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Knight Class Week 5: UCF vs Baylor

What did we learn about UCF this week according to The Student of the Game from the biggest blown lead in program history?

For all the fan trepidation coming out of the Kansas State game last week, the excitement in the first UCF Knights home game in the Big 12 reigned supreme in the Bounce House. . . at least for the first half. UCF led 35-7 in the middle of the 3rd quarter in a rematch of the 2014 Fiesta Bowl hosting the Baylor Bears. A large volume of fans who left early may have missed Baylor pulling off the biggest comeback in their program’s history, 36-35.

Defense: What happened?

Out of the gate, UCF’s defensive line attacked Baylor’s starting quarterback Blake Shapen to make his return to action after the Week 1 injury uncomfortable quickly. While UCF only had a single sack last week, the Knights recorded two in the first quarter with four for the contest.

The Knights also extended their streak of games with a turnover to five. Demari Henderson forced and carried a fumble by Bears’ running back Dominic Richardson 87 yards to the house. In the end, UCF head coach Gus Malzahn lamented his defense allowing 10-of-18 on 3rd down conversions as the the man factor that let the Bears come out of hibernation.

Offense: What happened?

With members of the 2013 UCF team in attendance, backup quarterback Timmy McClain in his first Big 12 home start was even better than any of his previous two starts despite his lesser stat line. He completed 13 of his 25 passes for 234 yards and two passing touchdowns with an interception as well as a rushing score. His poise in the pocket and ability to follow blocks to extend plays were on display at various points in the game.

McClain did have a couple of errant throws, including a third-quarter interception on a third and long in the red zone. That play doesn’t happen if an illegal procedure call doesn’t negate a big gain on the previous 1st down play, but it is another instance of mistakes piling up and sinking the offense like quicksand. 3rd down was murder as well for this unit finishing 5-of-13 accented on the night.

RJ Harvey was still the best player on the field for the offense. He carried the ball for 21 attempts for 95 yards with a 16-yard catch and was excellent in pass protection. That being said his 4th quarter fumble that was picked up by Baylor’s Caden Jenkins and taken to the house 72 yards will be all that’s remembered. This made the score 35-33 and set up the Bears for the eventual 25-yard game-winning Isiah Hankins field goal.

After heading into halftime with less than 7:00 minutes in time of possession and a big lead, UCF’s was dominated in Time of Possession by 11 minutes which is part of how the Bears pulled off 26 unanswered points in the fourth quarter where the Knights’ offense also failed to show up.

Making the Grade

Special Teams: I

The I is for incomplete.

It was a tough night for punter Mitch McCarthy who not only fumbled a hold that failed to allow kicker Colton Boomer to finish his motion on a 32-yard blocked field goal. McCarthy also shanked a punt with 10:55 remaining in the final quarter for only 19 yards.

Colton Boomer’s attempt for the walkoff win sailed for 50 yards. Unfortunately, it was for an incredibly difficult 59-yard kick.

Defense: I

The I is for incomplete.

For the first 28:30 of the game time that Baylor had the ball, UCF’s defense was accomplishing things that fans were calling for to show an improvement after the K-State loss. Unfortunately for Knight fans, Baylor had the ball for 35:31.

That’s the issue when your defense’s most dominant unit is the defensive tackles. When the biggest guys on the roster are the driving force, at some point, they need a breath in order to keep teams from exposing weaknesses in the linebackers and defensive backs levels.

Offense: I

The I is for incomplete.

When you play well and can’t keep focus after miscues, this is what can happen.

For the first three quarters of play, the Knights moved the chains on 3rd down 4-of-7 times. Big plays such as Johnny Richardson’s 79-yard touchdown on UCF’s first offensive play and Javon Baker’s 57-yard bomb for six from McClain prevented the need for a 3rd down. But in the fourth quarter, the offense sputtered converting only 1-of-6 times on the money down. It gives the appearance of your team leaving early with the fans who did the same with a large halftime lead.

In short, this young program has to learn what it is to finish a game with a lead on major programs that won’t roll over like G5 opponents who are more likely to capitulate.

Coach Malzahn said himself after the game that this team has to take this loss as a tough life lesson.

Until next time in Kansas battling the Jayhawks on the road, Class Dismissed!!!