UCF looks to build on youthful gains vs. Temple
With an open date last week following a win at Houston, UCF is looking forward to getting back home to play before friends and family in Orlando when Temple visits Saturday night.
“Excited about getting back in front of our home crowd here Saturday, too,” Knights coach Josh Heupel said.
Early losses to Tulsa and at Memphis have pretty much knocked the Knights (4-2, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) out of the league race, especially with No. 7 Cincinnati rolling along unbeaten. Tulsa also is unbeaten in league play, and SMU and Memphis are ahead of the Knights.
But at least the Knights will come in on a high note. Their 44-21 win at Houston came in a sterling defensive effort despite losing four veteran defensive starters just a couple of days before the game.
Tackle Kenny Turnier, end Randy Charlton, linebacker Eric Mitchell and defensive back Antwan Collier were kicked off the team following an incident involving a traffic stop and dispute with campus police on Oct. 29.
That gave sophomores Cam Goode, Landon Woodson and Tatum Bethune along with junior Derek Gainous the opportunity to start.
Gainous led the Knights in tackles with nine, one more than Bethune, and Goode and Woodson had three tackles each. Bethune and Woodson also were credited with breaking up two passes apiece.
Offensively, the Knights got a nice game out of quarterback Dillon Gabriel (19 of 33 for 328 yards and two touchdowns), and Jaylon Robinson had 107 yards on five receptions. Both also are sophomores.
Heupel is looking forward to seeing progress from all of the young players in the last three games of the season.
“I want to see growth from a lot of our guys,” he said. “We’re only as good as our next performance. I like a lot of things that we did when we were on the road there a week ago.
“But for all of us it’s a matter of preparing in great urgency, playing harder than our opponent, and then playing as a football team. Individually for Dillon, I think he can continue being great in his decision making. He’s done a great job of taking care of the ball for the most part this season.”
The Owls (1-4, 1-4) have been coping with COVID-19 issues and injuries all season, and it shows in their record. They lost their third consecutive game last week, 47-23 at SMU, as the Mustangs outscored the Owls 27-7 in the fourth quarter.
With veteran quarterback Anthony Russo out with an injured shoulder, coach Rod Carey gave sophomore Trad Beatty the start and rotated him with sophomore Re-al Mitchell. They combined to complete 17 of 30 passes for 211 yards with no interceptions in making just their second appearances of the season.
“They were both a lot calmer this week,” Carey said. “Obviously, it’s Game 2 so there was more of a sense of comfort right there. Some things they have to get better, but I was pleased to see the improvement.”
–Field Level Media