South Carolina State at Central Florida

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
SITE: Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV: ESPN3
SERIES: UCF leads 2-0. UCF won the last meeting 38-0 in 2016.
RANKINGS: UCF No. 19

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bulldogs

–QB Tyrece Nick was a double-threat on offense for the Bulldogs. A sophomore, he led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 21 carries and completed one of his three pass attempts for 14 yards.

–WR Will Vereen accounted for South Carolina State’s longest reception, a 17-yard pass from QB Dewann Ford. He is a redshirt freshman.

–SS Chris Adams led the Bulldogs in solo efforts with six among his seven tackles in the opener. He tied with LB Lane Jones for the team high in tackles.

–FS Jaylen Evans had two tackles for loss among his four stops. The redshirt freshman was one of seven Bulldogs with tackles for losses in the opening defeat.

Knights

–QB McKenzie Milton put himself at least on the fringe of the Heisman race with his performance in the opener. He was dead-on accurate in the rout of Connecticut, completing 24 of 32 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 50 yards, averaging 7.1 per carry.

–WR Tre Nixon had a big night. The Ole Miss transfer had five receptions, one off the team-lead shared by WRs Dredrick Snelson and Gabriel Davis. They were good for a team-high 101 yards and two touchdowns.

–LB Pat Jasinski wasted no time picking up where he left off. The team leader in tackles with 105 in 2017, he was credited with 10 tackles against UConn, sharing the team lead in the category with LB Eric Mitchell.

–FS Richie Grant had an interception in making his first career start. The sophomore was responsible for two turnovers by forcing and recovering a fumble in addition to the pick. He was credited with six tackles.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

After rolling to a 39-point win in its opener, UCF (1-0) figures to cruise again when it hosts South Carolina State, a 31-point loser last weekend, in its home opener Saturday.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. ET in Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., 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.”

 

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