The minute late Monday morning that UCF football coach Gus Malzahn announced that quarterback John Rhys Plumlee would miss the Villanova game (and possibly more) after injuring his knee on the game-winning drive at Boise State, Knight fans began their collective gnashing of teeth:
--Can next-man-up Timmy McClain fit the UCF offensive puzzle?
--Will anything change about the look of the Knights’ offense with a new (lefthanded) signal-caller in place?
--Will McClain’s experience (nine starts as a true freshman at South Florida in 2021) trump the fact the last of those starts came in November 2021 in Orlando against UCF?
--And, finally, after losing their starting quarterback in the second game of the season for the second time in three seasons, can the Knights catch a break in that department?
Defensive captains Josh Celiscar and Jason Johnson (in sharing the team lead in tackles Saturday night) made sure McClain and Knight fans had little to worry about against a Villanova program that has had plenty of historical success at the FCS level and came in at 2-0.
Here’s how the UCF defense set the tone in the first 30 minutes of play:
--one Villanova pass completion permitted in the first half (for one yard)
--a long drive of 17 yards in the first two quarters for the visitors
--no trip past midfield for the Wildcats
--only 24 defensive snaps in the opening half for UCF, an almost unheard-of low total
The Knights ran more than twice as many plays as Villanova in periods one and two combined, led 34-0 at intermission—and more than set the stage for the resulting 48-14 final score.
UCF finishes 3-0 on the non-conference portion of the 2023 schedule—and, other than maybe the question on Plumlee’s injury, it likely accomplished about all it wanted in terms of testing its depth and seeing how all the new transfers and a handful of freshmen would perform in the early going.
After three weeks UCF is the most productive offensive team in the country--and ranks second in rushing while allowing 12 points per game.
Knight fans now will see how all that plays in the Big 12.