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Knee-Jerk Reactions: Louisville 42, UCF 35

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The Knights fall short in dramatic fashion

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Louisville
UCF WR Ryan O’Keefe
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

It was the UCF Knights’ first road test with unrestricted fans since 2019 and it wasn’t pretty. After a back-and-forth game that kept fans on the edge of their seats, the Louisville Cardinals got the last laugh with a pick six with seconds remaining to win 42-35. It’s knee-jerk reaction time.

The sun will rise tomorrow

One thing to keep in mind is that the Gus Malzahn era is a marathon, not a sprint. While the article is called Knee-Jerk Reactions, computing a loss like this that falls into the more unconventional ways to lose a game might take some time due to the strong emotions of the moment.

The game ended on a bad note in that quarterback Dillon Gabriel suffered a fractured clavicle on the very last play. It won't require surgery, but he will be on the shelf for some time.

With that said, the sun will still rise. At this point, backup Mikey Keene could receive the call. Also, Joey Gatewood could play an expanded role. Only time will tell.

My friends, the season isn’t over. UCF is still in control of their destiny in the conference. While things may have become more difficult, this is a program that has youth and room to grow.

A broken record

No, not a school record, but a literal broken record. We’ve heard this over and over again. UCF’s tackling has been bad. It’s been bad all season. It’s still bad. UCF defenders struggled with Malik Cunningham. Cunningham was able to get defenders to over pursue and be out of position to make tackles. It didn’t matter which position group it was, UCF’s tackling was nothing short of atrocious.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Louisville
UCF LB Bryson Armstrong and Eriq Gilyard
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

To keep up with the broken record, the defensive secondary continues to play very soft and it isn’t working when the defensive line is not creating quarterback hurries. UCF struggled in preventing receivers from sitting in the holes in the zone coverage and becoming easy targets for Cunningham or being out of position on man coverage.

Game plans matter

Louisville had a great game plan for UCF on both sides of the ball. When UCF was on offense, the Cardinals would shift between a three and four man front and force Dillon Gabriel to settle on check-down routes or he had to tuck the ball and run. The Knights gave up a couple of sacks due to the confusion. UCF’s offense with Dillon Gabriel has struggled badly against 3-3-5 defenses and today was no different.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Louisville
UCF RB Johnny Richardson
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

When UCF was on defense, the Cardinals attacked defensive end Anthony Montalvo. Montalvo, who is playing out of position this year, has struggled at defensive end. The Cardinals gave the Knights a healthy dose of Malik Cunningham and capitalized on UCF’s tackling woes. UCF’s pass defense has been very soft and they have a tendency of losing people. On multiple occasions, the Cardinals were able to get multiple first downs where the running back rolled out and no one would pick him up. On a wide receiver pass, the defense did not maintain coverage and Louisville scored on a wide open reception. Louisville was also able to exploit coverage mismatches with the Knights’ linebackers against the Cardinals’ running backs and tight ends. UCF just didn’t have an answer.

Stat Leaders

Passing
UCF: Dillon Gabriel: 22/29 for 184 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int
LOU: Malik Cunningham: 23/38 for 265 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int

Rushing
UCF: Johnny Richardson: 9 carries for 101 yards, 0 TD
LOU: Malik Cunningham: 13 carries for 99 yards, 2 TD

Receiving
UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 4 catches for 74 yards, 1 TD
LOU: Marshon Ford: 8 catches for 100 yards, 1 TD

Game Notes

  • UCF has had at least one passing and one rushing touchdown for 52 straight games. This streak leads the nation.
  • Dillon Gabriel has passed for a touchdown in 26 straight games. He is second in school history.
  • Dillon Gabriel now has 913 passing attempts to move into sixth in school history(Bortles)
  • No jerseys were harmed in the making of this article, but I did happen to wear Nike shoes today.