The #21 Houston Cougars overcame a sluggish start to blow away the now 0-8 UCF Knights, 59-10. The Knights put together what amounted to their best performance of the season, but the Cougars were simply too much.
Things went south for the Knights right before halftime, as two Justin Holman interceptions turned into 10 points for Houston, allowing them to finally seize control of the game.
It took Houston three plays to score. That fact is not surprising, in and of itself. What is surprising is that it was the Houston defense that found the end zone. Brandon Wilson recovered a Cam Stewart fumble and took it all the way back for an 85 yard scoop and score early in the first quarter.
American Football (@American_FB) October 24, 2015
Give UCF credit. Instead of packing it in, they answered back with a 46 yard TD pass from Justin Holman to Tristan Payton to tie the game at seven late in the first quarter.
After both teams traded possessions for much of the second quarter, the Knights took a 10-7 lead with four and a half minutes left in the half on a Matthew Wright 48 yard field goal.
The Cougars finally woke up on offense on the ensuing drive, and cruised from there. UH regained the lead after Kenneth Farrow went 26 yards to the house to make it 14-10, then after Will Jackson picked off Holman, Greg Ward, Jr. made it 21-10 on a three yard keeper.
UCF's house of cards finally fell on the next possession, as Holman was again picked off, this time by Khalil Williams, who returned it 49 yards to the UCF 16. This set up Ty Cummings' first field goal of the season, sending Houston into the half with a 24-10 lead.
Farrow picked up right where he left off in the second half, opening the third quarter with three carries for 79 yards, capped off by a 30 yard TD run to make it 31-10. That score effectively ended any hope for the Knights, as they never recovered after the meltdown at the end of the first half.
The Cougars ended up scoring 52 unanswered points, with the whole offense chipping in. Farrow had his way with the UCF defense, finishing with 167 yards on 13 carries (12.8 yards per carry) and three TDs, Ward, Jr. was his typical dual threat self, going 16-23 for 210 yards and a TD through the air and rushing for 46 yards and a TD on the ground.
The explosiveness of the Houston offense was on full display during their run, notching scoring plays of 30, 29, 67 and 24 yards in the third quarter. UH averaged 8.4 yards per play, while the defense forced four UCF turnovers.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
For UCF, if you take away the end of the first half, they hung right with the #21 team in the nation. The Knights hung around early, thanks mostly to outstanding defense. The defensive front got tons of pressure on Greg Ward, Jr., preventing Houston from getting into a rhythm offensively. Unfortunately, they couldn't sustain that level of performance, as the Cougar offense eventually overwhelmed them. Still, they held one of the most explosive offenses in the country down for almost a half. Build off of that, and maybe UCF will be able to find the win column this season.
For Houston, maybe the slow start was actually a good thing. A hallmark of the Cougars' season has been quick starts, but that didn't happen today. Rather than panic, Ward, Jr. and the rest of the offense stuck to the game plan and eventually broke down the UCF defense. The Houston defense also deserves some praise for forcing turnovers and swinging momentum back in their favor. As good as the offense has been this season, teams aren't going to hold them down for long. As they showed today, Houston is able to shrug off a slow start and handle some adversity, which will serve them well as they face tougher competition later on in the season.