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Can the Knights Weather the Storm to Stampede Past Mustangs?

To account for hurricane Ian, UCF will be hosting SMU at 1:00pm EDT Sunday in what could be their toughest opponent this season.

Despite fans feeling the sting of issues on the UCF Knights offense, the victory was secured over the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets. However, UCF will begin play against opponents in the American Athletic Conference this week with a team that has the quarterback talent in Tanner Mordecai to compete for the league’s championship — the SMU Mustangs,

Knights head coach Gus Malzahn acknowledged the level of opponent he and his team are hosting Sunday at 1:00 pm EDT in FBC Mortgage Stadium.

Obviously, the biggest concern for the squad is the specter of attempting to execute a balanced offense against a team who is “on par” with higher-quality opponents. And UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee’s stat line of 49 yards from last week isn’t going to be something one would associate with this feat. That being said, the problems aren’t just surrounding the man under center.

“It all works together, the passing game,” said Malzahn. “I know everybody’s [saying] ‘oh the quarterback and all this,’ but I think we’ve had 14 or 15 drops this year to be fair, so we’ve got to do a better job around him, so we’re working hard to do that.”

The good news for the optimistic Knight fan is that the Special Teams unit turned things around quickly with Colton Boomer going 4/4 kicking field goals last week while muffs and drops during punts are getting cleaned up. But what would be the motivation to turn that around? Quadric Bullard mentioned Monday that those who headed on the road to Texas last year to get blown out by Mordecai and the Mustangs have a bad taste in their mouth. They now seek redemption.

“SMU . . . they put it on us last year and us as a team, we don’t take that very lightly,” said Bullard. “We’re feeding off the energy we had from last year and we’re building on to it because we don’t want to be the team from last year, we want to improve from last year”.

If the stat line is any indication, the biggest concern certainly doesn’t come from Bullard and the defense who had forced three teams in as many games into a missed field goal instead of scoring touchdowns over and above being the top red zone defense in the nation.

However, as much criticism as the wide receivers and Plumlee have gotten, the offensive line has gotten some as well. Unfortunately, when that line is getting talked about, it’s not typically a good thing, but center Matt Lee, like his head coach, believes that the woes on offense are correctable.

“There were multiple plays — at least five that I can think of five off the top of my head [where] one different thing happens right here, we just execute a little better [and] that play’s a long touchdown,“ said Lee in regards to last week’s contest.

If that statement is reality, and the Knights find a way to make the necessary corrections in a storm-shortened practice week to beat SMU, this will be a candidate for the best performance of the season.