Nov 21, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) drops to throw a pass during the second half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Bounce House. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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UCF, USF renew ‘War on I-4’

“The War on I-4” in-state rivalry will be renewed when the UCF Knights play host to the South Florida Bulls on Friday afternoon in Orlando.

South Florida leads the series 6-5, and scheduling UCF was paused for a few years after winning a 64-12 blowout in 2007.

Fast forward to 2020, and it’s the Knights who are dominating the series and going for their fourth straight win. In the past two years, the Knights have outscored the Bulls by a combined 72-17.

This year, the Bulls (1-7, 0-6) have lost seven straight games, and they are the only winless team in American Athletic Conference play.

UCF (5-3, 4-3) is seventh in the AAC standings. They lead the league in scoring (42.6), first downs (28.4 per game), third-down conversion rate (50 percent), turnover margin (plus-11), total offense (586.6 yards per game) and passing offense (377.6).

The Bulls are 10th in the league in scoring (20.2). Their rushing offense is last in the league, suggesting they may struggle to run clock and shorten the game. And they are last in points allowed (37.6).

The Bulls postponed last week’s game against Navy due to injuries/illness. The Bulls started the season with 40 scholarship defensive players but were down to just 16 — and only two healthy tackles and two cornerbacks.

A bright spot for the Bulls has been junior slot receiver Bryce Miller, a former walk-on who leads the team with 22 receptions, often taking some punishing hits.

“The quarterbacks trust me to catch it,” Miller said. “Taking the hits doesn’t really bother me. I just focus on the ball and try to protect myself.”

UCF, coming off a 36-33 loss to seventh-ranked Cincinnati, has scored at least 24 points in 47 straight games. That’s the second-longest active streak in the nation.

Even so, this season has not gone as planned for the Knights.

“We’re disappointed in that result,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said after the loss to Cincinnati. “We resemble a darned good football team. We just have to do the little things to win. We’re not that far off.”

The Knights are led by quarterback Dillon Gabriel and wide receiver Marlon Williams.

Gabriel, who has passed for at least one touchdown in 21 consecutive games, leads the nation in passing yards, total offense and passing yards per game (377.1).

Williams ranks among the top 10 in UCF history in career catches (157), yards (2,260) and TDs (18). This season, he ranks second in the nation in reception yards (1,039), fifth in catches per game (8.9) and fourth in yards per game (129.9).

The Knights can also run the ball. Greg McCrae and Otis Anderson rank 1-2 in program history in yards per carry (6.7 and 6.2 respectively).

UCF’s defense, meanwhile, leads the nation in turnovers forced, with 20, and the Knights are 5-0 this season when they’ve posted more takeaways than their opponent.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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