The UCF Knights last played on August 31. And after weeks of Hurricane Irma-related schedule chaos, face off against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday.
We talked with Thomas Kendziora from SB Nation’s Maryland blog, Testudo Times, in order to learn more about what the Knights can expect from their opponent. You can follow Thomas @TKendziora37 and Testudo Times @TestudoTimes.
1. Last year, Tyrrell Pigrome was the dagger in UCF’s heart in the second OT. He suffered a season-ending injury against Texas. His replacement, freshman Kasim Hill, has been remarkably mistake-free to date. Do you expect that to continue?
It would be hard for Hill to keep his numbers where they are, but it’s been clear from what I’ve seen nothing in practice and in games that he’s the real deal. He was neck-and-neck with Pigrome in fall camp, and seemed to be gaining ground every day. I was curious whether or not the coaching staff would keep the competition open at the QB spot during the season, because I thought Hill would overtake everyone else at some point. Pigrome’s ACL injury rendered that a moot point, but it also gave Hill the chance right away. He’ll probably look like a freshman at times this season, but the Terps haven’t had anyone of his caliber at the position in a long time.
2. What’s been the best surprise of the season for the Terps?
I think the answer here is quarterback play, even though we’ve already discussed that. Pigrome exceeded all expectations against Texas, and Hill has looked as impressive as a true freshman can at that position. Considering that Maryland held a competition all offseason that featured four quarterbacks with two combined college starts, the results have been a pleasant surprise.
I’ll also say the run defense has drastically improved. The Terps ranked 127th in Defensive Rushing S&P+ last year; in two games, they’ve surrendered just 98 and 99 yards on the ground. It’ll be interesting to see if that keeps up against UCF and in Big Ten play.
3. Conversely, any unpleasant surprises?
Nothing much yet, except perhaps some special teams issues. The Terps changed kickers in their last game (the new guy is a walk-on transfer from Georgetown), and punter Wade Lees has had an underwhelming start. Fortunately for the Terps, neither of the first two games have come down to that.
4. It’s obvious that the Maryland offense has been tremendous so far. What’s your take on the defense?
The Terps’ defense seemed to have an element of bend-but-don’t-break in the first couple games. The unit gave up nearly 500 yards to Texas, but some key stops and penalties kept the Longhorn offense from doing much damage (half of their 41 points that day came on three return touchdowns, and one of the offensive scores was in garbage time). Against Towson, Maryland struggled in the second quarter but looked good in the other three. The defense will have its hands full with UCF, but with most everybody (pour one out for defensive end Jesse Aniebonam) healthy, I like the matchup.
5. Agree or disagree: the Terps should be ranked right now.
Right now? Nope. If they handle UCF? Probably. If they follow that up with a win over Minnesota? Absolutely.