When the Knights came off the field after their victory hosting FCS school Austin Peay, 73-33, there were accolades galore that followed. UCF had achieved the most points scored in a game in the school’s history. They were officially 7-0, also a program-first during a season. Additionally, as one of five remaining undefeated teams in the nation, they are the only one to win all their games by double digits. Central Florida would eventually be lifted up to #15 on the AP Poll and DB Mike Hughes would even be named Special Teams Player of the Week in the AAC Conference.
With all the awards and celebration from the fans and media alike, the only word I heard to consistently describe the performance from players and Head Coach Scott Frost led to a completely different sentiment — “disappointing”.
I specifically asked left tackle Aaron Evans about this and he explained, “If you had been in the locker room after the game you felt like we lost. No one was cheering — it was just quiet. We were just listening to the coach. We were like, ‘we knew we didn’t play well as we could’. I think that’s a sign that we’re growing and we’re maturing as a team. Numbers are numbers, but you know how you play”.
But for all the disappointment they expressed in their dominant win over the Governors, there is some acknowledgment that it’s best it happened when it did. Linebacker and 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin put it best. “. . . It was a humbling experience and we gotta take it like that. It was important that we got that now instead of later. I felt good about coming back to practice [Monday] and making sure that we didn’t worry about the criticism that we got from the coaches and it was important that we took it in and learned from it. And it kinda made us have an even better practice [Monday]. We just gotta key on that and we can keep going forward”. He would later add, “USF and their situation it kinda also humbled us. You know in this conference that you can be knocked off at any moment no matter what team it is”.
Griffin mentioned the USF Bulls falling to a conference opponent as a very relevant threat in concept as the Knights are set to visit the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. This, like the Bulls’ game turned, leaves a trap could be a trap game where a Top #25 team playing in the AAC East could be upset by an AAC West team.
The ‘Stangs offense features a high-powered offense that averages 40 points per game themselves. Coach Frost show respect saying of them,”They have weapons on offense and they’re gonna put up points. Our defense has played really well when they’ve had some big challenges in front of them and we’re gonna need that from them. They’re a good team [and] in this league if you don’t play well against anybody they can beat ya — and this is one of the better teams in the league”.