What the Knights Learned vs. Tulsa

With a minute remaining in the first half Saturday night, UCF led visiting Tulsa by 18 points and the Knights had every reason to think they could close out a football victory and head into a bye week with all the momentum in the world—leading to a key Oct. 17 date at defending American Athletic Conference champion Memphis.
But all that changed late on a moist, humid Saturday evening at the Bounce House—as that same Tulsa team scored 29 of the last 32 points in the game and walked away with a come-from-behind win over the Knights for a second straight year.
That changes some of the focus for the UCF efforts in the week to come—and here are some of the subjects the Knights expect to address:

  1. Offensive efficiency. It would have been too good to be true to think UCF could simply put up 645 offensive yards a game all year long, even if the Knights at times made it look easy to do in their first two victories. However, Tulsa found a way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans, especially in the second half when UCF was "held" to 208 net yards. Expect Knight coaches to look hard at what the Hurricane did to force four straight punts late in the game (two on possessions that began at the UCF one and four) when those possessions combined to produce only 79 yards. The weather was some factor, especially in the first half—but the workmanlike yardage-gobbling attack UCF fans saw the first two weeks never quite got in sync in the Knights' first home game.
  2. Knights still need to run it. Lost in the over-the-top record passing numbers by Dillon Gabriel the first two weeks was the fact UCF complemented all that by running for at least 224 yards in both those contests. That changed Saturday night, as Tulsa gave up 84 net yards to Otis Anderson but limited all other UCF runners to 17 carries for 41 yards. That total of 125 yards for the home team fell more than 108 yards below their early-season average. Anderson had one TD run of 49 yards—the Knights' other 33 rushes averaged 2.3 yards each (a far cry from UCF's overall 2020 yards-per-rush mark of 4.7). 
  3. Penalties need more work. The Knights talked last week about finding ways to cut down on penalties after surviving 19 of those costing UCF 139 yards in the win at East Carolina. But that did not happen Saturday as the Knights committed another 18 for 124 lost yards (13 of the penalties in the second half with the game on the line).
  4. Some impressive defensive numbers. It's hard to argue with some of the UCF defensive handiwork so far—including eight forced fumbles (that ranks first nationally), a number-one ranking in turnover margin (plus-2.3 per game) and 7.3 tackles for loss per outing. However, the Knights firmly believe they can do better than their current 456 total yards allowed per contest.
  5. History says the UCF offense will prevail. It's still early, yet after one weekend of play in October (and one-third of the way through the 2020 season), UCF ranks second nationally in total offense (582.3 yards per game, just 3.4 yards behind leader BYU), ninth in scoring (42.0 points per game), third in passing offense (385.0 per outing) and 22nd in rushing (197.3 per game). Dillon Gabriel rates second in passing yards per game and second in completions per game. But, as the Knights learned Saturday night, it still takes all elements of the UCF game to win football contests.