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Knight Class Week 6: UCF at Kansas

What did we learn about UCF this week according to The Student of the Game?

The scarring loss to the Baylor Bears left the UCF Knights feeling desperate for a shot in the arm in Lawrence battling the Kansas Jayhawks. That desperation led to quarterback John Rhys Plumlee starting his first game since the knee injury in Week 2. It seemed to backfire as the Jayhawks rendered UCF pointless in a 51-22 beat down.

Who is Daniels?

For all the talk in the media and movement of the betting line surrounding Kansas starting quarterback Jalon Daniels missing the contest, it didn’t seem to matter at all. Jayhawk quarterback Jason Bean filled in completing eight of his 12 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.

The Jayhawks ground game shredded the Knights' defense. The Jayhawks carried it 51 times for 399 yards while also converting 6-of-9 on third down. This means they didn’t need very many third downs to move the chains.

Devin Neal led the squad in production with 12 carries and 154 yards with a touchdown. Not to be outdone, Daniel Hishaw went 19 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

Running to the outside and challenging the UCF linebackers spread out the defensive line. This enabled Neal and company to challenge the defensive tackles. The Knights’ defense was on the field for 34:25 of the game.

The one bright spot for the defense is Demari Henderson taking a blocked extra point back to the house to put two points on the board. This means the streak of games with a takeaway ends at five.

Plumlee Ploy Backfires

For all the failings on the defense, the offense didn’t do them any favors.

Once Plumlee completed three of his seven throws for the day in the first two offensive drives for 33 yards he left the game. Continued struggles on offense on 3rd down in the first half converting 1-of-5 crushed both the ability to score and the defense’s stamina which enabled Kansas to take a 24-0 lead.

Two of their first three drives were three-and-outs with a fumble given away by Timmy McClain and a fumble return touchdown.

RJ Harvey was the top performer offensively turning in 16 carries for 133 yards and a 53-yard touchdown. McClain finished the evening with 12-of-15 passing for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns with 10 rushes for a total of five yards and a 21-yard long. He was sacked four times.

Making the Grade

Special Teams: F

Giving up a punt return to the house with some of the players standing and watching the punt get received isn’t good. When a Jayhawk player tripping his own guy down is the only thing preventing a second return score, you have systemic problems.

Even if you convert a late onside kick is nice, but there’s also no such thing as an ‘F+’.

Defense: F

Going back to the Kansas State Wildcats game, the outside containment issues are exposed. Running inside becomes easy when the defensive line spreads out to try and help the outside run.

Also, late in the game, keeping safeties back instead of moving up to help in the run when opponents already have two 100+ yard ground gainers and the backup starting threw the ball only 12 times in the game is a significant adjustment blunder.

Offense: F

Starting John Rhys Plumlee as a move to raise the team’s spirit was a risk. Putting him back on the field when Plumlee said he “felt something pop” is recklessness. With Plumlee going back out there unable to pass the ball on the run with the state of his knee injury, his not being ready not only seemed to demoralize the team. It appeared to have left their backup feeling less confident as well.

Then continuing to put the quarterback into third and longs with attempts running outside when inside runs are working only compounds the problem. UCF did put up 22 points in the second half, but only after the first halftime shutout since Halloween in 2015.

For all the UCF “fans” calling for Gus Malzahn’s firing, his contract extension as well as three straight record-breaking years of recruiting make that all but impossible.

Maybe the Knights can use the bye week to refocus and allow Plumlee to fully heal and try and find answers.

Until next time everyone, Class Dismissed!