What the Knights Learned vs. South Florida

UCF's workmanlike football victory Friday night over instate rival USF came about in much the same fashion as the eight other Knight wins in 2019:
--a healthy dose of Adrian Killins and his (at least on the UCF roster) unmatched speed
--another big day (two touchdown receptions) from elite receiver Gabe Davis
--another solid effort from freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel (270 passing yards and no turnovers)
--a typical effort at the line of scrimmage from the Knights, who lead the nation in tackles for loss at 9.3 per game (and added nine more versus USF)
--and the best statistical defensive performance of the year (250 net yards allowed)
It was a night to celebrate the best four-year run in program history by just about any measure—but, in particular, a combined 40 victories and (for the first time in Knight annals) four consecutive bowl invitations.
With a week to wait for UCF's 2019 postseason assignment, here are some final thoughts on all those areas and more from the UCF (9-3 overall, 6-2 AAC) victory over the Bulls:

  1. The Knights spoiled their home fans in 2019. UCF extended its Spectrum Stadium win streak to 21 Friday night (tied with Clemson for the longest in the country) and finished off a third straight season without a home loss (something else that had never been done at UCF). Here's how dominant the Knights were on their home field in their six outings there:
    --They averaged 47.0 points and 577.3 total yards, outscoring those half-dozen opponents by 28.3 points per game and outgaining them in total offense by 240.2 yards per game.
    --Maybe most impressive, the Knights took care of the football, building a combined turnover margin of 11 to four at home.
    --Dillon Gabriel may not have been perfect in Spectrum Stadium, yet it's worth noting he threw 17 TD passes there without a single interception in six home dates—averaging 281.3 passing yards per game with a .662 completion percentage. Interestingly enough, Gabriel's only interceptions in 2019 came in the three road games UCF lost. His 23 completions (and 39 attempts) against USF marked his most at home in 2019.
  2. The Knights have done better in the turnover area than we realized. It was noteworthy that the final two UCF wins at Tulane and versus USF featured zero turnovers, the third and fourth times in 2019 that has been the case and the first two times since the opening two games of the season versus FAMU and FAU. It's also worth noting that, despite Josh Heupel's concerns at times in that area, no team in the AAC turned the ball over fewer times than the Knights (14). SMU had 15, Navy 16, Memphis and East Carolina 17 each. 
  3. And the Knights continue to hang with . . . . UCF has scored 68 touchdowns to date (only Ohio State with 82, Alabama 78, LSU 76, Clemson 73 and Oklahoma and SMU at 69 each have more). National statistical rankings again list UCF among names in the conversation at the upper echelon of this week's NCAA numbers. Overall, the Knights rank in the national top 10 in eight different NCAA team categories—and lead the AAC in eight. Here's where UCF stands in the various top 10s:
    --1st in tackles for loss (9.3 per game)
    --4th in total offense at 536.6 yards per game (Oklahoma is atop that list at 564.3)
    --6th in third-down defense percentage at .280
    --6th in scoring offense at 43.0 (Ohio State tops that chart at 49.9)
    --6th in team passing efficiency defense at 109.01 (Clemson is first at 89.42)
    --7th in total first downs with 308 (Ohio State leads with 341) 
    --8th in passing yards per completion at 15.12 (Air Force is #1 at 24.56)
    --8th in passing offense at 320.0 (Washington State is #1 at 444.3)
  4. And on the individual side. . . . Here's where UCF players rank among national statistical leaders this week:--Dillon Gabriel 5th in passing yards per completion (15.28 each, #1 in AAC)
    --Otis Anderson 5th in punt returns (13.2 each, #1 in AAC)
    --Gabriel Davis 5th in receiving yards (1,241, #1 in AAC)
    --Davis 8th in receiving TDs (12, #2 in AAC)
    --Gabriel 9th in passing yards (3,393, #2 in AAC)
  5. UCF is in elite company. A postseason victory would give the Knights their third straight 10-win season, a first for UCF. With 34 combined victories over that span, it also would put the Knights in rarified air based on the programs that already have won 10 or more each of the last three years: Clemson (39 combined wins), Alabama (37), Ohio State (37), Oklahoma (35), Notre Dame (34) and Boise State (32). 
  6. Big-time numbers. On their way to those 34 combined victories, here's how the last three UCF seasons compare from a numbers standpoint, including NCAA rankings:
Scoring Offense1st at 48.26th at 43.26th at 43.0
Scoring Defense52nd at 25.336th at 22.738th at 22.8
Total Offense5th at 530.55th at 522.74th at 536.8
Total Defense93rd at 427.995th at 433.734th at 344.8
Rushing Offense33rd at 198.78th at 265.221st at 216.6
Rushing Defense59th at 159.8117th at 222.353rd at 144.9
Passing Offense10th at 331.836th at 257.58th at 320.0
Passing Yards Allowed115th at 268.150th at 211.432nd at 199.9
Team Passing Efficiency Offense2nd at 178.4721st at 149.7117th at 158.39
Team Passing Efficiency Defense56th at 125.8927th at 117.346th at 109.01

In a single year (comparing 2019 to 2018) UCF improved its total defense figure by 61 ranking spots and its yards-allowed number by 88.9 yards. In two years the Knights' pass efficiency defense ranking improved by 50 spots.