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Knights to Set Sail to Plunder the Pirates of East Carolina

On Saturday night, UCF hits the road in their first game outside of Florida to battle ECU.

Derek Warden

After flying past the Temple Owls in their annual “Space Game”, the UCF Knights hope to sink the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina at 7:30 pm EDT.

At this past Monday’s weekly press conference, head coach Gus Malzahn highlighted the challenge of playing a quarterback as experienced as the Pirates’ Holton Ahlers. While Ahlers, who has been taking snaps under center since 2018, will be a unique challenge according to Malzahn, the Knights getting their first road win out-of-state is the latest target for improvement in the back half of the schedule.

Becoming a better team late in the season as UCF did last year has been a key focus that Malzahn has preached for weeks and this would be a critical step if the Knights are to be a legitimate threat to play for an ACC Championship.

The ability to deal with the difference in routines approaching an away game while practicing for potential crowd noise during the week isn’t just the responsibility of the coaches, but the captains of the team as well. Linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste explained how he’s advised his teammates to remain confident heading into this latest challenge.

The nation’s best red zone defense continues to impress on the field as they have all season while the offense has done its part in pulling its weight. With their recent outing putting 73 points on the scoreboard, UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was the American’s Offensive Player of the Week. Plumlee’s honors might get the most notoriety on social media and in the press on the strength of his performance going 18-of-22 for 82% completion, all facets of the offense had their moments including the big guys in the trenches.

Offensive tackle Ryan Swoboda acknowledged the line’s improvements throughout the season. However, what seemed to encourage the senior transfer going into the ECU game is that his group can still be even better. Whether you’re a UCF fan that thinks a victory on Saturday is a foregone conclusion or sees the Pirates as a potential trap opponent with conference rival Cincinnati heading to town in a couple of weeks, Swoboda’s approach of looking at this game as a building block to completing this offensive line’s evolution is encouraging to see.

A victory on Saturday would give UCF the series lead all-time which is currently tied 10-10.