UCF to Have Tougher Out vs. Memphis Tigers

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Apologies to all the fans of the University of Central Florida, but I’m going to seem like a bit of a buzzkill.  Yes, the spanking of the Florida International Panthers, 61-17, made a statement that the Knights have improved from 2016. Yes, sophomore quarterback Mckenzie Milton was the American Athletic Conference’s  Offensive Player of the Week opening his season with a career performance of 360 yards, four touchdowns, and a 76% completion with only one interception. Yes, the offense put 40 points up in the first half alone while the defense caused four turnovers. But when I posed the question of what this game actually means in the grand scheme of UCF’s 2017 campaign, my response is “not a lot”. There are lots of positive points to build on and there is a ‘1’ in the ‘W’ column’, but it is only a single outing of many. It was Central Florida doing exactly what they are supposed to do in a game like this if they are to be taken seriously as a rising power on a national stage.

Week Two marks the first of the early season challenges as the first AAC opponent, the Memphis Tigers, represent the first step toward a conference championship.  When asked if he thought this was a “measuring stick game”, UCF Head Coach Scott Frost seemed unphased as usual.

“Every game is a measuring stick game. Last Week [vs FIU] was a measuring stick game to see where we were.  Now, we get a chance to see where we are compared to one of the better teams in our conference. Then, we’ll get a chance to see where we are against an ACC team and a Big 10 Team.”

Examining the Tigers victory hosting the University of Louisiana-Monroe, 37-29, it was a display of running prowess posting 319 yards and four touchdowns on the shoulders of sophomore running backs Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. However, the air attack for Memphis didn’t show as much only posting 97 yards, no touchdowns and a pick for the match with a 40% completion rate under senior passer Riley Ferguson.

The defense for the Cats forced three fumbles with junior linebacker Curtis Akins leading the team with nine tackles.  This means UCF’s O-line must continue to be consistent in protection passing while also doing more to improve the run game. I asked Junior Offensive Lineman Aaron Evans about what a successful run game looks like to Coach Frost in this offense.

“You’ll see big movement. . . the whole defense shifting; the whole defense moving.  You’ll see big holes open up and you’ll see big creases.  You’ll see the running back just open up and take off.  We have so much speed in our running back corps and it’ll just open up. You’ll know. It’ll just take off. You’ll see 10, 15, 20 yards gains consistently.”

If that holds up, I trust that UCF has a legitimate chance to win the game which was moved up to Friday from Saturday due to hurricane Irma.  If the Knights manage to do this consistently, perhaps the vision that Evans has in his squad going “12-0” will come true.

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