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Knee-Jerk Reactions: UCF 17, South Florida 13

The Knights officially take the series lead against the Bulls in the possible penultimate matchup

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF QB Mikey Keene and WR Brandon Johnson celebrate a touchdown.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

In the penultimate edition of the Black Friday, the Bounce House fell victim to the rivalry game effect. What’s the rivalry game effect? It’s when weird things happen. The results of previous regular season games don’t apply and the game is essentially played in a vacuum. It wasn’t pretty and had a slightly awkward finish, but the UCF Knights officially took the series lead over the South Florida Bulls with a 17-13 win. It’s time for some Knee-Jerk Reactions.

The offensive line had a rough day

Usually one of the most consistent units on the team, the offensive line had a rough day. Matt Lee has been dealing with injuries that have cost him some playing time in recent weeks. He played the whole game today, but had been seen hobbling off the field at times. The rest of the team struggled in both run and pass packages. On many occasions, quarterback Mikey Keene was forced to run out of the pocket and throw the ball away. A number of running plays didn’t generate much separation and it led to short gains on the ground.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF RB Mark-Antony Richards
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The protection issues were definitely a big reason Keene struggled on offense, going 14/26 for 115 yards and a touchdown. The second half was especially rough for Keene where he went 5/9 for 15 yards. On the running side, Johnny Richardson was able to rip rushes of 42, 33, and 15 yards during the game. Outside of those plays, he didn’t run for more than 2 yards on a carry.

There were times during the game that the line was able to create holes and that’s when UCF was able to have some chunk yardage. The running stable had five plays of 10 or more yards and Keene was able to have five of his completions for at least 10 yards.

In the end, the team was able to generate enough points largely because...

The defense did their job

While South Florida isn’t an offensive juggernaut, the Knights did a good job keeping them contained. The Bulls were held to 312 yards of offense. They were able to keep a strong running back to under 100 yards. Timmy McClain went 18/29 for 222 yards. The big thing is that he threw zero touchdowns. McClain was sacked five times for 44 yards lost and the team had 10 tackles for 58 yards lost. Like UCF, the Bulls punted five times.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF DE Big Kat Bryant
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls were able to pad their numbers a bit when the got down to inside the UCF 5 yard line in the closing seconds of the game, but a Tre’Mon Morris-Brash sack of Timmy McClain allowed the clock to run out and sealed the win for the Knights.

Gabriel doesn’t dress and I get it

There was speculation that Dillon Gabriel was going to come back for this game. I always had reservations and had a “until he’s back, he’s not back” mentality. While it wasn’t used for Our Time, I did make a comment about the mental aspect of the recovery from a major injury. This is something I have hands-on experience with. In my younger years while playing sports, I tore my labrum in both shoulders and ended up having each one reconstructed. While the recovery for each reconstruction was six months plus each physically, the mental aspect took longer and in some cases, never really went away.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF QB Dillon Gabriel
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

There is always at least a subconscious concern of reinjury. In my case, it helped me talk of walk-on tryouts while at UCF almost three years after the second shoulder was worked on and thinking you’re not at 100% to your pre-injury standards can linger. Unfortunately, there is no set timetable as to how long this takes. It affects everyone differently. So, until he’s back, he’s not.

What Now?

Now we wait. UCF’s regular season is over at 8-4, which after the Louisville game, seemed extremely improbable. UCF opened the season with a pedestrian record of 3-3, but a combination of moxie and a back-loaded home schedule helped UCF finish 5-1. Over the next week and change, UCF will find out where they will be going to play their bowl and who their opponent will be.

Uniform review

UCF recently introduced a new Knight head logo ahead of the move to the Big 12. They used this game as an opportunity to debut it on the field as the helmet logo with a chrome coating. The helmet looks fantastic. Today was all about black, which has been a usual occurrence on Black Friday at home. It’s a great look. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that South Florida brought in a fully unique uniform package for this game. It’s a one-off helmet, one-off jersey, and one-off pants using their slime theme. UCF went with their stock black jerseys and pants and while the Pegasus series is very nice, this became a bit of a missed opportunity with using a six season old uniform template versus a unique one.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF QB Parker Navarro celebrates scoring a touchdown.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Stat Leaders

UCF: Mikey Keene: 14/26 for 115 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int
SFLA: Timmy McClain: 18/29 for 222 yards, 0 TD, 0 Int

UCF: Johnny Richardson: 8 carries for 94 yards, 0 TD
SFLA: Jaren Mangham: 21 carries for 93 yards, 0 TD

UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 5 catches for 45 yards, 0 TD
SFLA: Xavier Weaver: 4 catches for 75 yards, 0 TD

Game Notes

  • UCF leads the series 7-6.
  • Receiver Ryan O’Keefe now has 77 catches on the season, which ties him for sixth in school history. He passed Ted Wilson, Doug Gabriel, Sean Becton, and Brandon Marshall today.
  • Receiver Brandon Johnson caught his 11th touchdown, tying him with David Rhodes, Doug Gabriel, and Brandon Marshall for 8th in single season school history.
  • Kicker Daniel Obarski kicked two extra points today to reach 51 on the season, which passed Michael Torres(50) for fifth in UCF single season history.
  • Punter Andrew Osteen moves into 4th place in school history with 163 punts yards, passing Aaron Horne(162).
  • Sorry it’s not my best, I was too busy giving horns down.