With a historical win last week over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the UCF Knights had their first win of an incumbent Big 12 program. However, the cloud of a potential letdown game set in over Knight fans heading into Lubbock, Texas facing the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Whether that’s what fans think happened or not, the Red Raiders won the nailbiter, 24-23.
Looking for a LetDown.
For all those in Knight nation worried about an emotional letdown after the epic win over a top 15 team in the nation last week (who is now ranked 23rd). That is not what happened here as UCF jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
Maybe the Red Raiders come out a touch flat after beating the then-16th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (who are now ranked 25)? The argument could be made they came out flat after failing on 4th downs in the opening two drives as the nation’s second-best in conversions. That being said, Texas Tech still closed the gap to tie it at 14 a piece going into the half despite UCF controlling possession.
That dominance in possession was all melted away by a colossal missed opportunity heading into the locker room. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee tossed an inside pitch to running back RJ Harvey on a play that started with 12 seconds left and no timeouts from the Red Raider five-yard line. Had Plumlee thrown the ball away, perhaps Colton Boomer boots in the chip shot to take a lead at the half 17-14 instead?
The Raiders of Red came right back to attack in the ground game once they took the lead in the 3rd quarter where they cashed in on a Plumlee interception. A costly 32-yard missed field goal only added to the list of self-inflicted wounds that the Knights have committed upon themselves in every loss.
Making the Grade:
Special Teams: C-
Gotta start out with the positive early on here. The fake field goal play was a huge momentum boost. Punter Mitch McCarthy makes what is easily the most underrated play of the year with the over-the-head toss while crouched to kicker Colton Boomer in motion for a 24-yard jaunt right on the doorstep which was eventually cashed in for points.
Unfortunately for Boomer, he was not as proficient in his specialty missing a 32-yard kick hitting the upright. He’ll also be credited with a missed extra point with the block that prevented overtime after the huge score by wide receiver Javon Baker.
That being said, some points have to be taken off for struggles in kickoff coverage. For all the size that’s alleged to be missing in the offensive line, the biggest deficiency appears to be in the kick coverage teams who were trucked about the field.
More credit where it’s due though, McCarthy had a solid day of kicks as well averaging more than 43 yards a punt.
Give Tahj Brooks credit. There’s a reason he put up 182 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. He’s quite possibly the most balanced runner that UCF has faced this season and an NFL-caliber player possibly playing his final game in college at home.
That being said, still holding Texas Tech’s offense to 3-of-9 on 3rd downs and stopping 4th down on both attempts are also impressive stats. Most importantly, when the Knights needed the defense to keep them in the game in the 4th quarter down 21-17 they held the Red Raiders to a field goal sending them away without a touchdown for the second time inside the 20. It was a missed PAT that stopped the Knights from tying it up.
The offense had unparalleled success moving the ball and dominating time of possession during a road game while also shooting themselves in the foot canceling out big gains with penalties.
While running back Harvey ran for fewer than 100 yards for the first time in six games, they still ran for a total of 238 yards behind a line that featured Lokahi Pauole at center for the second consecutive game.
Credit also to Baker who finished the contest with catches for 118 yards including in what could have been the game-tying catch taking advantage of a huge opening caused by a blown coverage on a corner blitz.
While Plumlee led in rushing yards for the Knights with 84 on 13 carries, his passing performance was less than desirable. He completed 50% of his 32 passes for 249 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
One must also consider the colossal time management blunder that was the end of the first half.
The good news for the Knights is that bowl season is a possibility with the final game of the year hosting the Houston Cougars at the Bounce Houston.
Until next time everyone, class dismissed.