No. 19 UCF happy to go home to face South Carolina State
This could get ugly quick.
UCF is coming off a 39-point win in its opener.
South Carolina State lost its first game by 31.
The two teams square off Saturday in Orlando, Fla., in the home opener for the Knights (1-0). Kickoff in Spectrum Stadium is 6 p.m. ET with coverage on ESPN3.
Despite the apparent mismatch of the nation’s 19th-ranked team against an FCS foe, the Knights say they are taking nothing for granted against the Bulldogs (0-1).
“From the film I watched the last two days, they rally to the ball,” UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton said. “They play hard.
“I remember them coming in my freshman year. They gave us all we could handle. We know they’re going to come in and play hard. We know it’s their Super Bowl to come in and knock off a Top 25 team. We can’t overlook anybody.”
The Bulldogs are coming off a 37-6 loss to Georgia Southern.
“We played a very good Georgia Southern team and my hat goes off to them on (how) they played today,” South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said. “This team is really young so this gave us a chance to see how these guys react in game situation.”
The Knights also are looking to get back home in Spectrum Stadium, a steel and brick-clad facility also known as the “Bounce House” for its susceptibility to shaking when the crowd jumps in unison.
“We love playing in the Bounce House,” senior offensive tackle Wyatt Miller said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been in there, since Memphis. We’ve got some good memories in there.”
The Knights have gone 9-1 in their last 10 home games and were 7-0 at home in last season’s undefeated campaign, including a 62-55 shootout win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
They were just as explosive offensively in last week’s season opener in a 56-17 win at Connecticut, but showed some vulnerability at times on defense. Their tackling at times was just sloppy and UConn quarterback David Pindell took advantage of that to rush for 157 yards on just 22 carries, scoring on a 14-yard run late in the game. He had a long run of 26.
“He is elusive,” UCF coach Josh Heupel said of Pindell, “and we’ll probably face another guy like that this week.”
South Carolina State quarterback Tyrece Nick may present some of the same problems for the defense that Pindell did. He rushed for a team-high 66 yards in the opener.
Heupel attributed the tackling problems to Week 1 issues.
“You have some tackling during training camp but it’s still Week 1,” he said. “I think fundamentally our guys put themselves in bad position some of the time, and that’s something we have to continue to work on, continue to correct, something we’ve got to continue to do at a high level if we want to become the team we want to be.”
The message apparently is getting through.
“We already know what we’ve got to work on,” sophomore linebacker Eric Mitchell said. “That’s tackling, obviously. We need to get better doing that.”
The Bulldogs don’t throw much. They were just 2-of-10 passing for 31 yards against Georgia Southern.
Milton, on the other hand, was 24 of 32 for 346 yards and five touchdowns for the Knights, with wide receiver Dredrick Snelson catching six passes for 90 yards and Tre Nixon, a transfer from Ole Miss, getting 101 yards and two scores on five receptions.
Heupel is looking for the Knights to continue to improve in communication and game-day situations in just his second game with the Knights.
“We can make a big jump,” he said. “We need to make a big jump. Will it be the biggest jump of the year? I don’t know.”