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Knight Class Week 3: UCF 48, Villanova 14

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

Derek Warden

It was “Timmy Time” for the UCF Knights who hosted the Villanova Wildcats Saturday night in a 48-14 blowout with second-string quarterback Timmy McClain leading the offense.

Yippie Ki Yay, Backup Passer

Every UCF fan was curious what McClain would do in a “tune-up” game after losing starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee in the closing minutes of the Boise State road win last week. That’s not to say that facing the Wildcats is a true simulation of what Power 5 opponents will bring the rest of the year. But this being the first action McClain has seen a starting since playing against UCF as a USF Bull, the numbers that the redshirt-sophomore transfer put up were encouraging with the Wildcats of Kansas State next on the docket on the road in primetime.

While McClain completed 20 of his 28 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, considering how long it took for him to release the ball on many plays is a bit of a red flag. This put the offensive line’s dominance on display giving miles of time to their field general, but can that be replicated in conference play?

Moreover, once the ball was loosed it seemed to come out high to where receivers would need to reach up to snag the ball. This leaves receivers vulnerable to taking big shots from defenders. The good news? That is correctable with more snaps and repetition as the season goes on.

The best news for the offense under McClain was UCF on 3rd down. While some efforts to convert didn’t look great, the Knights converted 5 of the 11 attempts with Timmy under center on “money downs” including moving the chains one time on 4th down. If the Knights can take care of the football and keep possession, that is a recipe to keep themselves in games.

Defensive Dominance

While defensive tackle Ricky Barber didn’t start, the contest, UCF’s defensive front was just as dominant as ever. Villanova was held to 228 yards on offense while safety Nikai Martinez recorded his first interception of the year in the opening quarter. That pick makes the Knights’ third straight game recording a takeaway which is a sign of improvement under defensive coordinator Addison Williams.

As a squad, the Knights tallied five tackles for loss where several young players saw time including defensive tackle Matthew Alexander who recorded his first career sack.

Making the Grade

Grading performances in blowout games is always difficult. In sports, it’s rare that things are as good or as bad as one thinks they are with that in mind,

Offense: B

The running game had plenty of electric moments. Stop me if you heard these before — RJ Harvey and Johnny Richardson are both athletes while Jordan McDonald is a wrecking ball in the “5-Cat” formation. Harvey finished the night leading in rushing with 85 yards on 14 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

While they put up 34 points in the first half alone, McClain will need to supplant the butterflies of a first start and continue to build. His decision-making throughout the evening was solid except for a few near-disaster throws early. McClain hit seven different teammates for completions before Dylan Rizk came in.

Kobe Hudson was the top receiver on the night hauling in six catches for 147 yards.

That being said, if can manage the game with no turnovers moving forward the Knights to have a shot.

Defense: A

Whenever a team only allows 14 points in an evening, credit should be given. After all, keeping the scoreboard dark is the job. The first real test comes in facing a true Big 12 offense next week.

Can the defensive line continue to dominate? Can they continue the streak of games with both a sack and a takeaway? How those questions are answered will determine their fate.

Special Teams: A-

UCF fans will always enjoy Colton Boomer pounding in field goals — and he bombed in two of them from 26 and 41. However, getting a 92-punt return touchdown by Xavier Townsend called back on a penalty is always going to get you docked.