UCF passes first test, looks to be better in Week 2

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UCF football coach Gus Malzahn suggested he and his staff would learn as much about their football team in the Boise State game as they had in their entire preseason camp.
The same probably could be said for Knight Nation.
Here's what's trending for the Knights (1-0) as they prepare to play host to Bethune-Cookman Saturday night at the Bounce House (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+):

  1. Ball control. At least based on the UCF opener versus Boise State, the Knights appear to be opting for more of a mixture of the run and pass. That boded well for Gus Malzahn's team last week—and it played out in multiple ways:
    --an effective run game (255 yards)
    --a greater-than-usual possession game, as the Knights' 34:46 figure for time of possession marked the largest for a UCF team since a 2017 game versus Memphis
    --only 23 defensive snaps (compared to 50 plays for UCF) in the second half versus Boise State—while permitting minus-27 rushing yards (137 for UCF), 64 total yards (303 for UCF) and four first downs (16 for UCF) after intermission
    --a UCF second-half time-of-possession edge of 21:09 to 8:51
    --best overall rush defense (20 net rushing yards by Boise State) since four yards on 25 carries by Florida A&M in 2019
    --best overall defense (283 yards) since allowing 250 to South Florida in 2019 regular-season finale
  2. The Bowser effect. Maybe Knight fans didn't know exactly what to expect from the UCF run game—given the loss of the top three backs from a year ago (Greg McCrae, Otis Anderson and Bentavious Thompson). The mystery continued when R. J. Harvey, projected to be a significant contributor, suffered a season-ending preseason injury. Enter Isaiah Bowser, a transfer from Northwestern. It's not like Bowser hadn't been productive (166 ground yards as a true freshman in 2018 versus Illinois and 165 against Iowa that same year). But his 33 carries marked the first time in a decade (Brynn Harvey with 30 in 2011 vs. Marshall) that a UCF back had recorded 30 or more rush attempts in a single game. And his 172 yards marked most by a UCF back since Anderson had 205 at Temple in 2019.     
  3. Remembering 9/11. UCF's game Saturday night against Bethune-Cookman marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Here's how the Knights will recognize that event:
    --a moment of silence prior to the National Anthem
    --the Anthem sung by a UCF Air Force ROTC student
    --a combined halftime tribute by the UCF and Bethune-Cookman bands to America's first responders, including a performance of America the Beautiful and a bagpipe player performing Amazing Grace
    --recognition of a first responder as hero of the game
    --9/11 stickers worn by UCF players on the backs of their helmets
  4. Transfer tidbits. Players who transferred to UCF in the offseason were expected to play a significant role in the Knights' 2021 fortunes and that was certainly the case in the opener versus Boise State:--RB Isaiah Bowser (transferred from Northwestern): started and carried 33 times for a career-high 172 yards (ranks 9th nationally in rushing, 2nd in AAC), while also catching 4 passes for 29 yards; named to AAC Honor Roll; earned CBS Sports Network "Inside College Football" game ball from Aaron Taylor for play vs. Boise State
    --WR Brandon Johnson (Tennessee): started and caught 5 passes for 47 yards, including 12-yard TD reception; voted team captain (1 of 4) by his teammates
    --DE Big Kat Bryant (Auburn): started and made 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 2 QB hurries; voted team captain (1 of 4) by his teammates
    --DT Ricky Barber (Western Kentucky): started and made 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL for 7 yards, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry
    --OLB Bryson Armstrong (Kennesaw State): started and made 6 tackles
    --DB Marco Domio (Auburn): made 1 tackle in reserve role