Here is what I was watching for Saturday night. Here is how that turned out:
1. Can the UCF Knights keep the self-inflicted mistakes to a minimum?
Not quite. The most impactful mistake was Otis Anderson’s muffed punt that led directly to a Temple Owls touchdown, but he obviously atoned for that and then some. Instead, let’s talk once again about penalties.
The Knights committed a lack-of-awareness penalty before a single second even came off of the clock as defensive back James Tarver was a step too eager on the opening kickoff and was whistled for offsides. Then wide receiver Alex Harris got flagged for unnecessary roughness on the opening kickoff of the second half, which was a touchback.
The Knights were called for nine penalties, costing them 68 yards Saturday. Seven of those penalties were of the pre-snap or post-play variety, something the Knights have talked openly about correcting. One of the in-play penalties — a first-quarter pass interference call on cornerback Tay Gowan — deserves criticism as well since Gowan just tossed wideout Branden Mack to the ground before the ball arrived. That show of frustration got Gowan benched for most of the second quarter.
In the past four games, UCF has picked up 36 penalties for 289 yards. By my count, 24 of those happened either before the snap (false start, offsides, illegal formation, etc.) or following the play (personal foul). We’ll see if this ugly trend continues versus Houston this weekend.
2. How will the UCF running game look without Greg McCrae?
Just fine, thanks. Without McCrae for the entirety and without Adrian Killins Jr. for the second half, the Knights still churned out nearly 400 rushing yards, paced by Anderson’s 205.
Bentavious Thompson was outstanding as well. He ripped off gains of 11, 12, 15 and 34 in the third quarter alone and ended up with 87 yards on 10 totes.
“Bentavious did a great job,” Anderson said after the win. “I think a lot of people kind of sleep on Ben because he’s not like a featured back in our system. But any given Saturday that Ben touches the ball, he can do what he did tonight.”
However, most of the credit should go to the offensive line. Yes, Anderson and Thompson get the glory, but consider that not one of the 37 carries by UCF’s running backs went for negative yardage.
Also, UCF had 12 carries that went for at least 10 yards. I think the runner wasn’t touched until he was at least 8 yards downfield on nine of those 12 plays. The O-line played like men on a mission. And I’ll talk more about that crew in a bit....
3. Can UCF score TDs against the Owls’ outstanding red-zone defense?
Four red-zone trips, four touchdowns for UCF. That Temple defense, which entered the game with the second-best red zone rate in the nation, had no chance.
But how about this for efficiency? UCF’s offense crossed midfield 10 times. They scored touchdowns on nine of those trips. Incredible.
4. Will the Temple pass rush be hampered by injuries?
You could make that argument. The Knights’ offensive line was fantastic, but the Owls sorely missed defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh, who was in uniform Saturday but never played. He entered the night with 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Temple’s other nicked-up defensive-line star, Quincy Roche, was neutralized by tackles Jake Brown and Edward Collins. Roche ended up with five tackles, and the Owls overall recorded just one sack. Dillon Gabriel faced minimal pressure on the night.
The only time Roche made his presence felt came in the second quarter when he lifted Killins up and threw him to the ground well after the play. I’m not sure why there wasn’t a flag for that act, which resulted in Killins’ shoulder injury.