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Randy Shannon’s Second Half Adjustments Have Been Amazing

UCF’s defense has been phoenomenal after halftime the last three games.

NCAA Football: Temple at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve just about had it with fans complaining about Randy Shannon’s defense.

I get it, you want UCF to give up no points and score a million. Who doesn’t?

But in college football, you have to make compromises with schemes. The Knights’ offense scores so quickly that it doesn’t permit the defense to take much of a break. So they’re on the field a lot. In fact, UCF is 126th out of 129 FBS teams in time of possession, keeping the ball for just 26:02 each game on average (Houston, coincidentally, is last at 24:22).

So as UCF’s defensive coordinator, Shannon is in a serious bind every game. When that happens, you have to rely on what’s universally known as the “Bend-but-Don’t-Break” philosophy.

In other words, Shannon is willing to let his unit give up yards - lots of them - as long as the other team doesn’t score, either via making timely stops or big plays - i.e. turnovers.

This is extremely frustrating because it means you’re going to give up big plays and quite a few points anyway. Fans hate that because OMG WHAT’S WRONG WITH OUR DEFENSE?

But the goal is to give the Knights’ offense an extra few possessions a game via those stops, because the other team can’t stop them at all.

Yes, it’s a huge risk every time out. And it means UCF is not going to look totally dominant at times, especially if the other team has game-planned well and comes out swinging in the first half.

That’s where second-half adjustments come in. And Shannon has mastered those.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the last three games against Memphis, ECU and Temple. Here’s a first-to-second half comparison of UCF’s defensive performance in those three games combined:

UCF Defense Half Comparison

LAST 3 GAMES 1st Half 2nd Half
LAST 3 GAMES 1st Half 2nd Half
Points Allowed 67 13
Turnovers Forced 2 7
Total Yards Allowed 956 700
Rush Yards Allowed 445 152
Pass Yards Allowed 511 548
Yards/Play Allowed 6.4 5.5
Scores/Possessions 13/22 2/20
Points/Possession 3.05 0.65
Opponents: Memphis, ECU and Temple

Bear in mind that the passing yardage would be a LOT lower in the second half were it not for ECU’s Holton Ahlers throwing for 289 yards in the second half against UCF after a rather pedestrian first half in his first career start. Halve that to a more-reasonable 150 and UCF is giving up just a bit more than half the total yards in the second half the last three games as they have in the first half.

Yes, teams have thrown their best punches at UCF in the first half. But UCF’s offense is more than good enough to at least keep them well within striking distance.

And then the real work begins at halftime: Figuring out the opponents’ run blocking schemes, getting some free shots to force turnovers, and relying on your athleticism in the secondary.

That’s good coaching (especially with regard to the run defense), which is why Randy Shannon was brought in here to begin with.

I know it’s frustrating as hell to watch, especially since the national narrative is that UCF has to blow everyone out in order to score style points for the College Football Playoff voters.

The hell with all that. Just win the damn games.

So far, UCF has done exactly that 21 times in a row, including the last eight with Randy Shannon in charge of the defense. So far, so good.