ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — It’s one thing to have the top scoring offense in the country.
But one reason UCF has managed to baffle so many defensive coordinators is all the options the 14th-ranked Knights can throw at them. UCF can put multiple playmakers on the field at the same time.
Quarterback McKenzie Milton can hand the ball off to speedy running back Adrian Killins for long-distance touchdown or look to outside receivers Tre’Quan Smith and Gabriel Davis going vertical. Then there is versatile tight end Jordan Akins, a strong NFL prospect. Throw in Otis Anderson, who might lineup at running back for one play and wide receiver the next — it’s a lot for any defensive coordinator to contain.
“When there are five or six guys who can get the ball and make plays it’s tough to defend,” Milton said. “It puts a lot of pressure on the defense and with our O-line doing what they’ve doing it’s tough to stop.”
The Knights (8-0, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) have been nearly impossible to even slow down. In addition to leading the nation in scoring at 48.5 points per game, UCF is averaging 540.4 yards a game and nearly eight yards per play.
UConn takes it turn Saturday to try and slow down the explosive Knights.
Huskies defensive coordinator Billy Crocker knows the challenges ahead. It will be even tougher for the Huskies (3-6, 2-4), whose defense has made a habit of giving up big plays and ranks last in the nation in passing defense, allowing 378.6 yards passing this season.
“This is an opportunity,” said Crocker, who runs a 3-3-5 scheme. “Guess what, the game is coming on Saturday and we got to play and we’re going to play it so we have to see that as an opportunity.”
It doesn’t help that the Knights are just a little disappointed in themselves after putting up a season-high 615 yards of offense last week against SMU but only managing to score 31 points.
“We’re supposed to have more points than we had if you have 600-plus yards of offense so we are going to go to work making sure we finish drives this week and clean some things up,” said UCF coach Scott Frost.
But Frost also knows he has the weapons in the offense to get back on track quickly.
“We have to keep mixing it up, we have to keep being fresh,” Frost said. “The great thing about this offense is we have five or six skilled guys on the field at all times that I feel like can make a big play.
“When you have that it doesn’t matter who the open guy is. That guy has a chance to break something and score points for you.”
Some other things to watch when UConn visits No. 14 UCF on Saturday:
The Huskies will be without starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who is still out from the concussion he suffered during last week’s loss to USF. That means junior college transfer David Pindell will be re-inserted as the starter after being benched following one start to begin the season.
UCF cornerback Mike Hughes has two interceptions and nine pass breakups and he ranks 14th in the nation in passes defended with 1.4 per game. Safety Kyle Gibson leads has three picks on the season.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith has nine touchdown receptions on the season, but he needs five more TD catches over the final four games to match the school’s single-season record. Bret Cooper set the mark with 14 touchdown catches in 1992.
The Knights’ +1.25 per game turnover margin ranks eighth in the nation. But for they lost the turnover battle (3-1) for the first time this season last week.
There has been a lot of conversation this week about the whereabouts of the ConFLiCT Trophy that was invented by former UConn coach Bob Diaco a few years ago to mark the rivalry between UCF and UConn. UCF has never recognized the game as a rivalry or the trophy as “a thing.” The Knights have won the last two games in the series but Frost said this week he has no idea where the trophy is.