unit in the fourth quarter, rest the starters, and not tip their hand too much for the next game. The big game is next week as Cincinnati comes to town. The Bearcats are undefeated and sport a top ten ranking behind a dynamic quarterback who has blossomed over the last year and a defense that has humiliated strong offenses like Memphis and SMU. UCF is going to need to play close to a perfect game to keep a step ahead. The Banneret team will be previewing this game all week.
A man of the people
A little something new this game was that we opened up the Knee-Jerk Reactions to fan questions and interaction.
A big question going around now is why Josh Heupel continues to turn to kicker Daniel Obarski for field goals?
As we’ve seen throughout his tenure at UCF, Josh Heupel is a creature of habit. However, I would say he has avoided kicking more and seems to only do it when it makes sense. Against Temple, Heupel called upon Obarski for two kicks. One was an awful 45-yard attempt that went nowhere close to the uprights later in the second quarter. The second was a short The thing is, Obarski has a good leg and Heupel knows it. His kickoffs have been great. His placekicking has not. This more mental than anything else, which was very apparent at the end of the Memphis game when a fracas between him and quarterback Quadry Jones was caught on camera. Being a kicker is not a mentally easy job to do.
Let’s analyze that first kick a bit because calling on the kicker is a situational thing. It was 4th and 15 at the Temple 28 and the UCF offense was sputtering. When the offense is in their normal groove, this could be a chance to go for it, but in this situation, the offense was not and a punt was not happening. Through process of elimination, you go for the kick.
The second kick is a bit simpler. It was the second half and the game was pretty much in hand for UCF. Heupel is not a coach who likes running up the score, so when Temple stopped UCF short, he settled for a shorter field goal. This had two effects. One, it was to make sure a drive didn’t go to waste, but didn’t try to run it up on an outclassed opponent. Two, it gave Obarski to get some confidence with a made field goal to make up for the miss earlier.
If you have questions in the future, the Black and Gold Banneret and I want to hear from you.
UCF: Dillon Gabriel: 12/22 for 268 yards, 2 TD, 0 Int
Temple: Re-al Mitchell: 10/23 for 107 yards, 0 TD, 2 Int
UCF: Otis Anderson: 10 carries for 83 yards, 1 TD
Temple: Tayvon Ruley: 23 carries for 90 yards, 0 TD
UCF: Jaylon Robinson: 4 catches for 113 yards, 0 TD
Temple: Jadan Blue: 5 catches for 71 yards, 0 TD
- In the last 46 games for UCF, they have had 44 games of 30 points or more. The Knights have won 40 of those 46, including four wins against top 25 teams and five wins against Power Five conference teams.
- Dillon Gabriel has passed for a touchdown in 20 straight games. This fourth in school history.
- Gabriel’s 268 yards gives him 6,427 yards on his career, which catapults him from eighth in school history to sixth, passing Steven Moffett and Darin Slack.
- UCF has had at least one passing and one rushing touchdown for 46 straight games. This streak leads the nation.
- Greg McCrae scored his 25th and 26th rushing touchdown in the first quarter, which passes Adrian Killins for fifth on the school list.
- Jaylon Robinson now has six games of 100 yards receiving or more this season, which ties him for third in school history for number of games in a single season. Robinson is tied with four other players. The record is seven, held by Ted Wilson and Brandon Marshall.
- Marlon Williams now has five games of 100 yards receiving or more this season, which ties him for seventh in school history for number of games in a single season. Williams is tied with eight other players.
- Williams’ two touchdowns gives him 17 on his career, putting him in a tie with three other players for ninth in UCF history.
- UCF now leads the series 6-2 against Temple.
- Sorry this isn’t my best. I’ll try harder next time.