The 20-14 loss to the Louisville Cardinals last Friday was a beacon of disappointment for UCF Knights fans. Over and above the sting of losing, the Knights failing to capitalize on 4th quarter opportunities, quarterback John Rhys Plumlee struggling, losing wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe to a hamstring injury, the touchdowns taken off the board due to two of the team’s 11 penalties, and the missed opportunity to avenge last year’s gut-wrenching result in Louisville all led to the heartbreak of Knight Nation.
During his press conference Monday, head coach Gus Malzahn bore the weight of the loss as his responsibility.
“Probably the biggest take when I look at the [film] — the penalties and kinda shooting ourselves in the foot and of course that falls on me as the coach, I’ve got to get that corrected because last week I stood up here and said that our penalties were going to get corrected and it didn’t happen. “ Malzahn said.
UCF’s second-year coach had said that he felt bad for the fans who cheered them at FBC Mortgage Stadium as the squad failed to deliver the victory that he feels they deserved for their passion. It is with that energy that he and the team looked to build and battle back to a road win against the Owls of Florida Atlantic.
Their quarterback N’Kosi Perry is a transfer from Miami that has led his crew to be 9th in the country in total offense this season and 12th in 3rd down conversion rate with a solid balance of passing and running.
With that in mind, the Knights’ defense was easily the high point of their performance last week and the squad is certainly using that to keep themselves in the right might set according to linebacker Jason Johnson
“We always want to be confident in ourselves — there’s no reason not to be,” said Johnson. “We always got to believe in ourselves to do well.”
And considering that the defense got the ball back for the offense a couple of times, one would think that maintaining that same energy could keep UCF in the contest if the offense struggles on Saturday in Boca Raton.
Tight end Alec Holler conveyed opportunities for improvement exist in the low-hanging fruit of cleaning up little mistakes — especially the ones that took plays off the board.
“. . . Even though those plays don’t show up on the scoreboard, they do bring you some confidence like, ‘hey, we can move the ball’ it’s just stopping those little mistakes that prevent you from winning games,” said Holler.
There is still plenty for UCF to play for as the Knights have yet to begin to face American Athletic Conference opponents. Using the upcoming game to shore up problems must be the target of the program to turn 2022 into a successful year.