Even though inclement weather brought an early end to yesterday’s game, the Cincinnati Bearcats and the No. 25 UCF Knights still played roughly three quarters of football, which means enough happened for another week of lessons. Those three quarters, which were pretty miserable from a Bearcat perspective, taught us quite a bit about UC and a few odds and ends about UCF as well. Here are some of those things.
UCF is really good at football.
Give credit to Scott Frost for resurrecting UCF from the dead in just two years. If UCF’s domination of Memphis and Maryland hadn’t already convinced you, the performance the Knights put on against the Bearcats should have. While UC may not be one of the preeminent teams in the American Athletic Conference right now, the fact that UCF was able to hang 51 points and 515 yards on the Bearcats in less than a full game is telling. Frost’s work with the offense has clearly been the highlight of the campaign, with the Knights 23rd in the country in offensive S&P+. What was so amazing to watch yesterday was the fact that they just kept eating up big chunks of yardage without ever being in trouble. They were put into third down situations only four times (and converted three of those to boot). On top of that, they averaged 12.9 yards per play. That’s just ridiculous.
UC’s pass defense isn’t as good as it once appeared
Of course, if the offense dominated, that means the defense didn’t do its job. The Bearcats were victimized primarily through the air against UCF, although the 141 yards they let up on the ground wasn’t ideal either. The fact that the Knights scored two touchdowns on passing plays of more than 50 yards in the first five minutes tells you everything you need to know about the mess that was the UC secondary. McKenzie Milton not only threw for five touchdowns and 374 yards, he did it on only 16 completions, meaning there’s some explaining that needs to be done by the secondary.
That’s a change of pace from the first five games, as UC is still ranked No. 2 in the AAC in passing yards allowed (198.5 YPG), but it appears that was more a symptom of teams finding no reason to pass because the run game was working so well.
Hayden Moore can run
The most surprising offensive statistics for the Bearcats were the 75 yards and two touchdowns Moore created with his legs. He was the leading rusher for the cause, which is not something we have seen from him before. Showing a level of mobility and courage to take off and run I didn’t know he had, Moore averaged 5.8 yards per carry and saved more than a few drives. I’m not certain it will become a key element of the plan going forward, but if it does, the offense will have a new level of dynamism.
Kahlil Lewis is the No. 1 receiver and its not close
After it appeared like Devin Gray was working his way back into the top spot, Lewis put forth an effort that showed that he is the captain now. Lewis was targeted 10 times by Moore. Gray was second on the team with six targets. Clearly, the passing game is being built around Lewis’ skill set, as he has nearly twice as many receptions (31) as the next best receiver on the roster, who is Gray with 16. He also has 325 yards and nearly half (four) of the team’s total receiving scores (10).
This year’s Bearcats are no good at creating turnovers
Thanks to a top 15 finish in interceptions nationally, the Bearcats were actually pretty good at making other teams make mistakes in 2016. It didn’t help them win many games, but that’s not the point. The 24 takeaways they tallied had them in the same area as Florida in the national rankings, and the Gators were a top five defense based on defensive S&P+. But turnovers are difficult to count on, and that has proven true this season. UC did not take the ball from UCF once on Saturday and so far it has seven for the season, including only two picks.