Well that was exciting wasn't it? While the offensive stats don't leap out at you, Thursday night's UCF-Houston contest was intense.
There was an air about this game. Though it was only the first conference game of the season, everything was on the line for both teams. Houston came into the game trying to prove that the UTSA game was only a fluke and that they were going to roll through the American. UCF, on the other hand, wanted to bounce back from two miserable non-conference games. Some thought the game would be the turning point of the season. Both teams played like it, with the Knights squeaking out a 17-12 victory.
There were two MVPs for the Knights Thursday. The first is much-maligned defensive coordinator Tyson Summers. Summers has been under a lot of heat from UCF fans after the games against Missouri and Penn State. The defense seemed out of position, improperly coached, and just lost out there. The defense is loaded with seniors, but were decimated by Matt Mauk and Christian Hackenberg.
Against a pass heavy offense, Summers was challenged to stop Houston, especially after Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry had said this week that UCF wasn't good this year. Summers had to prove that he was the right man for the job of defensive coordinator. He proved that tonight.
The Knights were able to pressure John O'Korn into making bad decisions all night, which led to two Houston turnovers. While Houston did move the ball into the red zone, they were stifled by the Knights, resulting in turnovers or field goals. Thomas Niles and Jaryl Mamea combined for four sacks on the night. The pressure rattled O'Korn so much that Houston pulled him for back up Greg Ward Jr.
Oh and how did Greenberry do? Well he was shut down by Jacoby Glenn for most of the game, going for three catches and 21 yards including three drops and tipping the ball into Brandon Alexander's hands for an interception. Overall, it was a great night and coming out party for the young defensive coordinator.
Speaking of Alexander, he is the never-ending nightmare for Houston. It was Alexander last year who made the crucial stop in the secondary to beat Houston. Tonight he finished with an INT, but more importantly a forced fumble. With less than a minute to go, Ward scrambled towards the UCF end zone, but was met by Alexander, who proceeded to knock the ball loose. Ball game over.
Now let's talk about the bad. The offense was simply ineffective again tonight. I wrote earlier that UCF is ranked 91st in SPI and needed to open up the offense. How did they respond? By parking the bus and going conservative. The offense finished the night with 228 yards and 10 first downs. Yep, 10 first downs. That is not going to cut it. Justin Holman struggled, going 6-for-18 for 101 yards, despite having 2 TDs. He's still young and has enormous upside, but he is being handcuffed by the UCF coaching staff.
UCF now turns to undefeated BYU in what should be a rock fight of a game next Thursday. It might have only been Houston, but UCF will have plenty of momentum heading into next week.