On a muggy Thursday night and in front of a national audience on ESPN, UCF had their sixth annual Space Game. Despite a close game early, the Citronauts(the Knights’ space-faring alter ego) took off and destroyed the Temple Owls 70-13. It’s knee-jerk reaction time.
I got what I asked for
In the Round Table, I asked for a complete game against an FBS opponent and I got one. Now, we need to see a second one. At 5-1, the Citronauts are one win away from being bowl eligible.
I also said that if Temple quarter E.J. Warner can keep the turnovers down, they could stay in the game for a while and they did. Warner can definitely ball, but UCF just had too much talent for the Owls to keep up with. By the second drive of the third quarter, Temple had been completely demoralized and UCF could score at will.
While this win is very satisfying, we need to remember that Temple is not a good team. UCF will have an opportunity to show what they’re made out of against East Carolina next week. That
Style points are starting to matter again
UCF isn’t playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a New Years Six bowl is definitely in the cards. UCF needs to win the American Athletic Conference and will need those style points to get ahead of the other Group of Five conference champions. Will this week get UCF ranked? Probably not, but they’re on their way. Being on ESPN on Thursday night certainly helps.
Style points here also helps UCF in other ways. The Citronauts have made themselves more attractive for television. ESPN will have to consider UCF versus Cincinnati and versus Tulane for better time slots and channels.
This also allowed younger players that are likely to redshirt the year to play some. Freshmen quarterback Thomas Castellanos and running back Jordan McDonald got meaningful playing time in the fourth quarter. Castellanos exploded with a 43-yard run and ended up with a game-high 88 yards on 3 carries with a touchdown. He also went 6/6 for 60 yards passing. McDonald ended up tied for a game-high nine carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.
So how did UCF win?
You’d think this one would be pretty simple. UCF was flat-out better. However, there were certain things to note that helped propel UCF to the win.
Let’s focus on quarterback John Rhys Plumlee for a moment.
I’ve always said that I needed to see 60% completions by Plumlee to give UCF a good chance to win. He went above and beyond today, going 18/22 for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s an 82% completion rate. He had eight big plays of 15 or more yards. This included three of his four touchdown passes. His final two were deep passes to Ryan O’Keefe and Kobe Hudson for 68 and 64 yards, respectively.
The one before that was a somewhat broken play where Plumlee rolled to the right and dodged a couple of would-be tacklers. He found running back Isaiah Bowser parked on the other side of the field. He got the ball to him and Bowser had the field to himself, gaining 45 yards as a result.
Another note is on a 25-yard touchdown to Kobe Hudson in the second quarter. Plumlee used a pump fake and the coverage broke down, springing Hudson free and he was by himself for Plumlee. If Plumlee can utilize the pump fake more, it could continue to pull defenders toward the fake and also open up more running lanes for a tuck-and-go.
One other big note on offense: The receivers held on to the ball. They were focused, made plays, blocked downfield, and seemed much more in tune with Plumlee.
The defense continues to do what they do well. Outside of the early portion of the FAU game, the Citronauts have shown very good tackle technique. Linebacker Jason Johnson led the team with 9 tackles with a tackle for loss and a QB hurry. His and LB Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste’s angles of pursuit were outstanding and they made a number of key stops. The defense didn’t generate any turnovers, but they gave up only 293 yards and only five big plays. They limited Temple in the second half to 90 yards. UCF’s offense gained 410 yards during that same time span and outscored Temple 56-0.
The special teams didn’t have to do much. Mitch McCarthy punted once all day and Colton Boomer kicked ten extra points with no field goals. Ryan O’Keefe had a 51-yard kick return and 112 total return yards on four kicks. That’s really it.
For the sixth time, UCF had their annual Space Game. While the first edition didn’t have a special uniform, the brand team created a new uniform for the fifth time. Following their trend with the 2022 uniform series, UCF went with a more minimalist design with the devil in the details. Highlighting deep space, the branding team went with an all-black uniform that highlighted their Space U moniker and font, a new numerical font, the Spitzer Telescope, and the two exoplanets, (UCF 1.01 and UCF 1.02) that were discovered by the school, among other details. The helmet used was a slightly darker shade of black that the school claims is the darkest shade they’ve ever used. Like I said in our Round Table, they need to coat the shells in vantablack and make it the darkest helmet anywhere.
On the helmet instead of a stripe, UCF put the mission patches on the back for each game that particular player was on the team for. Also, the block UCF starts black and transitions to blue. A full blue-block UCF would have looked better in retrospect, but this was a really solid look.
I’ve always preferred UCF use a dark uniform base for their space uniform, but the shuttle theme in 2021 being white was understandable. The next question becomes how does UCF do it again without reusing details and triggering the law of diminishing returns.
UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 18/22 for 373 yards, 4 TD, 0 Int
TEM: E.J. Warner: 24/43 for 234 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int
UCF: Thomas Castellanos: 3 carries for 88 yards, 1 TD
TEM: Edward Saydee: 9 carries for 41 yards, 0 TD
UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 7 catches for 111 yards, 2 TD
TEM: Jose Barbon: 7 catches for 103 yards, 1 TD
- UCF leads the series 8-2.
- UCF is now 6-0 in their annual Space Game
- Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee ties the school record of 7 touchdowns responsible for with Darin Slack in 1987 and Daunte Culpepper in 1998. He is the first player to do it against an FBS opponent.
- Plumlee’s four passing and three rushing touchdowns were previously done by Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in 2016 and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch in 2014.
- UCF broke 700 yards of offense for the first time since 2020 against Memphis.
- Sorry it’s not my best, but I was too busy pondering what will happen to the grass that was painted black in the endzone.