FACTS & STATS: Site: Bright House Networks Stadium (45,323) — Orlando,
Florida. Television: ESPN. Home Record: BYU 2-1, UCF 1-0. Away Record: BYU
2-0, UCF 1-1. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, UCF 0-1. Conference Record: BYU 0-0,
UCF 1-0. Series Record: BYU leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Up until last week, BYU was one of the only teams outside of the
power conferences that had a slim shot at making it to the four-team playoff
to decide a national champion, but now those hopes are dashed with the results
of last week’s meeting with Utah State.
This week the Cougars have to regroup and show some resilience as they clash
with the UCF Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando.
Falling to in-state rival Utah State, 35-20, last Friday night ended BYU’s
hopes of being one of the last undefeated teams standing when postseason
invitations were to be handed out, but in addition to losing the battle for
the Old Wagon Wheel, the Cougars lost something much more precious. In the
second quarter, quarterback and Heisman hopeful Taysom Hill suffered a season-
ending fracture to his left leg.
With one of the nation’s most dangerous offensive weapons now on the sidelines
the Cougars, who lost to the Aggies at home for the first time since 1978, are
hoping to put their first loss of the season behind them as they move forward.
Meanwhile, the Knights are kicking off a three-game homestand with this
meeting and are hoping to secure their third win in a row as a result. Since
losing back-to-back contests versus Penn State and Missouri to begin the 2014
campaign, UCF has rebounded by defeating Bethune-Cookman and, last Thursday
night, Houston by a score of 17-12 on the road.
BYU won the only previous meeting between the squads by a score of 24-17 three
Aspirations for the 2014 season were dashed against Utah State, not just
because the Cougars lost to the Aggies, but because their leader was lost to
injury. Hill was around long enough to complete 8-of-11 passes for 99 yards
and a score, adding a rushing touchdown on one of his seven carries, but
surely he would give it all back just to be healthy again.
Backup quarterback Christian Stewart stepped in and hit only 10-of-29 passes
for 172 yards and was picked off three times, ending any possibility of the
Cougars competing with Utah State. Receivers Mitch Mathews and Jordan Leslie
tried to keep up the fight as they recorded 117 and 135 yards, respectively,
but it wasn’t nearly enough.
The BYU pass defense was picked apart by Darell Garretson who threw for 321
yards and three touchdowns and was sacked only once. On the season, the
Cougars now rank 109th in the country with 284.6 ypg allowed through the air,
but at least the run defense has been more respectable with 98.0 ypg
With Hill out of the picture, the offense will now take its cues from Stewart,
a senior signal caller who saw very little action last season and previously
played at Snow College before playing for his hometown team. Certainly the
passing attack is taking a step back, but so too is the running game that Hill
paced with 463 yards and eight touchdowns.
Junior running back Jamaal Williams, who led the squad with 99 yards versus
Utah State, will probably have his number called more frequently in order to
fill in the gap left by Hill. Williams is second on the team with 395 yards
and three TDs, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Houston’s Cougars held UCF to a season-low 17 points last week, and yet the
Knights still played well enough on defense to make that stand up as they
began their American Athletic Conference schedule on a positive note.
The defense for the Knights surrendered 331 yards to Houston, but the Cougars
had to settle for four field goals and failed to fully capitalize on any one
of their four red-zone opportunities.
UCF managed only 228 yards of offense, with Justin Holman completing just one-
third of his 18 pass attempts for 101 yards, but two of those connections
finished up in the end zone. No one player on the Knights had more than a
single catch in the contest. For the season, completed passes are somewhat of
a rarity, as only J.J. Worton has double-digit catches, his 10 grabs resulting
in 159 yards and a score.
Holman has completed 54.4 percent of his attempts for 164.8 ypg, as the UCF
offense limps along in the early going. With 178.5 ypg overall, the passing
attack ranks 106th in the country, while 102.5 ypg on the ground has the group
checking in at 111th. Put it together and the Knights are 119th in the country
in total offense with just 281.0 ypg.
Luckily, the defense has been far more respectable for the Knights, holding
foes to just 106.0 ypg on the ground and 334.3 ypg overall. Although they’ve
combined for a total of just 27 tackles thus far, Thomas Niles and Jaryl Mamea
have been rather forceful at the line of scrimmage, tying for the team lead in
sacks with four apiece.
Losing Hill is a devastating blow on so many levels for the Cougars that you
have to wonder whether or not they’ll be able to survive the season. Many
thought BYU could run the table with the schedule it had, but now there are
more than a few doubters and being out on the road right away with a
quarterback who has seen very little game action won’t help the cause.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 23, UCF 17