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 fifth roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener, Eric Lopez, Bryson Turner and Andrew Gluchov take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about the UCF Knights and their matchup with the East Carolina Pirates.
1) After dropping two straight, what is UCF’s biggest point of emphasis as they look to snap their losing streak?
Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): When things go astray, one of the best things to do is go back to fundamentals (See Jeremy’s answer below). Execute, execute, execute. Do the little things well. That builds confidence, because when you hot on things that a team like ECU can’t stop no matter what they try, that gives you growth, which is so important with all the youth out there.
Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener): The team needs to win on the fundamentals. Make sure the extra points go through, make sure the punts are correct, ensure that tackling is crisp. That’s why UCF lost last week and that’s what makes last week’s loss so frustrating. UCF beat themselves, and that’s how you lose to teams that you are better than.
Bryson Turner (@itsBrysonTurner): The team needs to hit the reset button. It’s lost a lot of playmakers to injury: Gabriel, Bowser, Robinson, Bethune, and Thornton. Especially with a new quarterback in the mix, the team really needs to go back top the beginning and just regroup. Navy is very unique in the college football landscape. It’s not something they’ll face every single week. They just need to put the past week out of their mind, and focus on executing and continuing to get comfortable with Keene as the quaterback, at least offensively.
Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): The team needs to regroup. They learned against Navy they aren’t going to have as easy of a time scoring, so they need to adjust their mindset and focus on making sure the fundamentals are sound. Sound blocking, going through progressions, maintaining footing, squaring up for tackles, containing the outside. These are all areas that need to be focused on as the margin of error is much smaller now. This team can still win and the season is far from over.
2) If UCF wins this game, which Knight(s) will be the reason why?
Jeff: Speaking of fundamentals: The offensive line. ECU’s defense is not good (123rd in total defense), but they are better against the run (89th) than the pass (126th). So hit ‘em where it hurts and keep yourself from having to go one-dimensional.
Jeremy: If the Knights play mistake-free football, they should easily win this game. They are more talented than the Pirates. By playing their game, they should get the job done.
Bryson: Discounting the scores off of turnovers, the Knights offense only scored two touchdowns and one field goal against Navy. Whether that was because of a new quarterback or the absence of Bowser and Robinson is irrelevant to the fact that the unit we have now needs to make adjustments in order to get points on the board, and that’s just something that comes with practice and reps. If UCF wins this weekend, I think it will be because we’ve seen an offense that has been able to click with each other without its missing pieces.
Andrew: Someone in the defensive backfield is going to have to take advantage of Holton Ahlers’ knack for throwing interceptions. The offense is in development mode with Keene still learning and the running game underwhelming without Isaiah Bowser on the field. They aren’t going to score as many points as before to cover for the defensive mistakes. I’m going to say the entire unit would be the reason why.
3) What is one of the Knights’ weaknesses that could be exposed against ECU?
Jeff: Run defense. UCF has gotten absolutely gashed the last two games against Louisville and Navy. If ECU does the same with Keaton Mitchell and give Holton Ahlers time via play action, we could be in for another long evening. The front seven absolutely must dominate the game for UCF to win.
Jeremy: Having Mikey Keene under center is still a bit of a concern. He fared well against Navy, but he doesn’t have the ability to carry a team on its back quite yet. Keene just needs to play his game, do his best and everything will hopefully fall into line.
Bryson: The secondary is once again going to be put to the test by East Carolina QB Holton Ahlers, who has thrown for 406, 313, and 215 yards in his three prior tilts with the Knights. Since Pirates RBs Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell will force the UCF defense to respect the run game, that gives Ahlers some chances to burn a Knights secondary that’s given up 11.07 yards-per-completion this season.
Andrew: With the explosion of Keaton Mitchell, UCF is going to have to respect the running game of the Pirates. This is going to put more pressure on the defensive backfield to make plays since UCF won’t be able to fully key in on the pass. Ahlers is a gunslinger of a quarterback, so while he can rack up yards, he is prone to mistakes. The much-maligned defensive backfield will have to have a great game.
4) Score prediction?
Jeff: Nope. But WE WIN! And we finally tie the all-time series at 10-10.
Jeremy: UCF 35, ECU 24
Bryson: UCF 35, ECU 31
Andrew: UCF 27, ECU 24