This is one of UCF's Engineering buildings. I'm a bit jealous. via library.ucf.edu
Before you read any further, go read Hpndaman's Introduction to UCF if you haven't done so already. Additionally, full UCF games can be viewed here. Check out charwesbo's comment below for a stat comparison.
Over the last couple of days, I watched three UCF games: versus USF, South Carolina, and at Louisville. This is my first time attempting to do a film study, but I'll give it my best shot. I will go through the games in the order that I watched them, giving my impressions on the offense, defense, general comments, and how my perception of UCF changed after watching that particular game.
Like most Baylor fans, I really had not heard much about UCF. Yes, they play in a weaker conference than Baylor does, and yes, neither of our fans really wanted this match-up, however, I never find it wise to underestimate an opponent. That being said, I was in agreement with the majority of Baylor fans in thinking that Baylor will dominate this game.
This game took place at home for UCF on 29 November, making it the most recent game of the three. Although the game was a rivalry, this should have been no contest. USF has been downright terrible this year, going 2-10 and ranked below 100th in three of the four stats on ESPN. Despite the obvious advantages, UCF only ended up winning this one 23-20.
Blake Bortles is good at scrambling. Really good. While he ran the ball countless times in this game, very few of the runs looked like designed quarterback runs; most were just Bortles deciding to take off and run. The only time I can recall that Bortles had designed runs was on short yardage situations, where Bortles ran a quick quarterback sneak with success. His throws were accurate, for the most part, but the deep balls looked to be his weakness. Another weakness I noticed was that Bortles did have a fumble and two interceptions. This game had a lot of turnovers all around.
The running back tandem of Storm Johnson and William Stanback has the potential to be dangerous. Johnson got most of the carries in this game, but Stanback played the backup roll well, coming in to good effect. Storm Johnson reminds me a little bit of Lache Seastrunk; he jukes, head fakes, and cuts back a good bit. Obviously he isn't quite the same as Lache, but there is a bit of Lache in Johnson. Johnson did have two fumbles in the game though.
Prior to the snap, UCF likes to send a player in motion across the field, usually Rannell Hall (remember that name, you'll hear more about him in a bit). They ran the Jet Sweep a couple of times, but much more common was a fake Jet Sweep hand-off to a Storm Johnson run up the middle followed by a fake throw by Bortles. Look for the running backs to come out of the back field for a pass as well. Unlike Baylor's backs, the tandem of Johnson and Stanback are very capable receivers. You'll usually see the running backs catch a ball in the flats then turn up field for a decent gain.
The most underrated part of this team (and many teams) is the offensive line. Sure, Bortles had to scramble a good bit in this game, but I get the feeling that taking off and running is more his choice than a necessity most of the time. The line generally held up very well, giving up only two sacks. However, on one of the sacks, USF only rushed four (it was an obvious passing play), yet somehow blew up the O Line.
Overall, the offense did not seem to be anything special in this game, especially in the third quarter, when they scored all of three points. Coming out to a sputtering start in the third, as we'll see, looks to be a trend for UCF.
The defense was very solid for UCF...in the first half. Like the offense, the defense were sluggish coming out of the locker room. UCF appears to employ a 4-3/Nickel combination. The base formation is a 4-3, but when there are enough receivers, a linebacker (I think it's a linebacker, I don't know the personnel well enough to know for sure) will drop into coverage. Additionally, if the offense switches sides, the linebackers will shift over like a Newton's Cradle (i.e. there is no switching, the entire unit shifts).
Through the first half, UCF completely shut down USF's offense. A rushing attack was non-existent and the corner backs covered their receivers very well. There were numerous tipped balls by the corners and the D had a total of three takeways, though that number is surprisingly low, given the way USF played.
USF's rushing game opened up in the second half, so much so that USF actually took the lead at one point. UCF, try as they might, could not stop the run. Failing to stop the run somehow opened up the passing attack for USF as well.
General Comments and Perception:
Honestly, this game only reinforced my initial idea that UCF did not belong in a BCS bowl. They looked positively average in this game. That being said, Blake Bortles did lead a game winning drive and made the plays that needed to be made. A major takeaway from this game though is that kick returner Rannell Hall is very dangerous. He had, at one point in the game, 4 returns for a 44.3 yard average, with a long of 69 yards. He could be a problem for our kickoff coverage.
South Carolina came into the 28 September match-up ranked #12 in the country, with their only loss coming to Georgia. Yet for three of the four quarters, UCF looked like the better team. South Carolina didn't even score in the first half! Were it not for 14 points in the third quarter, this game could have easily gotten out of hand for The Ol' Ball Coach. South Carolina was without their starting QB though. After the first half finished, I could not believe South Carolina would go on to win the game; they looked awful. Then, after SC went on a 28-0 run in the second half, I wondered how UCF only lost this one by 3. UCF would go on to score 15 in a row to come within three, and, had they recovered the onside kick at the end, I think they would have won the game.
UCF started the game off well, riding Storm Johnson to a (fairly) quick 7-0 lead. Hall, who also returns kick, is one of the main receivers on this team (look for the dreads). The play calling was pretty similar to the USF game. I did notice here that Bortles likes to roll out to the side and pass 5-10 yards down the field, especially on the goal line. Watch for the tight end Justin Tukes on these; he is left open in the back of the endzone for the easy touchdown/two point conversion.
The majority of UCF's plays go for less than 15 yards. However, they do have their moments of big plays, especially in the fourth quarter. Both Hall and Perriman had huge plays in the fourth to help bring UCF within three. Hall's route was especially nice, where he utilized two double moves to get the SC defensive back to bite, leaving Hall wide open for the score. Overall, not much was different here than in the USF game; UCF was sluggish through most of the game but came roaring back in the fourth. They did succeed in shutting down Clowney for most of the game though.
The defense in this game was equal parts impressive and ineffective. In what seems to be a trend, the defense was dominant in the first half, giving up no points. However, there were several missed tackles throughout, especially when UCF was trying to tackle the quarterback. It certainly helped UCF that South Carolina shot themselves in the foot several times on offense in the first half.
In the second half, South Carolina running back Mike Davis had an absolute field day against UCF's defense. On the first drive of the half, Davis went 75 yards on 4 carries. The yardage difference in the third quarter tells the story here: 211 to 32 in favor of SC. The USF game was eerily similar to this one; a solid defense in the first half falls apart in the second, especially regarding stopping the run. Unlike USF, South Carolina had just enough on both sides of the ball to avoid the loss.
General Comments and Perception:
UCF looked better in this game than they did against USF. However, South Carolina did not look like a #12 team. But they were missing their starting quarterback, but UCF also didn't capitalize on this. All in all, I think UCF could have won this game had they kept up their 1st half play. At this point, I still think the Fiesta Bowl would be a Baylor blowout.
This is easily the best looking game by UCF of the three. Despite going down 28-7, UCF showed great resolve on the road in a loud environment to come back and win. Perhaps the most impressive part about this victory was that UCF scored 21 points in the third quarter. Yes, the third quarter, the quarter where they scored a combined 3 points in the other two games I watched.
A Louisville defender made a ridiculous interception in the endzone and Stanback shined. Those were really the only highlights to a rather mediocre first half.
The second half, on the other hand, was much more exciting. Bortles and Perriman connected on some great passes, Storm Johnson returned to form, and Stanback adds another touchdown. In the final minute, Bortles marched his team down the field to the 2 yard line. On third and goal with 27 seconds left, Bortles rolled right and hit Godfrey in the end zone to give UCF the 38-35 lead it would not relinquish.
When the offense was clicking, it was moving the ball at will against Louisville. When the offense was cold, it was really cold. It's a similar situation with the defense.
UCF has a very opportunistic defense. If there is a possibility of creating a fumble, they are going to try their darndest to knock that ball out. Things were rough for a while; Louisville running back Brown was trucking defenders left and right. However, following a UCF score, they rode the momentum, recovered a fumble, and set off a chant of "UCF, UCF, UCF" in Louisville's stadium. Storm Johnson scores and on the next drive, UCF comes up with a massive sack on 3rd and 10 to force a punt. Momentum at this point is ALL UCF. The defense did just enough in the second half to let Bortles and the offense do their thing. I suppose that is all one can ask for.
General Comments and Perception:
UCF was down big in this one, but they forced some turnovers, got the momentum, and pulled out a stunning victory in opposing territory. This UCF team looked pretty good. I still think Baylor can win, but there's a much better chance for UCF in my mind after watching this game.
Baylor is favored in this game for a reason. Baylor is a better, more talented team than UCF is. However, UCF should not be taken lightly. If Baylor's offense stalls and UCF can force a couple of turnovers and then capitalize on those turnovers, this could be a close game at the half. If UCF avoids a poor third quarter and keeps the score close going into the fourth quarter, they very well could win this game.
That being said, I think Baylor will come out with their afterburners on and get out to a quick lead. If Baylor gets up 21 on UCF, I don't think UCF can recover from that. Baylor needs to avoid turnovers, stay solid on defense (shut down the run in all facets and force Bortles to throw in the pocket where I don't think he will have enough time to make the throws he wants to throw), and get the offense going again. If they do that, I can see a 20+ point victory for Baylor. If UCF can manage to keep it close, Baylor's conditioning will win out, but it won't be by 20+ points. However, like I said in the beginning, don't underestimate UCF, as they can be dangerous.
I hope y'all enjoyed the preview and let me know what you think in the comments, especially you UCF fans, y'all will know more about the team than I do.
Here's hoping to a good game in Glendale and Sic 'em Bears!