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Knights RoundTable: Preparing for the Purple Pirates

Jeremy Brener, Derek Warden, Chas Short and Jeff Sharon talk UCF’s upcoming tilt in Greenville

NCAA Football: UCF at Memphis
UCF head coach Josh Heupel
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to this week’s Knights’ Round Table, where members of the Black & Gold Banneret Staff give their takes on the week’s news in UCF Football.

This week, fresh off UCF’s thrilling (or nerve-racking) victory over Memphis, Jeff Sharon, Chas Short (@cfbasterisk), Jeremy Brener and Derek Warden take a seat at the Round Table to discuss this week’s game at ECU.


1. How will last week’s win change the way UCF plays moving forward?

Chas Short

I hope it’s made the team a bit more battle-tested and a bit more inclined to take every opponent seriously. But as to whether fuzzy factors like this actually affect performance in a material way, I’m always a bit doubtful.

Jeremy Brener

They are going to play with a lot more purpose now. I think you learn more from a loss than a win, and you could argue that they easily should have lost last week to Memphis. In their poorest performance against their toughest opponent, the Knights still found a way to win. However, with their poor showing, they have a lot of film they can watch on how to improve their play in the second half of the season.

Derek Warden

I think the biggest takeaway is that the players really trust the coaches now. After Huep’s big 4th down calls and Shannon’s 2nd half defensive adjustments, the players perhaps know that all they really have to do is go out an play ball, knowing that their coaches will put them in place to succeed.

Jeff Sharon

Confidence is an incredible thing. It’s one thing to think you can win any game you play, but it’s another to know there’s no game you can’t win. UCF found a way to win against Memphis in a way they kinda didn’t at any point last year, with the possible exception of the Peach Bowl. This team’s confidence in itself and the coaching staff has to be sky-high now.


2. After being disrespected by the polls last week, does UCF need to have another “statement” win against ECU?

Chas Short

Trick question – no win against ECU will be considered a “statement,” regardless of the margin of victory. But it should be clear UCF can’t afford a close game against an inferior opponent, given how voters penalized them for a razor thin win against a very good opponent in Memphis.

Jeremy Brener

The chip on their shoulder has turned into a boulder. I think part of the reason why UCF has been unbeatable for the past year and a half is because of the disrespect they get on a daily basis. This is nothing new for them and I imagine the team will simply just continue to play their game like they always have been and hope the results will come later.

Derek Warden

At this point, the only way we move up is if those ahead of us lose games they shouldn’t have (get those quality wins!). Just look at the narratives of the Pitt games between UCF and Notre Dame. UCF blows them out at home: “They need to play a better schedule!” Notre Dame comes back in the 4th quarter to win by 5 (at home!): “Good teams find ways to win!”

Jeff Sharon

I agree with Chas. Beating ECU will not be considered a statement by any stretch of the imagination. That is, unless, UCF decides to go all Georgia-Tech-against-Cumberland on them and try to hang 100. And even then...


3. I’ve asked this question before, and I’ll ask it again, who’s the best running back moving forward?

Chas Short

Well, it depends on how we’re going to keep using them, right? I’ll still say Killins, despite his having fewer yards per carry than either McGowan or McCrae. Reality is the Knights have an embarrassment of riches at the position, especially when you consider Otis Anderson. Hard to be disappointed here.

Jeremy Brener

It changes from week to week, but you can’t say that the Knights win that game last week without the efforts of Taj McGowan. I think this answer will continue to change as the season goes by, however, right now it has to be McGowan.

Derek Warden

At this point in the season, should we be asking “who is the best running back today?” Which, I think, is a great problem to have.

Jeff Sharon

I don’t think it really matters. Derek is right - Each guy has his own role in the offense in given situations, and each guy keeps a defense off-balance in his own way. It’s an embarrassment of riches.


4. Who on ECU is someone that the Knights need to contain in order to win?

Chas Short

Holton Ahlers. The Knights have obviously been vulnerable to mobile quarterbacks.

Jeremy Brener

First of all, ECU is a team the Knights have to be careful about. They were a touchdown away from beating USF earlier this season and beat an Old Dominion team that beat a ranked Virginia Tech squad earlier this season. This team has talent, especially in wide receiver Trevon Brown. He’s their best playmaker on offense by far.

Derek Warden

I guess their mobile true freshman quarterback, Holton Ahlers. But let’s see how he does against a first-team defense and a DC who has game tape against him.

Jeff Sharon

I’m going to flip the script and say it’s a guy on defense: DE Nate Harvey. The senior from Knightdale, N.C. leads the nation (!) in sacks with 8.5 in the first six games and is the Pirates’ top tackler. Given that Memphis found a way to get to McKenzie Milton four times last week after UCF had allowed just two sacks the whole season, Harvey is a major concern.


5. What is your score prediction for the game?

Chas Short

UCF 42, ECU 17.

Jeremy Brener

Knights get it done, 56-24.

Derek Warden

45-17 Good Guys

Jeff Sharon

UCF going away, 49-13