Last week, the #25 UCF Knights managed to battle through adversity. They beat Cincy despite trouble on offense with two turnovers and losing quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to a concussion just before the end of the second half. But as they prepare to go wheels up to armor up against Memphis, they have one huge obstacle to overcome if they want to remain in the driver’s seat on the path to the American Athletic Conference Championship — winning outside of the state of Florida.
Currently, 1-5 outside of the sunshine state under second-year UCF head coach Gus Malzahn, beating the Tigers is one of two remaining road challenges on the schedule if they hope to move up to the Big 12 having won their previous league.
Even with the prospect of having to start backup quarterback Mikey Keene, Malzhan puts the responsibility on himself to do his part to make that happen after the struggles in their previous out-of-state away game against East Carolina. “It’s our mindset and approach — it’s the way we approach it, and that starts with me.“, he said. “There’s more parity in college football than ever before. Every week you have to bring your lunch — you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. Obviously, we didn’t do that [at ECU] . . .Lesson learned.”
Malzahn also acknowledged that Memphis will also have the advantage coming off of their bye week with more time to prepare and heal up from injury. However, he also mentioned that his squad showed growth stropping the running against Cincinnati this past Saturday and hopes to carry that momentum and grit into Memphis.
Regardless of who starts the game this weekend at quarterback, the performance of the offensive line will be an essential element of success in Memphis. They had their best game of the season to help UCF become the first to clinch bowl eligibility in the state of Florida for the second consecutive year. Running back Isiah Bowser sang their praises for what they’ve done with the squad during the season at the press conference Monday.
After all, it is the big men up front who opened the gap for RJ Harvey to secure the game-winning touchdown. Bowser also commented on how much Harvey helps the running back corp be successful and has taken some of the load off of him.
“If you’ve seen our running back room, we have a lot of guys that make plays, “ said Bowser. “It’s been great seeing RJ [Harvery] come along and Johnny [Richardson] coming along as well making a lot of plays this season. . . it takes a little load off me as well, but I’m not really worried about the load, I’m worried about winning — so whatever we can do to win, I’m happy.”
We’ll see if UCF can ride on toward victory at 3:30 pm EST Saturday on ESPN2.