Central Florida's defense played pretty well against South Dakota on Saturday, particularly in the second half, where they allowed 77 yards on 23 plays. Fifty-eight of those yards came on a late fourth quarter garbage time drive. The performance wasn't without issues, what with the Knights starting a pair of freshmen at the defensive tackle spots, but George O'Leary was generally pleased with what he saw.
The man getting the bulk of the post-game attention is quarterback Rob Calabrese, who completed 12 of 15 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. I've read the words "relaxed" and "poise" a lot over the last few days. The sense I've gotten is that the Knights feel a lot better about their quarterback situation (having run/pass threat Jeff Godfrey around to spell Calabrese helps). A lot of the talk is just typical post-cupcake confidence, though, and it sounds like South Dakota's defensive line didn't give Calabrese or Godfrey much to worry about. The challenge for those guys starts now. (At least we hope it does.)
However that situation plays out Saturday, there's no question that UCF's offense is going to more diverse than folks have come to expect. TOB has already noted that we're going to have to prepare for some option plays (moreso from Godfrey than Calabrese, I'm sure). O'Leary likes Godfrey quite a bit; he'll get a few series to show what he can do Saturday, maybe more if the offense bogs down behind Calabrese.
Against USD, the Knights went four-wide at times to better take advantage of the depth they have at wide receiver, and AJ Guyton thrived, catching eight balls for 127 yards and a score. They'll also operate out of the pistol formation, so the Pack's defense is going to have a lot to think about. I'm a little more worried about this matchup than I was a few weeks ago.
Getting back to the defensive side, and more specifically the defensive tackles, O'Leary remarked that they "played like freshmen," which is to be expected but is nonetheless bothersome going forward. Star DE Bruce Miller spent most of the afternoon being double teamed and did not record a sack. South Dakota had some success on the ground, at least initially, and finished the game with 116 yards on 26 carries (4.5 YPC). That's a scary figure for a unit accustomed to locking up opposing ground games, though O'Leary said the problem was less at the point of attack and more along the edges when USD backs bounced outside.
State's run blocking did not inspire a lot of confidence in the opener, and I'm not sure if we're at a point where we can really take advantage of UCF's inexperience up the middle. Doing so would certainly go a long way toward delivering a win this weekend.
-- George O'Leary doesn't care for the BCS: "Yeah, I don’t get into BCS opponents because I think that whole thing is a farce, myself."
--Josh Robinson is having problems:
Another note of concern for the Knights defense was Josh Robinson. It’s too early to call it a sophomore slump, but Robinson had a rough game at cornerback, and his play showed why he was penciled in at backup for much of the preseason.
The second-year defensive back had momentary lapses in concentration in pass coverage, and he flubbed a couple of tackles in open space.
-- One of the nice things about having a blog is being able to look back and recall things I'd completely forgotten. I wrote this after the '07 game, for example:
I swear, if I see one more ass hat student assistant on a mid-major football team cupping his hand to his ear and giving the mock wolf sign as his stupid team walks out of here in triumph, my head is going to explode. That is the ultimate indignity.
We gotta show that guy, wherever he is now.
-- If you're going to the game, remember that you too can do some of the avenging.