What the Knights Learned at Houston

UCF may well have put together its most comprehensive game of the 2020 season Saturday at Houston when it comes to all elements of a football game.
The Knights have allowed their share of yards this fall—yet they prospered Saturday by forcing Cougar punts on three of the first four possessions in each half. That allowed UCF to build a lead that was never seriously threatened.
Now, with a week off before Temple comes to town Nov. 14, the Knights (4-2 overall, 3-2 AAC) prepare to finish with a three-game stretch that begins with a pair of contests at the Bounce House and ends with a bus ride to Tampa to meet USF to finish the regular season.
Here are some late takeaways from UCF's second consecutive victory:

  1. Defense does more than enough. The beauty of UCF's bid to play complementary football is that when your team is as consistently as productive on offense as the Knights have been, it may take only a handful of defensive stops to create a point differential that becomes unmanageable for the opponent. That happened Saturday at Houston, and it could have been even more one-sided had UCF turned any of their early field goals into touchdowns. The potent Cougars came in riding high from their win over Navy and remained one of the conference unbeatens (in league play) until the Knights over 12 Houston drives limited eight of those to 40 or fewer yards (and the six of those that ended in punts averaged only 4.7 plays and 16.6 yards).
  2. Have it your way. While most observers think of the passing game when they study the UCF offense, quarterback Dillon Gabriel actually seemed to glory in the work of the Knights' run game Saturday at Houston. UCF has averaged 309.5 ground yards over its last two wins over Tulane and Houston--and the Knights now lead the league in both rushing yards per game (234.8, ninth best in the country) as well as passing. By the way, when's the last time a team finished with 353 rushing yards in a game (as UCF did Saturday in Houston) after being shut out on a net basis in the opening period? And the Knights did all that against the best run defense in the conference. 
  3. Let's not jinx him. Dillon Gabriel now has thrown 166 straight passes without an interception—including his last 44 vs. Tulsa, 49 at Memphis and 40 vs. Tulane and 33 vs. Houston. His last INT came in the first period vs. Tulsa. He boasts the second longest streak in the country.
  4. Nobody has a better pair. From a numbers standpoint, Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson already have gone a long way to suggest they rank as the most prolific pair of pass receivers in combination in the country. Williams leads the nation in receiving yards (840), while Robinson is fifth (709)—and they rank first and second in the AAC in that category as well as receiving yards per game. Williams now averages 9.8 catches per contest—Robinson is at 6.2. They've combined for 10 TD catches. 
  5. Missed statistic of the week.  UCF senior safety Richie Grant now leads the nation in interceptions with three (tied with 18 other players). He has 10 in his career, fifth on the all-time UCF list.

And where do the Knights stand this week in the national statistics?
--#1 in total offense (652.5 yards per game)
--#1 in passing offense (417.7 yards per game)
--#1 in fumbles recovered (9)
--#3 in turnover margin (plus-1.5)
--#4 in scoring (45.0 points)
--#9 in rushing (234.8 yards per game)
And on an individual basis:
--Dillon Gabriel #1 in total offense (437.0), passing yards (2,506), passing yards per game (417.7) and TD passes (21), #4 in completions per game (27.8), #9 in passing yards per completion (15.0) and #15 in passing efficiency
--Marlon Williams #1 in receiving yards (840), #3 in receptions per game (9.8) and receiving yards per game (140.0), #8 in receiving TDs (6)
--Richie Grant #1 in interceptions (3), #2 in fumbles recovered (2)
--Jaylon Robinson #5 in receiving yards (709)