ORLANDO – This game is one that the entire UCF community has been looking forward to all season long. The Knights allowed 374.1 yards per game compared to 488.4 yards per game for the Bulls. Not only does USF allow more yards per game than UCF, it also allows 36.3 points per game compared to UCF which allows 26.3 points per game.
An interesting point to note is that on November 21, USF Athletics tweeted that its football schedule had parted ways with defensive coordinator / safety coach Glenn Spencer. Despite these circumstances, the defense of the USF is led by several upper class students in each position group. Here are some key stats UCF fans should know ahead of Friday’s game.
Senior Linebacker Antoine Grier leads the Bulls with 76 total tackles this season. Versus Desmond Ridder and the Cincinnati Bearcats, he finished the game with a record 14 tackles. In addition to leading the Bulls in tackles, Grier also leads the Bulls with three sacks in total this season.
Grier stepped up and made some big plays for his team, but perhaps the most important game he played was against Tulsa when he intercepted Davis brinn and returned 69 yards for a touchdown. This game is the only defensive touchdown the USF defense has scored all season.
In addition to Grier, another important linebacker for the Bulls is senior Dwayne boyles. Boyles is second on the team in tackles with 60 this season and he also forced two fumbles against the Bearcats.
Earlier this season against Cincinnati, the Bearcats were in a goal-to-go situation and at 4th-1 a fumble was forced and Boyles recovered it to prevent the Bearcats from scoring. Grier and Boyle’s brace has been very consistent for the Bulls all season and they will look to continue against the Knights on Friday.
The USF’s defensive line features two senior defensive tackles in Thad Mangoum and Blake Green, as well as the junior defensive end Jason vaughn. Mangum has 32 total tackles and three loss tackles. He recorded his season high in tackles with five against North Carolina State and Florida.
Green recorded 2.5 sacks and 30 total tackles over the year. Green saved a sack against the Houston quarterback Clayton thune who set up a punt in Houston and then led to an 11-yard touchdown by freshman quarterback Timmy McClain. In addition to Mangum and Green, Vaughn recorded 19 total tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble.
The USF’s inability to create sacks and tackles for losses are some of the reasons the USF struggled on the defensive end. They have just nine sacks this season as a 128th-ranked unit and 43 tackles for a 127th-ranked losses. Struggling to get tackles for loss to their opponents, led them to give up 210.4 rushing yards per game.
Expect to see heavy use from UCF backers, including seniors Isaiah Bowser, if he is healthy enough to recover from his leg injury. If Bowser isn’t available to dress on Friday, expect the Knights to use a sophomore suit in Johnny richardson and Mark-Antony Richards.
The USF high school features three players who have very similar season stats. One of them is the safety of seniors Vincent davis, who since joining the Bulls in 2018 has shown improvement in his ability to tackle as a cornerback.
This season Davis has recorded 58 total tackles and one pass deflection. Likewise, the safety of seniors Mekhi LaPointe has 53 total tackles, two passing deflections and two interceptions this season. One of his interceptions came against Emory jones and the Florida Gators where he sent him back 50 yards, establishing a goal on USF field in the next practice.
Another player to watch in this secondary is the junior cornerback Daquan evans, who, like Davis and LaPointe, totaled 53 tackles, one fumble recovery and three pass deflections. Evans’ fumble recovery occurred against the then-No. 2 college football team in the Cincinnati Bearcats in their first offensive play of the game.
To learn more about Bearcats, go here: Cincinnati’s case for college football playoffs
Overall, the USF high school doesn’t do a good enough job of forcing turnovers and pass deflections. This allows opposing receivers to catch in the field, which is why the USF defense allowed 278 yards per game. This ranked 122nd nationally. Getting your defensive backs to lead your team when it comes to tackles is rarely a recipe for success.
It will be interesting to see how they plan to neutralize the Knights who have averaged 410 total attacking yards per game this season, with 220 of those yards in the air. What does it all mean?
Looking at the USF’s defense, there’s no doubt that the UCF shouldn’t have a problem scoring runs against the Bulls’ vulnerable defense on Friday.
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