Head coach Gus Malzahn challenged his UCF Knights after the loss in Cincinnati to revitalize themselves in the second half of the season and improve. They have answered the call thus far.
After dominating Memphis last time they were at the Bounce House and downing the Temple Owls in their first road win this past Saturday, they are 2-0 in the backstretch of the season. However, going into next week’s 4:00 pm EST affair in Orlando, Malzahn is acknowledging that the Green Wave of Tulane poses quite a challenge regardless of their 1-7 schedule.
“[We are] playing a team in Tulane that has played four Top 25 teams – they went to Oklahoma, gave them a scare, and had a chance to win the game. They probably played Cincinnati as good as anybody,” said Malzahn. “ This is a game that we’re going to have to play good. Our guys understand that. We got some veteran guys, smart guys that turn on the film and say ‘these guys are pretty good’.”
Coach Malzahn also acknowledged that Tulane’s starting quarterback Michael Pratt is a solid player, but the key to Tulane’s offense under head coach Willie Fritz are running backs Cameron Carroll and Tyjae Spears. Stopping this two-pronged threat, each of whom average more than five yards per carry against the nation’s 11th most difficult schedule so far in 2021, will be key for defensive tackle Ricky Barber and the defensive front to secure the win for UCF.
“We’re definitely really confident,” said Barber on his defense’s mentality leading up to facing the Green Wave. “But we know that we’re still hungry and we have more to do. We’re not just hungry, we’re greedy.”
While the defense has been rolling, the offense is doing its best to press on. True freshman Mikey Keene turned in a career performance under center filling in for Dillon Gabriel with running back Isaiah Bowser continuing to carry him in support. But the status of top receiver Jaylon Robinson and center Matt Lee are still in doubt leading up to this weekend.
The Knights will need more strong performances from wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe and tight end Alec Holler who each snagged big catches and two touchdowns last week.