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Knee-Jerk Reactions: UCF 14, Tulane 10

UCF becomes bowl eligible on another fourth quarter comeback

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida
UCF WR Brandon Johnson celebrates the go-ahead touchdown
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Homecoming is all about alums of the school coming home and watching their alma mater play. They want a good, exciting football game that will keep them engaged as they see old classmates and friends. It wasn’t good, but it kept people paying attention as the UCF Knights had another late fourth quarter comeback for a win. This time, it was against the Tulane Green Wave 14-10. It’s knee-jerk reaction time.

I’m offended at how offensive this offense was

The offense took a few steps back after being opportunistic assassins against Temple last week. The offense mustered an explosive 171 yards on offense in the first half. Mikey Keene was accurate when he threw the ball, going 10-14 for 125 yards and a touchdown. Out of that 125 yards, 53 came on one play where Keene found Ryan O’Keefe in stride on a deep route with good pass coverage. This was Keene’s best deep throw yet as he was able to lead O’Keefe enough to where only he had a shot at the ball and it worked to perfection. This was the one and only highlight of the first half for the offense. On the ground, if your name wasn’t Isaiah Bowser, you weren’t moving the ball. The weirdest play of the game was late in the second quarter when a pass by Keene popped in the air after being hit by Darius Hodges. Everyone stopped playing. Tulane’s Jojo Dorceus picked it up, held on to it, realized the whistle never blew, and proceeded to run it for 36 yards before being tackled. Luckily for the offense, they were bailed out by the defense as they created a three-and-out and Tulane missed a 42-yard field goal.

In the second half, it didn’t get better. Keene found an open Brandon Johnson that went for 50 yards and the drive would have culminated a few plays later in a touchdown if not for a holding call. The Knights then went backwards and missed a 42-yard field goal. Womp womp. UCF only mustered 106 yards of total offense in the second half, 104 of those yards were in the air. The rushing numbers are skewed by the fact that sacks go against the rushing yards in college football as opposed to passing yards in the NFL. Keene was sacked three times for 19 yards in the game, two of them(for 17 yards) in the second half. For the game, UCF had to punt the ball seven times. Andrew Osteen was busy, averaging 42.1 yards a punt and getting one downed at the Tulane 1.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida
UCF QB Mikey Keene
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The offense redeemed itself when it counted. In a similar fashion to the East Carolina game, UCF got the ball down by less than a score in the fourth quarter and everything clicked. Mikey Keene went 6/6 for 35 yards and the winning touchdown, a 23-yard pass to an open Brandon Johnson with just under six minutes left in the game. The defense helped keep the Green Wave in check the rest of the way to earn that big sixth win. It’s worth noting that the team scored f14 points and only had 13 first downs. As Mikey Keene said in the postgame interview, coach Malzahn has helped instill a refuse to lose mentality and it’s showing, even when it’s not pretty.

The over/under was 57 points. According to the Banneret podcast show, the money was largely on the over. While I thought that was nuts ahead of the game, I don’t think anyone expected to miss by as much as they did. Tulane was ranked the 124th ranked defense going into this game, giving up 476 yards on offense. According to coach Gus Malzahn, Tulane brought in a number of varying defensive setups that threw the offense off and had an outstanding game plan.

The defense had a good game again

The defense had a lot of highlights in this game. The Knights were able to generate eleven tackles for loss and five sacks. While it isn’t in the box score, Michael Pratt was harassed all night with five quarterback hurries. He was hurried on a fourth down near the goal line and his throw was deflected out of the endzone for a turnover on downs. Later, Pratt was forced into an intentional grounding call inside the UCF 10 yard line. While the Green Wave was able to kick a field goal on that drive, it could have been worse. The defense did give up four plays of 20 yards or more, including a 47-yard run that led to points, but there was no passing play longer than 23 yards. That’s a big win. Much like UCF had to punt seven times, so did Tulane, but he had one blocked by Mark-Antony Richards, which unfortunately yielded no points.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida
Tulane QB Michael Pratt
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Tackle machines Bryson Armstrong and Tatum Bethune paced the team with 11 tackles each. The highlight was Armstrong perfectly timing the Tulane snap count and blitzing in uncovered, completely blowing up a draw play at the point of exchange. The defense wanted to share today as five different players recorded at least a half a sack and eight players with tackles for loss with Tremon Morris-Brash leading the way with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

UCF is going bowling

With six wins under their belt, UCF has become the fourth team in the American to become bowl eligible. This doesn’t mean the work is done as the Knights are still playing for a lot, including a potential double digit win season. This is in the face of a rash of injuries that could have completely derailed the season completely. Now, it’s all about jockeying for position in the conference bowl structure. Like I said last week, as UCF continues to win, they will make themselves look better to conference affiliated bowl games. There are four that are contracted to play against P5 opponents: the Military, Fenway, Birmingham, and Gasparilla. Fans should want one of those four versus some of the other options.

Uniform review

The state logo was used by UCF for many years in the 1980s and 90s. It’s final season was in 1995 as UCF was transitioning from Division I-AA(now FCS) to I-A(now FBS). In 2018, UCF brought back the state logo with a new expression of black and gold as a helmet decal. It worked perfectly. UCF brings it back in 2021 in an all-white uniform that worked to perfection. The state logo was never used on a white shell, but it worked really well. You can make the argument that this is the best whiteout uniform that UCF has ever done. The Pegasus uniform with the academic logo on the shoulders, mixed with the state logo on the helmet, and capped with the block logo on the uniform collar gives a blend of UCF’s past and present. UCF using an updated gold for the state works too. While I’d love to see some true throwbacks with matching uniforms and colors,

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida
UCF QB Mikey Keene during warmups
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Stat Leaders

Passing
UCF: Mikey Keene: 19/25 for 229 yards, 2 TD, 0 Int
TUL: Michael Pratt: 17/28 for 147 yards, 0TD, 0 Int

Rushing
UCF: Isaiah Bowser: 14 carry for 54 yards, 0 TD
TUL: Tyjae Spears: 15 carries for 77 yards, 1 TD

Receiving
UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 11 catches for 94 yards, 1 TD
TUL: Tyjae Spears: 5 catches for 35 yards, 0 TD

Game Notes

  • UCF leads the series 9-2. My first UCF game was in New Orleans versus Tulane.
  • Mikey Keene tied a personal high with 229 yards. He set his new high last week.
  • UCF has become bowl eligible for a school record sixth straight season.
  • Sorry it’s not my best, but I went three-and-out and had to punt.