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Knee-Jerk Reactions: Louisville 20, UCF 14

The Knights offense sputtered out in the second half.

UCF WR Jaylon Griiffin
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round one of the UCF Revenge Tour did not go so well as the UCF Knights were defeated by the Louisville Cardinals 20-14. UCF would have a 14-7 lead at halftime but failed to score anymore on their way to their first loss of the year. It’s Knee-Jerk Reaction time.

UCF comes down to earth

Expectations were high after gaining 600 yards of offense against FCS opponent South Carolina State. What we saw tonight is more indicative of the offense UCF has. They can come to the line quickly and run a play, but this is a running team. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed 52.7% of his passes as a freshman and he settled back with some very pedestrian numbers tonight, going 16/34 for 131 yards and an interception. That’s 47%. While we can debate on how accurate the interception call was, the team should have never been in that position.

Penalties are still a big problem. UCF had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. The Knights as a team had 11 penalties for 111 yards, including a few costly personal fouls. K.D. McDaniel had a roughing the passer call that led to a field goal, unsportsmanlike conduct on Ricky Barber for pulling a player off of a pile, and a personal foul on Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste after the team recovered a fumble. That drive led to a touchdown. The Knights also had a holding call negate a Javon Baker touchdown catch and a Johnny Richardson touchdown catch.

One of the few bright spots was the ability of Isaiah Bowser to get into the endzone. He accounted for both UCF touchdowns. He finished with 15 carries for 51 yards along with those two touchdowns.

RB Isaiah Bowser
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The offense became one dimensional

We saw some history repeating itself with players getting hurt. Hudson, O’Keefe, and Gamble all had some sort of issue that kept them off the field and the offense suffered. Aside from youth, there was definitely some missing chemistry between Plumlee and the second unit.

UCF QB John Rhys Plumlee
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In last week’s win over South Carolina State there were notable flaws on the offensive line. The weakness was exploited by the Cardinals as they began to blitz on a regular basis in the second half. Once UCF started losing some of their receiving weapons, the Cardinals would blitz and blitz often, daring Plumlee to throw. The pressure on the quarterback came in quickly and rattled the Knights quarterback and he never was able to establish a rhythm. His time away as a quarterback has made his learning curve steeper and we saw where it goes when it goes wrong.

I do not expect a change in quarterback at this time.

The defense did as much as they could

NCAA Football: Louisville at Central Florida
UCF LB Jason Johnson
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Cunningham is a hard guy to contain and credit has to be given to the defense for keeping him in check for two quarters and change. It eventually got to the point that the offense became so inept in the third quarter and beyond with gaining only 19 yards of offense in the third and 98 total in the half, the defense was on the field way too long and wore out. The Knights had four possessions in the third quarter and three of them were three-and-outs while the other lasted five plays. They also had a three-and-out during their last possession of the second quarter.

The defense held the Cardinals to 4/14 on third down and 1/3 on fourth down. They also tallied two sacks and five tackles for loss. Once again, the linebacker led the way. Jason Johnson had 12 tackles and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste had 7.

The defense was able to give the ball back into the offense’s hands multiple times, including the final two drives. The offense got to the goal line on the first one before failing to convert and despite good field position, could not score right before time expired.

In the end, there wasn’t much more the defense could have done.

Special teams is in full-on disaster mode

Nothing is going right for the special teams. Kicker Daniel Obarksi missed another field goal and this kick changed the complexion of the game. Obarski missed from 32 yards out in the second quarter. Punter Andrew Osteen was busy, punting eight times for an average of 38.5 yards per punt. Despite a bad shank earlier in the game, he still has the second-highest average per punt in UCF history, but that grip is slipping.

To pile on, the return game had issues too. Punt returner Divaad Wilson bobbled the ball a bit and picked up a punt when the coverage was converging. The kick return team also struggled on a bouncing kick that luckily was downed in the endzone for a touchback.

There is much work to be done here. Where do you start first?

Uniform review

NCAA Football: Louisville at Central Florida Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Can we retire the name “big game gold”? The gold helmet with black tops and bottoms looks nice but I think it’s time to drop the fancy moniker.

Stat Leaders

UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 16/34 for 131 yards, 0 TD, 1 Int
LOU: Malik Cunningham: 14/29 for 195 yards, 0 TD, 0 Int

UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 17 carries for 83 yards, 0 TD
LOU: Malik Cunningham: 17 carries for 121 yards, 1 TD

UCF: Javon Baker: 5 catches for 84 yards, 0 TD
LOU: Tyler Hudson: 3 catches for 67 yards, 0 TD

Game Notes

  • Louisville leads the series 3-1.
  • My personal streak of wins in games I covered in person has ended
  • Kicker Daniel Obarski’s two extra points gives him 111 in his career, tying him for sixth in school history with Javier Beorlegui.
  • Punter Andrew Osteen had 8 punts to give him 178 for his career, passing Charlie Pierce(173) for third all-time at UCF.
  • Sorry it’s not my best, but the Sons of UCF threw a great tailgating party.