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UCF’s Week 5 Checklist vs. UConn

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Here are four questions that will need answers during the final AAC meeting between the Huskies and the Knights

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 UCF at Pitt
UCF linebacker Nate Evans
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1. How does the UCF offensive line bounce back?

Head coach Josh Heupel said Thursday that there isn’t just one player or position group that needs to respond most following the loss at Pitt; he wants to see everyone play better tonight.

Of course, that is the coach-speak answer. If there is one position with something to prove, it’s the UCF Knights’ O-line, which lost the battle in both run blocking and pass blocking last week. And the UConn Huskies, for all of their weaknesses, are no slouch along the defensive line, as we pointed out in our Knights’ Roundtable article. So, keeping Dillon Gabriel upright and opening lanes for those running backs won’t be easy, but you have to imagine that Jordan Johnson, Jake Brown and company are on a single-minded mission.

2. Will the defense return to playing assignment-sound football?

The Knights’ defense knew what was coming — anyone who had watched Pittsburgh play knew what was coming. However, the Panthers beat the Knights over and over again with a series of crossing routes as UCF’s linebackers kept losing sight of the receivers running right in front of them, across the middle of the field.

UConn will want to keep this game in the hands of running back Kevin Mensah, but when true freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis does drop back, will the Knights cover everything the Huskies send at them?

3. Will Dillon Gabriel become a runner more often?

After all of the chatter and second-guessing that revolved around Gabriel’s lack of running versus Pitt, I have to imagine there will be a change today. We’ve seen the freshman keep defenses honest on those read-option plays by keeping the ball and darting out around the end. He is not as dynamic a runner as Darriel Mack Jr. or Brandon Wimbush, but as he showed at FAU, Gabriel isn’t a statue. I think there will be some QB runs drawn up for him today, if for no other reason than to force UCF’s future opponents to prepare for it.

4. Will the Knights keep the pedal down?

In its three victories, UCF has outscored its opponents in the first half, 114-13.

In the second half? The margin is just 41-28.

I get that the Knights don’t have to go all-out when they are already up by 30-40 points. So, they pull on the reins in the third and fourth quarters. However, UCF should carry a mindset that it needs to lay waste to the Huskies tonight. I don’t care if Quadry Jones is behind center for all of the fourth quarter; I think this team will be looking to release all of its frustration and anger for 60 minutes.