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Knee-Jerk Reactions: UCF 40 Florida Atlantic 14

The Knights bounce back in their first road game

#10 John Rhys Plumlee celebrates after scoring a rushing touchdown in the first quarter against FAU.
Noah Goldberg

After a slow start, the UCF Knights football train got rolling and ran through the Florida Atlantic Owls 40-14 to improve to a 4-0 lifetime record against the Owls and make the Knights 2-1 on the season. It’s some for some knee-jerk reactions.

UCF took notes after last week’s loss

The primary goal of every team is to win the conference. Then you add things on top of that. One reason teams do their out-of-conference games early in the season is to be able to tune the team for conference play. After a rough second half against Louisville, the coaching staff got to work and made some adjustments.

The playcalling, which was called into question last week, improved. There are still some issues to work out, such as getting the quarterback and center on the same page for direct snaps, but looking beyond that, the playcalling was pretty good. It’s easy to out-coach yourself and they didn’t for this week, at least.

The defensive scheme was good. While the execution had issues early on, the coaching side did what they needed to do to help keep an explosive FAU offense in check. The second-half adjustments along with proper execution were suffocating.

Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, other than an interception that nearly ended up as a touchdown, settled down and didn’t play hero ball. He still went through his progressions but did a better job of not forcing the ball where the opportunity didn’t present itself. He did find when the FAU defense broke down and capitalized. Ultimately, Plumlee had his best game as a Knight, going 25/36 for a career-best 339 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also added another 121 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

UCF remained committed to the run. Be it with Plumlee keeping it or handing it off. This is what UCF’s offense is built to do and the run opened up the pass, allowing UCF to create some big plays

The offensive line made the team dynamic

RB RJ Harvey
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It’s amazing what can happen when an offense has a little time to let plays develop.

Last week against Louisville, the offensive line was beaten thoroughly and the offense was unable to operate. Fast forward a week and the line was able to operate much better. The line as a unit did a better job protecting their gaps and communicating blitz pick-ups. Case in point, FAU had a delayed blitz on a pass play that center Matt Lee picked up. He got knocked back a little but kept the block and the other gaps were addressed. As a result, the blitz allowed tight end, Alec Holler, to break free and John Rhys Plumlee was able to hit him over the top for a large gain.

The success of the offense starts with the offensive line. When they’re on point, the offense can function properly, which we saw today. The game plan mixed a combination of no-huddle offense along with misdirection-inducing plays. The misdirection plays helped offset some of the weaknesses of the offensive line by forcing the defense to unexpectedly move left or right and prevent them from getting settled. These plays included using the wildcat formation, a flea flicker, a reverse into a flea flicker, and more.

With the offensive line working efficiently, UCF was able to convert 12/18 on third down and was also 2/2 on fourth down. Comparatively, FAU was only 5/13 on third down and didn't attempt to convert on fourth down.

It was also good to see running back RJ Harvey get back on the field and even score a touchdown. Harvey missed all of last year with an injury and has been a player I’ve wanted to see on the field since the 2021 spring game.

The defense had a rough first half

LB Branden Jennings
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

After two strong showings, the defense struggled against a good FAU offense. Before the game, the Knights were handicapped by the news that linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste was out. That left Walter Yates III, Jason Johnson, and Branden Jennings to cover the field.

On multiple occasions, the Owls were able to take advantage of yards after contact as a result of a missed tackle. It allowed FAU to stay in the game despite being rendered one-dimensional. Other than three first-half completions, FAU QB N’Kosi Perry had no completion over ten yards, and out of the 108 yards he threw, 61 of them came from those three completions.

The second half was a different story.

In the second half, UCF was able to correct their tackling problem and locked down the FAU offense to 18 total yards of offense(0 in the third, 18 in the fourth). In the third quarter, John Rhys Plumlee threw an interception that created a first and goal inside the UCF 5. FAU ended up going backward a yard and got their field goal attempt blocked by what looked like to be Keenan Hester. Everything the defense touched in the second half turned into gold, completely demoralizing the Owl offense in the process. What made this even better was that they did it without Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste.

Coming into this game, UCF ranked 20th in total defense, giving up 259 yards a game. FAU ended up with 296 of total offense versus 653 yards for UCF. That’s not a big difference compared to their average. UCF hasn’t finished in the top 20 in total defense since 2014.

Special teams made a change

In what was a hotly anticipated move, Colton Boomer took over placekicking duties from Daniel Obarski. The rumor mill was that Boomer was hampered by some injury previously or this move may have come sooner. Boomer’s first kick was a 41-yard field goal, which he hit. He then missed the next extra point but made every other kick. It’s likely he will continue to be the guy going forward.

What was less expected was the removal of Andrew Osteen as the punter and the insertion of Mitch McCarthy. UCF only punted once, which went 46 yards. The question of whether this was a one-time change or if it will continue isn’t known. Osteen has been inconsistent, averaging 40.1 yards per kick.

Uniform review

The Pegasus might be a little too subtle.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

UCF went with a white shell with the uneven script logo, white tops, and gold pants. This looks like the 2013-15 series, especially from a distance. The Pegasus on the white is nearly invisible unless looked close up like in the picture above. On TV, their visibility isn’t good and from any material distance, it just looks like black numbers in a sea of white. I want to see photographic evidence that the Knights script doesn’t look good on the other side of the helmet.

Stat Leaders

UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 25/36 for 339 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int
FAU: N’Kosi Perry: 13/29 for 108 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int

UCF: John Rhys Plumlee: 20 carries for 121 yards, 2 TD
FAU: Larry McCammon III: 11 carries for 91 yards, 0 TD

UCF: Alec Holler: 3 catches for 115 yards, 0 TD
FAU: Jahmall Edrine: 2 catches for 47 yards, 0 TD

Game Notes

  • UCF leads the series 4-0.
  • Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee sets a new career high in passing yards. His previous record was set against South Carolina State earlier this season.
  • Plumlee’s 121 rushing yards is second best in UCF history for rushing by a quarterback. The record is 122 yards by Vic Penn in 1999.
  • Plumlee becomes the first quarterback in UCF history with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing.
  • Sorry it’s not my best, but I zoned out due to CBS Sports Network having too many commercials.