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Posts Tagged ‘UCF’

#5 Michigan 51 – UCF 14: Speight tosses 4 TDs to slay Knights

Sunday, September 11th, 2016


wilton-speight-vs-ucf(Katy Kildee MLive.com)

If Week 1 is for getting a chance to hit someone other than your teammates and show what all of the offseason preparation was for, Week 2 is for improving on what went wrong the previous week. Michigan looked nearly flawless in its season opening win over Hawaii a week ago but a little less so on Saturday against UCF. Still, it was enough to yield a 51-14 win.

There was no opening drive interception this time, but the offensive line had trouble run blocking and the defense allowed several big plays. After piling up 306 rushing yards in Week 1, Michigan rushed for just 119 yards on 2.9 yards per carry. The offensive line allowed eight tackles for loss, reminding many of the Brady Hoke days when Michigan struggled mightily to run the ball.

But it was clear that UCF’s defensive game plan was the load the box and force quarterback Wilton Speight — making just his second career start — to beat them with his arm. And that he did. Speight looked cool, calm, and collected all day, completing 25-of-37 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. He made smart decisions when needed and showed his ability to stand in the pocket and find an open receiver even while being hit.

um-ucf_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan UCF
Score 51 14
Record 2-0 1-1
Total Yards 447 331
Net Rushing Yards 119 275
Net Passing Yards 328 56
First Downs 23 15
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 2-20 9-76
Punts-Yards 3-137 4-130
Time of Possession 34:25 25:35
Third Down Conversions 8-of-18 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 3-of-4 2-of-5
Sacks By-Yards 3-18 2-12
Field Goals 3-for-3 0-for-2
PATs 6-for-6 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 7-of-8 0-of-0
Red Zone Scores-TDs 4-of-8 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Jim Harbaugh left Speight and most of the starters in well into the fourth quarter despite a large lead, perhaps to send a message that they shouldn’t let up or perhaps just to get them as many reps as possible. But he was pleased with Speight’s performance.

“When the quarterback throws for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, that’s a great performance,” Harbaugh said after the game. “It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say he’ll probably be our offensive player of the week.”

Michigan’s big three of Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt were targeted often and combined for 16 catches for 281 yards and four scores, lead by Darboh’s career-high 111 yards. All three caught passes of at least 25 yards.

Defensively, Michigan was a bit Jekyll and Hyde, recording 10 tackles for loss and three sacks, but also giving up four runs of 26 or more yards, including a 87-yard touchdown run. That will certainly have Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett licking his chops, but there are still nine games to play before Michigan heads to Columbus.

UCF head coach Scott Frost was proud of the way his young team performed.

“It’s hard to say when the score is what it is, but we came in here and outhit those guys today,” Frost said. “Standing on the sideline, there was no doubt who was hitting harder. Our guys came in hungry and wanting to do that. It’s rare you can come into Michigan and rush for 300 yards on them. They had to run a fly sweep in the fourth quarter to get to 100.”

Whether UCF out-hit Michigan is up for debate, but regardless, it’s cold comfort for a team that lost by 37.

Two Michigan players who will never be out-hit by everyone lead the way for the Wolverines on defense. Michigan’s stars from New Jersey were impressive as Jabrill Peppers lead the team with eight tackles, including two for loss, and Rashan Gary notched six tackles, 2.5 for loss, and half a sack.

“I was itching for a sack this week,” Gary said after the game. “I didn’t get one last week and I felt like I owed the D-line. I missed one against Hawaii. And I said ‘I’m not going to miss’ if I get another opportunity.”

At 2-0, Michigan has outscored its opponents 114-17 with one non-conference game remaining. Colorado (2-0) comes to town next Saturday before the Big Ten slate begins the following week.

Game ball – Offense

Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
In just his second career start, Speight displayed the poise of a veteran, completing 25-of-37 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. With UCF stacking the box to stop the run, Michigan used the play-action passing game to pull away early. Speight threw two touchdown passes to Jake Butt and one to Amara Darboh in the first 20 minutes of action and added another to Darboh in the fourth quarter. Through two games, Speight has completed 70 percent of his passes (35-of-50) for 457 yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception.

Previous
Week 1 – Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)

Game ball – Defense

Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
The No. 1 overall recruit in last year’s class didn’t take long to make his presence felt. While he notched three tackles in his first career game last week, he didn’t record a tackle for loss or a sack. That changed on Saturday against UCF. He finished second on the team with six tackles and 2.5 of those were behind the line of scrimmage. He also recorded his first career sack, which he combined with Ben Gedeon. With Taco Charlton out due to an injury he suffered last week, Gary will continue to get plenty of playing time and he has lived up to the hype so far.

Previous
Week 1 – Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)

M&GB staff predictions: UCF

Friday, September 9th, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Michigan disposed of Hawaii in Week 1 and the schedule doesn’t get any tougher this week with the UCF Knights coming to town. Joe was the winner of our picks last week with his prediction of Michigan 49 – Hawaii 3. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan UCF
Justin 56 13
Derick 56 7
Sam 50 3
Josh 51 10
Joe 54 7
M&GB Average 53 8

Michigan had no problem steamrolling Hawaii, and although UCF currently leads the nation in points allowed (zero) they haven’t been tested. South Carolina State was an FCS school that was predicted to finish fourth in its conference this season. Michigan should have similar success moving the ball as it did a week ago. UCF’s defense actually ranked worse than Hawaii’s last season and they hired an offensive-minded coach who runs an up-tempo scheme. That’s all good when they’re scoring like Oregon does, but when they aren’t, that puts their defense on the field for a long time.

Michigan will have another big day on the ground and continue to work on getting Wilton Speight comfortable commanding the offense. Defensively, Michigan will slow down the spread and hold UCF to a field goal in the first half.

After last week’s injuries to Bryan Mone, Taco Charlton, and De’Veon Smith, Harbaugh won’t risk leaving the starters in longer than he has to in this one. Expect to see a lot of young guys in the second half. When all is said and done Michigan’s backups will give up a few points but it will be another comfortable win for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan 56 – UCF 13

Derick

Michigan simply overwhelmed Hawaii, and I think we’ll see something similar this weekend. UCF was even worse than Hawaii last season and is coming off its first win in about 20 months.

Teams like Tennessee and Michigan State showed us what happens to teams that look shaky against bad competition, so Michigan can’t afford to let UCF hang around.

The offense will be too much for the Knights and the defense should be swarming around the backfield once again. Scott Frost will have some film of Don Brown’s defense at Michigan, but it shouldn’t help much. Michigan will win big.

Michigan 56 – UCF 7

Sam

Did you see last week’s game? Tomorrow should be deja vu.

Michigan 50 – UCF 3

Josh

We’re still in the part of our schedule where Michigan plays opponents who aren’t in the same league, and Harbaugh coached teams will beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, so in lieu of a normal prediction (Michigan is going to win big) I’d like to touch on couple things I’d like to see out of our boys in Maize & Blue.

On offense: I’d like to see the running game get going early again. Yes, I want to see more of Chris Evans just like you but I’d also like to have it open up the play-action pass game. Which leads to my next item: I want to see Speight throw it 20-plus times. He was good in his small sample size last week and I have no problem with back-ups getting game time in blowouts, but I think Speight needs as many game reps as possible before teams like Penn State and Wisconsin come to town. Of course, Jim Harbaugh may not agree with me but I’d like to see Speight sling it around some more anyway.

On defense: After the injury scares to Taco Charlton and Bryan Mone (it appears both will be back by conference play) it will open up more playing time (and should become a blessing in disguise) for guys like Rashan Gary, Michael Dwumfour, and Michael Onwenu (who oddly are both No. 50). Gary showed off his lightning quick first step and strength but did not register any tackles for loss. Mercy rules were apparently in effect as he was held numerous times. With more snaps, and perhaps less of a blowout, I’d like to see him finally knock down a quarterback and register that first sack (of what should be many more to come). Hawaii got some momentum going late in the first half with their dink and dunk slant game, and I’m interested to see what adjustments Don Brown makes on that front because Scott Frost most definitely saw that and will look to exploit it.

UCF isn’t very good. This won’t be much of a game for long, and that’s fine. Michigan will pick up where they left off last week and continue to get the younger guys as many snaps as possible. Michigan wins big as Harbaugh is reminded of Scott Frost’s denigration of the 1997 Michigan team and keeps his foot on the gas until midway through the fourth quarter. UCF gets a late touchdown against the third stringers in garbage time to help them reach double digits.

Michigan 51 – UCF 10

Joe (1)

Teams are supposed to show the most improvement between weeks one and two, so this one should be fun to watch. I’m very interested to see how the quarterback play improves from Week 1. I don’t see much throwing in the second half due to a big lead so the first half will have most of my attention. I think this one gets ugly early and Michigan continues to roll. The offense looks solid behind a new crowd favorite at running back. Chris Evans looks like a stud but will obviously share some carries this week. Look for him to get into the end zone twice more.

The defense looks “as advertised” and is ELITE. They get after the quarterback and force several turnovers and a pick-six. Michigan wins big.

Michigan 54 – UCF 7

#5 Michigan vs UCF game preview

Friday, September 9th, 2016


um-ucf-game-preview-header(MGoBlue.com)

Previously this week: First Look: UCF, Five-Spot Challenge, Tailgate Tuesday, Week 1 Big Ten power rankings, UCF game poster, The numbers game: run game makes big plays in Week 1

Long before Nebraska was a member of the Big Ten and long before the College Football Playoff was in the realm of possibility there existed a blonde little quarterback for the Cornhuskers named Scott Frost. He lead Nebraska to a perfect 13-0 record, beating Peyton Manning’s Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.

But with two polls — the AP and the Coaches — voting to decide the national champion, Frost made a plea to rank the Cornhuskers ahead of Michigan, which had also gone unbeaten. Entering the bowl games, Michigan topped both polls, had better performances against two common opponents (Colorado and Baylor), and had won every game convincingly. Nebraska barely survived an early November game against a 6-3 Missouri squad on a kicked pass play that by rule was illegal.

um-ucf_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
UCF Head Coach: Scott Frost (1st season)
Coaching Record: 0-1
Offensive Coordinator: Troy Walters (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Erik Chinander (1st season)
Last Season: 0-12 (0-8 AAC)
Last Meeting: First meeting
All-Time Series: First meeting
Record in Ann Arbor: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs UCF First meeting
Last Michigan win: First meeting
Last UCF win: First meeting
Current Streak: First meeting
UCF Schedule to date
Opponent Result
South Carolina State W 38-0

Had a playoff existed back then, it would have been a salivating matchup. Nebraska had one of the nation’s best offenses. Michigan’s calling card was its defense lead by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. But while Michigan players and coaches took the high road, Frost made his case for the Cornhuskers to be named national champions.

“If you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play?” he asked. He also tugged at the heart strings of the coaching brotherhood, arguing that legendary head coach Tom Osborne — who was retiring — shouldn’t have to go out without a national title.

I had a chance to ask Osborne about just that a couple years ago and, naturally, he dismissed it as nonsense.

“I don’t know that somebody would vote for a national champion because you’re retiring,” Osborne said. “Maybe somebody did, I don’t know, but since we had won some national championships recently, not long before that, I would somewhat discount that thought.”

Regardless, it worked and Nebraska was awarded a share of the national championship from the Coaches Poll while Michigan was named number one by the AP Poll.

Frost never got a chance to play Michigan while in Lincoln, but 19 years later he’ll visit Ann Arbor on another opposing sideline, this time as the head coach of Central Florida. And while he surmised that Nebraska would be favored by as many as 14 points if they had faced Michigan back then, his UCF Knights enter the Big House as 37-point underdogs.

Just two years removed from a 12-1 season that ended with an upset of 6th-ranked Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, UCF went 0-12 last season. That spelled the end for George O’Leary and the beginning of the Frost era in Orlando. Frost spent seven years as an assistant at Oregon, learning Chip Kelly’s offense and then coordinating it after Kelly left for the NFL. In his three years as offensive coordinator, Oregon’s offense ranked no worse than fifth nationally in both total offense and scoring offense and the Ducks went 79-15 during his time in Eugene.

How quickly can he bring that winning mentality to UCF? With the abundance of talent at his doorstep, he’ll be able to recruit well, but it will take some time. He did, however, start off on the right foot with a 38-0 win last week. But it was over FCS school South Carolina State, who went 7-4 in 2015, and although the Knights’ offense piled up 462 yards — more than any game last season — it came in fits and spurts. They didn’t score a touchdown until right before halftime and lead just 18-0 at the break before pulling away in the second half. Michigan will be a much different animal.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When UCF has the ball

To say that Frost will have his work cut out for him is putting it lightly. While Oregon ranked fifth nationally in total offense last season (538.2 yards per game), UCF ranked dead last (268.4). While Oregon ranked fifth in scoring (43 points per game), UCF ranked 125th (13.9). While Oregon ranked fifth in rushing (279.9 yards per game) and 36th in passing (258.3), UCF ranked 126th (81.3) and 102nd (187.2).

It helps to have an athletic quarterback returning, even if he didn’t put up enviable numbers in 2015. Senior Justin Holman completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 1,379 yards, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. And although he lead UCF to a win last week, he completed just 50 percent of his passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 31.0. Backup Nick Patti, who converted from wide receiver, completed 5-of-7 for 48 yards.

If there’s a sliver of hope for UCF’s offense it is that nearly every pass catcher is back, though Patti takes his 104 yards and one touchdowns over to the quarterback position. But he ranked ranked eighth on the team in receiving in 2015. Redshirt sophomore Tre’Quan Smith is clearly the leader at the receiver position after a debut season in which he caught 52 passes for 724 yard and four touchdowns. His 4.3 receptions per game were good enough to rank 10th in the American Athletic Conference despite UCF’s offense being the worst. He lead the way last Saturday with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Twelve different Knights caught a pass including sophomore Tristan Payton, who was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2015. The former four-star recruit, who Frost expects to break out this season, caught three passes for 34 yards and a score last week. Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Akins hauled in a 35-yard catch.

The running game ranked third-to-last nationally in 2015, but last year’s leading rusher, C.J. Jones, has set his sights high for 2016.

“We want our whole backfield to lead the nation in rushing,” he said. “When you look at UCF and you look at rushing yards, we want to be at the top.”

When you look at the type of running game Frost guided at Oregon you can see that it’s not a completely unreasonable goal. But it’s certainly too much to ask for in Year 1. Jones led the Knights with 339 yards on 3.6 yards per carry last season with one touchdown, but didn’t record a stat last weekend. His backfield mate, sophomore Taj McGowan, who rushed for 262 yards on 3.1 yards per carry and one score a year ago, managed 48 yards on 11 carries last week. True freshman Jawon Hamilton lead the team with 53 yards on 14 carries.

The offensive line returns 42 starts from last season. Senior center Jason Rae is the most experienced of the bunch with 17 career starts, while junior right guard Chavis Dickey — who started just three games in 2015 — is the second most experienced with 15 career starts. Dickey has the best size of any of them at 6-foot-4, 330. Redshirt junior left tackle Aaron Evans started all 12 games a year ago. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Wyatt Miller (nine career starts) and sophomore left guard Tyler Hudanick (10 career starts) are the other starters.

When Michigan has the ball

While the offense has hope for improvement thanks to Frost’s offensive background, the defense returned just five starters from a unit that was one of the country’s worst last season. Frost brought Oregon outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander to Orlando with him. Chinander was a graduate assistant for the Ducks from 2010-12 and went to the Philadelphia Eagles with Chip Kelly, but came back to Oregon after the 2013 season. He promised to bring an “aggressive, high-energy, high-effort” defense to UCF.

The Knights ranked 113th nationally in total defense (464.1 yards per game), 117th in scoring defense (37.7 points per game), 100th against the run (199.2 yards per game), 109th against the pass (264.9 yards per game), and 126th in pass efficiency defense (166.95).

Frost added three junior college transfers to bolster the defensive line. However, two of them — projected starting end Chris Mulumba as well as tackle Joe Sanders — didn’t stick with the team. To add to the problems along the line, former three-star end Monte Taylor was dismissed from the team.

Junior nose guard Jamiyus Pittman is the most experienced returning member of the line. The Moultrie, Ga. native started 11 games last season and ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 45. His seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks are the most of any returning Knight. He recorded just one tackle in the season opener against South Carolina State. The other tackle is redshirt junior Tony Guerad, who recorded 28 tackles, five for loss, and two sacks in seven games a year ago. He also notched just one tackle last Saturday.

Like the defensive line, only one full-time starter returns at the linebacker position after the loss of leading tackler Domenic Spencer. Redshirt junior inside linebacker Chequan Burkett started all 12 games in 2015 and ranked third on the team with 56 tackles. He also led all players with five quarterback hurries. His five tackles last week ranked second on the team. Joining him in the middle will be fifth-year senior Mark Rucker, who entered the season with just 24 total tackles in his career — nine of which came in last year’s season opener against Florida International. Despite standing just 5-foot-7, Rucker lead the team with six tackles last Saturday. The outside linebackers are redshirt junior Shaquem Griffin and fifth-year senior Errol Clarke. Griffin is relishing the opportunity to step into a bigger role this season and recorded six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble last week.

The secondary is where the experience lies with four senior starters. Free safety Drico Johnson broke out last year as the team’s second-leading tackler with 64. He had eight or more tackles in five of the Knights’ 12 games and recorded four tackles last week. Seniors Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Killings are the starting corners. Griffin — the brother of linebacker Shaquem — recorded 50 tackles last season and led the team with 13 pass breakups, which ranked in the top 25 nationally. Although he didn’t make a tackle in the season opener, he picked off a pass. Killings started seven games last season while battling injuries and totaled 32 tackles. He notched four tackles, one for loss, and a pass breakup last week. The other starting safety is fifth-year senior T.J. Mutcherson, who transferred from Iowa State prior to last season and recorded two tackles in the opener.

The other third

UCF returns both kicking specialists from last season. Redshirt sophomore kicker Matthew Wright connected on 13-of-17 field goal attempts in 2015 with a long of 48. He made all four attempts last Saturday from 46, 34, 45, and 37 yards. Fifth-year senior punter Caleb Houston averaged 44.2 yards per punt a year ago with just two touchbacks and 28 downed inside the 20. Last Saturday, he booted three punts for a 44.7 average and downed all three inside the 20.

Sophomore receiver Tristan Payton is back to return kicks after averaging 24.2 yards per return with a long of 35. He already topped that with a 47-yard return last weekend. Redshirt junior defensive back Chris Johnson handled punt return duties last week, returning four for 46 yards with a long of 21.

Prediction

Michigan had no problem steamrolling Hawaii, and although UCF currently leads the nation in points allowed (zero) they haven’t been tested. South Carolina State was an FCS school that was predicted to finish fourth in its conference this season. Michigan should have similar success moving the ball as it did a week ago. UCF’s defense actually ranked worse than Hawaii’s last season and they hired an offensive-minded coach who runs an up-tempo scheme. That’s all good when they’re scoring like Oregon does, but when they aren’t, that puts their defense on the field for a long time.

Michigan will have another big day on the ground and continue to work on getting Wilton Speight comfortable commanding the offense. Defensively, Michigan will slow down the spread and hold UCF to a field goal in the first half.

After last week’s injuries to Bryan Mone, Taco Charlton, and De’Veon Smith, Harbaugh won’t risk leaving the starters in longer than he has to in this one. Expect to see a lot of young guys in the second half. When all is said and done Michigan’s backups will give up a few points but it will be another comfortable win for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan 56 – UCF 13

New arrival: UCF game poster

Thursday, September 8th, 2016


gameposter-2016-ucf

Biff plays the part of the Big House dragon as the Knights of Central Florida come to town.

Download the high-res version here, good up to 24×18.

Previous: Hawaii

Our weekly game posters are designed by Christian Elden, a designer and illustrator who happens to be a Michigan fan. He lives in northwest Ohio where he runs his own design firm. He has illustrated a picture book for Warner Press and has been featured in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. Visit his personal site to view some of his other works.

Five-Spot Challenge 2016: UCF

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016


Congratulations to freezer566 for winning the first Five-Spot Challenge of the season. His deviation of just 68 was nearly 80 points better than second place saline_ian. Freezer566 was just one second away from correctly guessing the number of seconds Michigan would take to score its first touchdown (451). He was also the third closest (16 away) to Michigan’s rushing yards (306) and second closest (five away) to the uniform number of Michigan’s first touchdown (12). He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

Artayay was just three away from the uniform number, while Northsiders7 was just one away from Michigan’s rushing yards, bluwolf77 and JD Mackiewicz were just two away from Hawaii’s total offense, and MGoPoe was just one away from Michigan’s longest kick or punt return.

All 30 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 45 – Hawaii 8. No one correctly predicted the score, but Jaeschke was close with his prediction of 63-6. He was the only contestant to pick Michigan to score at least 60 points. Only four of 30 contestants predicted Michigan to allow just three or fewer points.

Michigan plays UCF this Saturday. Here are this week’s questions.

First Look: UCF

Monday, September 5th, 2016


UCF(Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)

Michigan beat the 40.5-point spread in a 60-point win over Hawaii in Week 1 and opened Week 2 favored by 34.5 points over UCF. It will be the first time the two schools have played each other and the 28th time Michigan has faced a team currently in the American Athletic Conference. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare one week into the season.

UCF stats & Michigan comparison
UCF | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 38.0 | 63.0 43 5
0.0 3.0 1 6
Rushing Yards 197 306 85 81
Rush Avg. Per Game 197.0 306.0 50 14
85.0 81.0 31 27
Avg. Per Rush 3.6 | 7.8
2.7 3.6
Passing Yards 265 206 138 151
Pass Avg. Per Game 265.0 206.0 37 70 138.0 151.0 33 42
Total Offense 462 512 223 | 232
Total Off Avg. Per Game 462.0 512.0 47 34 223.0 232.0 21 | 24
Kick Return Average 47.0 10.0 2 | 113 20.6 20.5 63 | 62
Punt Return Average 11.5 14.0 29 23 0.0 0.0 11 11
Avg. Time of Possession 32:22 27:55 38 82 27:38 | 32:05
3rd Down Conversion Pct 35.3% | 10.0% 90 1
22.2% | 9.0% 22 8
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 3-23 | 0-0
82 | 1
1-5 | 4-41
74 | 13
Touchdowns Scored 4 9
0 | 0
Field Goals-Attempts 4-4 0-0
0-1 | 1-1
Red Zone Scores (5-5) 100%|(6-6) 100% 1 | 1
(0-0) 0%|(0-1) 0% 1 1
Red Zone Touchdowns (3-5) 60%|(6-6) 100% (0-0) 0%|(0-1) 0%
OFEI/DFEI N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ N/A | N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A | N/A

Central Florida has already won more games than it did a year ago. The Knights beat South Carolina State 38-0 on Saturday to start the season 1-0. Last season, they went 0-12, but made a nice splash in the offseason with the hiring of former Nebraska quarterback and Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

Frost spent seven seasons in Eugene, first as the wide receivers coach under Chip Kelly, and then as the offensive coordinator once Kelly left for the NFL. He brings a winning pedigree to Orlando, having compiled a 79-15 record with four top four finishes nationally. He promised to bring Oregon’s offense to UCF which the school is calling UCFast.

It worked in the season opener as UCF piled up 462 yards of offense and 38 points. Last season, their offense eclipsed 400 yards just once in a game — 412 yard at Tulsa — and scored more than 30 points just once — 31 points in a 45-31 loss to Tulane. Granted, South Carolina State is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and went 7-4 last season. But a win is a win and it’s a positive start for Frost.

While offense is Frost’s calling card, the most impressive part of their win was the defense, which held SCSU to just 223 total yards, 85 rushing yards, and no points. Last season, UCF’s defense allowed 464.1 yards per game (113th nationally), 199.2 rushing yards per game (100th), 264.9 passing yards per game (109th), and 37.7 points per game (117th). The Knights returned just five starters from last year’s defense, but brought in several junior college transfers that will step up and contribute right away.

On Saturday, it took a while for UCF’s offense to get going. They gained just 102 yards on their first five possessions, leading to just four field goals. They finally punched it into the endzone with an 8-play, 57-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half. The second half was a different story as UCF had three scoring drives of at least 63 yards.

Despite the 38-point win, a deeper look into the numbers reveal it was more an indication of the opponent than UCF being that much more improved. Quarterback Justin Holman completed just 50 percent of his passes for a quarterback rating of 31.0. While they topped 200 yards rushing, they averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. They also lost two fumbles and allowed three sacks.

With the abundance of talent available in the state of Florida, it’s a safe bet that UCF will eventually turn things around under Frost, but it won’t happen right away and it certainly won’t happen by next week. Michigan may not win by 60, but they’ll win big once again.

2016 non-conference opponent preview: UCF

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016


2016 Opponent Preview - UCF

Scott Frost(D. Bradley Helton, UCF Athletics)

We kicked off our non-conference opponent preview series last week with Michigan’s first opponent, Hawaii. Today we continue with Michigan’s second opponent, the Central Florida Knights.

Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 3 South Carolina State
Sept. 10 at Michigan
Sept. 17 Maryland
Sept. 24 FIU
Oct. 1 at East Carolina
Oct. 7 Tulane
Oct. 15 Temple
Oct. 22 at UConn
Oct. 29 at Houston
Nov. 12 Cincinnati
Nov. 19 Tulsa
Nov. 26 at USF

Oh how far they’ve fallen so quickly. Two years ago, UCF knocked off sixth-ranked Baylor to win the Fiesta Bowl and cap a 12-1 season. They finished the season ranked 10th in the AP Poll, the highest in school history. But head coach George O’Leary was unable to adequately replace quarterback Blake Bortles, who was drafted third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After going 9-4 in 2014, the Knights sunk to 0-12 last season.

O’Leary resigned eight games into the season after posting a 81-68 record over 12 seasons in Orlando and quarterbacks coach Danny Barrett took over for the remainder of the season.

Enter Scott Frost. The former prolific Nebraska quarterback spent the past seven seasons on the coaching staff at Oregon, learning and then running one of the nation’s best offenses. From 2009-12, Frost served as wide receivers coach for the Ducks, and when head coach Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was promoted, Frost was named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

In the past three seasons under Frost’s guidance, Oregon’s offense has ranked second, third, and fifth nationally in total offense and fourth, fourth, and fifth in scoring. He’ll bring a winning mentality to a program that desperately needs it. Oregon went 79-15 during Frost’s tenure in Eugene, finishing in the top four nationally four times and no worse than 19th.

Offense
2015 National Rankings
Total Offense Scoring Offense Rushing Offense Passing Offense
127 125 126 102
Offensive FEI S&P Rushing S&P Passing S&P
128 126 128 122
Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2015 Stats
QB Justin Holman (Sr.) 6’4″, 225 127-250 (50.8%) for 1,379 yds, 7 TD, 14 INT
RB Taj McGowan (So.) 6’1″, 202 85 rush for 262 yds (3.1 avg), 1 TD
WR Tristan Payton (So.) 6’0″, 186 21 rec for 264 yds (12.6 avg), 1 TD
WR Tre’Quan Smith (RS So.) 6’1″, 200 52 rec for 724 yds (13.9 avg), 4 TD
WR Dontravious Wilson (So.) 6’3″, 200 44 rush for 147 yds (3.3 avg), 0 TD
TE Jordan Akins (RS So.) 6’5″, 240 14 rec for 152 yds (10.9 avg), 2 TD
LT Aaron Evans (RS Jr.) 6’5″, 290 12 starts (13 career starts)
LG Tyler Hudanick (So.) 6’5″, 300 9 starts (9 career starts)
C Jason Rae (Sr.) 5’11”, 288 10 starts (17 career starts)
RG Chavis Dickey (Jr.) 6’4″, 330 3 starts (15 career starts)
RT Wyatt Miller (RS So.) 6’4″, 290 8 starts (8 career starts)

To say that Frost will have his work cut out for him is putting it lightly. While his Ducks ranked fifth nationally in total offense last season (538.2 yards per game) , UCF ranked dead last (268.4). While Oregon ranked fifth in scoring (43 points per game), UCF ranked 125th (13.9). While Oregon ranked fifth in rushing (279.9 yards per game) and 36th in passing (258.3), UCF ranked 126th (81.3) and 102nd (187.2).

It helps to have an athletic quarterback returning, even if he didn’t put up enviable numbers in 2015. Senior Justin Holman completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 1,379 yards, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He’ll be pushed by senior Nick Patti, who converted from wide receiver, and freshman McKenzie Milton, a Hawaii native who originally committed to his home-state Rainbow Warriors before switching to UCF.

If there’s a sliver of hope for UCF’s offense it is that nearly every pass catcher is back, though Patti takes his 104 yards and one touchdowns over to the quarterback position. But he ranked ranked eighth on the team in receiving in 2015. Redshirt sophomore Tre’Quan Smith is clearly the leader at the receiver position after a debut season in which he caught 52 passes for 724 yard and four touchdowns. His 4.3 receptions per game were good enough to rank 10th in the American Athletic Conference despite UCF’s offense being the worst.

Sophomore Tristan Payton was the team’s second-leading receiver, although there was a big drop-off after Smith. Payton caught 21 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown. But he was a true freshman and a four-star recruit, so he could be due for a breakout season this fall.

The running game ranked third-to-last nationally in 2015, but last year’s leading rusher, C.J. Jones, has set his sights high for 2016.

“We want our whole backfield to lead the nation in rushing,” he said. “When you look at UCF and you look at rushing yards, we want to be at the top.”

When you look at the type of running game Frost guided at Oregon you can see that it’s not a completely unreasonable goal. But it’s certainly too much to ask for in Year 1. Jones led the Knights with 339 yards on 3.6 yards per carry last season with one touchdown. His backfield mate, sophomore Taj McGowan, rushed for 262 yards on 3.1 yards per carry and one score while battling injuries.

The offensive line returns 42 starts from last season. Senior center Jason Rae is the most experienced of the bunch with 17 career starts, while junior right guard Chavis Dickey — who started just three games in 2015 — is the second most experienced with 15 career starts. Dickey has the best size of any of them at 6-foot-4, 330. Redshirt junior left tackle started all 12 games a year ago.

Defense
2015 National Rankings
Total Defense Scoring Defense Rushing Defense Pass Efficiency D.
113 117 100 126
Defensive FEI S&P Rushing S&P Passing S&P
127 112 107 106
Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2015 Stats
DE Josh Odigie (Jr.) 6’3″, 236 51 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 sacks*
DT Jamiyus Pittman (Jr.) 6’0″, 295 45 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks
DT Tony Guerad (RS Jr.) 6’3″, 275 28 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks
LB Shaquem Griffin (RS Jr.) 6’1″, 213 9 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PBU
LB Chequan Burkett (RS Jr.) 6’2″, 230 56 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks
LB Mark Rucker (RS Sr.) 5’9″, 217 15 tackles, 1 TFL
LB Errol Clarke (RS Sr.) 6’3″, 230 9 tackles
CB Shaquill Griffin (Sr.) 6’1″, 200 50 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 INT, 13 PBU
CB D.J. Killings (Sr.) 6’0″, 185 32 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF
FS Drico Johnson (RS Sr.) 6’1″, 215 64 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FR
SS T.J. Mutcherson (RS Sr.) 5’11”, 195 31 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU
*at Orange Coast College

While the offense has hope for improvement thanks to Frost’s offensive background, the defense returns just five starters from a unit that was one of the country’s worst last season. Frost brought Oregon outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander to Orlando with him. Chinander was a graduate assistant for the Ducks from 2010-12 and went to the Philadelphia Eagles with Chip Kelly, but came back to Oregon after the 2013 season. He promises to bring an “aggressive, high-energy, high-effort” defense to UCF.

The Knights ranked 113th nationally in total defense (464.1 yards per game), 117th in scoring defense (37.7 points per game), 100th against the run (199.2 yards per game), 109th against the pass (264.9 yards per game), and 126th in pass efficiency defense (166.95).

Frost added three junior college transfers to bolster the defensive line. However, two of them — projected starting end Chris Mulumbo as well as tackle Joe Sanders — are not on the fall camp roster. To add to the problems along the line, former three-star end Monte Taylor was dismissed from the team. Junior Josh Odigie, a transfer from Orange Coast College, where he recorded 51 tackles, 12 for loss, and four sacks, should lock down the starting end spot.

Junior tackle Jamiyus Pittman is the most experienced returning member of the line. The Moultrie, Ga. native started 11 games last season and ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 45. His seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks are the most of any returning Knight. The other tackle is likely to be redshirt junior Tony Guerad, who recorded 28 tackles, five for loss, and two sacks in seven games a year ago.

Like the defensive line, only one full-time starter returns at the linebacker position after the loss of leading tackler Domenic Spencer. Redshirt junior inside linebacker Chequan Burkett started all 12 games in 2015 and ranked third on the team with 56 tackles. He also led all players with five quarterback hurries. Joining him in the middle will be fifth-year senior Mark Rucker, who has recorded just 24 total tackles in his career — nine of which came in last year’s season opener against Florida International. The outside linebackers are likely to be redshirt junior Shaquim Griffin and fifth-year senior Errol Clarke. Both recorded just nine tackles last season in limited action.

The secondary is where the experience lies with four senior starters. Free safety Drico Johnson broke out last year as the team’s second-leading tackler with 64. He had eight or more tackles in five of the Knights’ 12 games. Seniors Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Killings are the starting corners. Griffin — the brother of linebacker Shaquim — recorded 50 tackles and led the team with 13 pass breakups, which ranked in the top 25 nationally. Killings started seven games last season while battling injuries and totaled 32 tackles.

Special Teams
2015 National Rankings
Kick Returns Punt Returns Net Punting ST Eff.
33 98 10 22
Kick Return D. Punt Return D. FG Efficiency Opp FG Eff.
50 57 43 114
Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2015 Stats
K Matthew Wright (RS So.) 6’0″, 185 13-of-17 (76.5%), Long 48
P Caleb Houston (RS Sr.) 6’1″, 225 65 punts, 44.2 avg, 2 TB, 28 in-20
KR Tristan Payton (So.) 6’0″, 186 30 ret, 24.2 avg
PR Tristan Payton (So.) 6’0″, 186 N/A

Like Michigan’s first opponent, Hawaii, UCF wasn’t bad on special teams last season, ranking in the top half nationally in most categories. They also have both their kicker and punter back. Redshirt sophomore kicker Matthew Wright connected on 13-of-17 field goal attempts in 2015 with a long of 48, while fifth-year senior punter Caleb Houston averaged 44.2 yards per punt with just two touchbacks and 28 downed inside the 20.

Sophomore receiver Tristan Payton is expected to handle both return duties. Last season he was the main kick returner, averaging 24.2 yards per return with a long of 35. He didn’t return a punt, however.

Outlook

With all the talent available in the state of Florida, it’s a certainty that Frost will be able to win some games at UCF before he moves up to a bigger and better gig. But don’t expect it to happen right away. He will certainly improve on last season’s record, and probably before he even reaches Ann Arbor. The Knights face South Carolina State, which went 7-4 last season in the Football Championship Subdivision, in the season opener. There are other wins available on the schedule, but the school-record 23,147 UCF fans who showed up to the team’s spring game should be patient this fall.

What it means for Michigan

Frost made news back in February with a tweak of Jim Harbaugh following Michigan’s Signing of the Stars event on National Signing Day.

“As long as I’m running this program, we’re not going to make a zoo out of National Signing Day,” he said during his post-signing day press conference.

That’s just fine with Harbaugh, who will always do things his own way. And that includes a big Week 2 win. Frost’s Oregon-style offense will give Michigan’s top-notch defense a good early-season look. UCF has even coined the moniker “UCFast” to describe the offense. It won’t be enough to scare Michigan, but will present a tougher test than Hawaii and it will be good to see how a Don Brown defense reacts to an uptempo, no-huddle offense.

Offensively, Michigan should have no problem moving the ball and scoring at will against a defense that allowed nearly 38 points per game in 2015. Look for offensive coordinator Tim Drevno to put on a clinic on the ground, taking advantage of an inexperienced and undersized front seven. Michigan wins big and moves on to Colorado.

Aubrey Dawkins to transfer to Central Florida

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016


Aubrey Dawkins(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

The Michigan basketball program lost a third member of its team on Wednesday morning. Sophomore Aubrey Dawkins announced his intention to transfer to Central Florida to play for his father, new UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins.

“This was not an easy decision, however, the chance to play for my father is a special opportunity for me and my family,” Dawkins said in an official release. “Coach (John) Beilein and Michigan took a chance on me and that is something I will never forget. I want to thank all the coaches, staff and especially the U-M fans for making my time in Ann Arbor truly special. Go Blue.”

John Beilein compared Dawkins’ opportunity to one that he had while at West Virginia.

“While we certainly did not wish for this to happen, it is quite understandable,” said Beilein. “I was able to coach my son and see him grow as a person and player and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Aubrey is a wonderful and thoughtful young man who has a bright future in front of him. We wish him well.”

In two seasons at Michigan, Dawkins started 22 games and averaged 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He shot 43.9 percent from three-point range, making 83 of 189 attempts. He scored a career high 31 points against Rutgers during his freshman season, making eight three-pointers, which is the second-most in a game in program history.

The elder Dawkins spent eight seasons as head coach at Stanford where he compiled a 156-115 record, including two NIT titles and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen. He was let go after the 2015-16 season and quickly hired by UCF just eight days later. The Knights went 12-18 each of the past two seasons and 13-18 the year before. Their last winning record was in 2012-13 when they went 20-11. Dawkins will have to sit out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will then have two seasons of eligibility.

Following the transfers of Spike Albrecht and Ricky Doyle, which put Michigan’s scholarship situation at even, Dawkins’ departure gives Beilein a scholarship to work with. He could go after a late flyer, seek out a graduate transfer such as Valparaiso’s Alec Peters, or bank it for next year’s recruiting class.