Connect with us
PSN is sponsored by Beaver County Auto

Pittsburgh Sports Now

Game Preview

Pitt Football Game 5 Preview: Scouting Central Florida

Pitt Football Game 5 Preview: Scouting Central Florida

THE MATCHUP: PITT (2-2) AT #13 UCF (3-0)
WHEN: 3:30 P.M. EST
WHERE: SPECTRUM STADIUM, ORLANDO, FL
HOW TO WATCH: ESPNU
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

After a 2-2 start to the season, which included a 45-point loss to Penn State and yet another defeat to North Carolina, optimism surrounding the Panthers’ 2018 season is waning. Unfortunately for fans, week-five offers little promise for a turnaround as Pitt must face a team now recognized by the NCAA as last year’s co-national champions, the Central Florida Knights, against whom the Panthers are 13-point underdogs.

Playing in the American Athletic Conference, Central Florida mirrors the Boise State program of ten years ago; despite exhibiting on-field dominance, their wins are not valued like those of teams from Power 5 conferences. Regardless of their weak strength-of-schedule, UCF’s 16-game winning streak leads the nation, and after beating Auburn 34-27 in the 2017 Peach Bowl, the Knights proved that they can compete with a team that defeated both participants in the 2017 National Championship game. Their chances of reaching the 2018 College Football Playoff may be slim, but Central Florida can play with the best in the FBS.

UCF will take the field Saturday under first-year head coach Josh Heupel. Following the program’s success in 2017, Head Coach Scott Frost – a renowned offensive guru – accepted the head coaching position at his alma mater, Nebraska. Central Florida turned to Heupel, Missouri’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, to preserve the team’s offensive brilliance.

So far, UCF has looked just as sharp under Heupel, who many may remember for quarterbacking Oklahoma to the 2000 national championship. They began the season by blowing out Connecticut on the road, 56-17, and followed that by shutting out South Carolina State at home, 38-0. After the postponement of their week-three game at North Carolina, Central Florida defeated Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls, 56-36.

In their three wins, UCF is outscoring opponents 77-26 in the second half. Pitt will have to rectify their second half woes, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, if they wish to keep pace with the high-scoring Knights.

OFFENSE

The Knights’ up-tempo, spread offense, averaging 587.7 total yards-per-game (5th in the FBS), is led by junior quarterback McKenzie Milton. After winning AAC Offensive Player of the Year and finishing eighth in Heisman voting last year, Milton is back in force, accounting for over 1,000 total yards in just three games. Through the air, he has completed 66-of-103 passes for 895 yards, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. At 5-feet-11-inches tall, Milton may be undersized, but his athleticism makes him one of the most dangerous playmakers in the country. He can extend passing plays with his legs, and with 23 carries for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns, he is the team’s second leading rusher.

Milton distributes the ball to a corps of wide receivers led by breakthrough sophomore Gabriel Davis. Davis, at 6-feet-3-inches and 212 pounds, has emerged as Milton’s top target on the outside, registering 20 receptions for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tre Nixon – a former 4-star recruit who transferred from Ole Miss this offseason – has 11 receptions for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Dredrick Snelson adds 197 yards and a touchdown out of the slot. Considering Pitt’s struggles with covering slot receivers this season, Snelson may be a name to watch.

The Knights’ passing attack may elicit considerable concern within Panther fans after North Carolina’s struggling quarterback threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns last week, but don’t overlook their ground game. UCF runs the ball 55-percent of the time, dispersing carries between Milton and a productive group of backs. The diminutive Adrian Killins, Jr., standing at 5-feet-8-inches and 164 pounds, is the team’s leading rusher with 193 yards and 3 touchdowns on 33 attempts. A 2017 first-team All-AAC honoree, Killins is a former a high school track star from the speed-rich state of Florida who can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Complimenting Killins is the larger Taj McGowan, a 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pounder. And Greg McCrae, though third on the depth chart, is earning touches by averaging 8.2 yards-per-carry.

Without a doubt, Milton and his backs are all skilled runners, but they benefit from playing behind an offensive line that returns three starters, including 2017 first-team All-AAC center Gabriel Davis and 2017 second-team All-AAC left tackle Wyatt Miller.

DEFENSE

On the defensive side is where Panther fans may find hope for Saturday. Allowing 396.7 yards-per-game, the Knights rank 87th in total defense – one spot behind the Panthers. They concede 239.0 yards-per-game on the ground (119th in the FBS), which may bode well for a Pitt offense whose success has come primarily in the run game. The Panthers will also want to run the ball effectively on Saturday, considering that UCF’s seven interceptions ties them for second-best in the nation.

Up front, UCF’s depth chart reflects an “or” at one starting defensive tackle position and one defensive end position, leaving some uncertainty as to who will start. Titus Davis, who switched from outside linebacker to defensive end in the offseason, is the end who has earned the start after registering 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack and 1 pass breakup in 2018. Joey Connors, a 6-foot-1-inch, 313-pound defensive tackle, is the other starter without an “or” listed next to his name. And defensive tackle Trysten Hill, a 2017 second-team All-AAC honoree, is a player who will receive significant playing time – whether as a starter or backup.

At linebacker, UCF must replace Shaquem Griffin, who many may know as the player who had his left hand amputated as a child, yet displayed incredible athleticism at the combine and is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Middle linebacker Pat Jasinski, the team’s leading tackler last year, returns as an anchor in the middle, though. The senior has 26 tackles (tied for first on team), 2.5 tackles-for-loss and 1 interception.

In the secondary, Mike Hughes was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, leaving the Knights without their top cornerback from last year. Redshirt-junior Nevelle Clark has elevated his play without Hughes, compiling 14 total tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack and 3 pass breakups.

And at the safety positions, UCF features a pair of playmakers. Kyle Gibson, the team’s strong safety, earned first-team All-AAC honors in 2017, and free safety Richie Grant is on his way to all-conference honors this year with 26 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

SEASON STATS

PITT UCF
  PITT OPPONENTS UCF OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 98 115 150 53
Points Per Game 24.5 28.6 50.0 17.7
FIRST DOWNS 72 84 93 66
Rushing 45 38 46 43
Passing 24 35 39 19
Penalty 3 11 8 4
RUSHING YARDAGE 849 764 870 717
Yards Gained Rushing 952 878 891 779
Yards Lost Rushing 103 114 21 62
Rushing Attempts 156 157 133 148
Average Yards Per Rush 5.4 4.9 6.5 4.8
Average Yards Per Game 212.3 191.0 290.0 239.0
Rushing Touchdowns 9 9 11 5
PASSING YARDAGE 595 821 912 473
Comp-Att-Int 61-97-3 61-106-3 69-109-3 47-87-7
Average Yards Per Game 6.1 7.8 304.0 157.7
Passing Touchdowns 4 6 9 2
TOTAL OFFENSE 1444 1585 1782 1190
Total Plays 253 263 242 235
Average Yards Per Play 5.7 6.0 7.4 5.1
Average Yards Per Game 361.0 396.3 594.0 396.7
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 9-228 4-94 8-140 16-367
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 8-24 7-58 6-84 2-0
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 3-99 3-42 7-99 3-12
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 25.3 23.5 17.5 22.9
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 3.0 8.3 14.0 0.0
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 33.0 14.0 14.1 4.0
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 7-4 8-4 0-0 2-2
PENALTIES – YARDS 29-254 20-160 18-177 21-215
Average Per Game 63.5 40.0 59.0 71.7
PUNTS – YARDS 20-744 18-741 7-267 14-605
NET YARDS PER PUNT 34.3 38.7 37.6 43.4
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 30:41 29:19 24:51 35:09
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 23/51 20/52 22/34 19/48
3rd-Down Percentage 45% 39% 65% 40%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 2/5 2/5 1/3 6/10
4th Down Percentage 40% 40% 33% 60%
SACKS BY – YARDS 8-59 7-67 4-18 1-5
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 1/2 1/4 1/1 2/3
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 10/13 11/15 14/17 5/7

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Pickett, Kenny 60 96 580 4 3 120.8
UCF
Milton, Mckenzie 66 103 895 9 3 160.1

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Ollison, Qadree 57 355 6.2 4 63
Hall, Darrin 24 163 6.8 2 65
Pickett, Kenny 35 117 3.3 2 15
UCF
Killins, Jr., Adrian 33 193 5.8 3 24
Milton, Mckenzie 23 154 6.4 3 14
McCrae, Greg 17 140 8.2 1 32

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Mack, Taysir 10 224 0 60
Araujo-Lopes, Rafael 11 103 2 42
Ffrench, Maurice 11 94 1 17
Aston, George 9 59 1 14
UCF
Davis, Gabriel 20 242 3 39
Snelson, Dredrick 15 197 1 31
Nixon, Tre 11 187 2 45
Colubiale, Michael 7 101 0 20

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Wirginis, Quintin 20 28 5.5 1 0 0 2.0
Hamlin, Damar 15 18 3.0 0 0 1 0.0
Weaver, Rashad 12 18 4.0 1 3 0 1.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 11 18 3.0 1 0 0 0.0
Briggs, Dennis 12 15 0.0 0 0 0 0.0
Brightwell, Saleem 10 14 0.0 0 0 0 0.0
Zeise, Elijah 7 14 0.0 1 0 0 0.0
UCF
Grant, Richie 18 26 0.0 1 1 2 0.0
Jasinski, Pat 13 26 2.5 0 0 1 0.0
Mitchell, Eric 8 18 0.5 0 0 1 0.0
Clarke, Nevelle 11 14 3.0 0 0 0 1.0
Gibson, Kyle 8 12 0.5 0 0 1 0.0
Moore, Brandon 8 12 1.0 0 0 0 0.0
Davis, Titus 3 12 2.5 0 0 0 1.0

THE WRAP

Pitt at Central Florida kicks off at 3:30pm. It will be the second time these two teams meet, with Pitt leading the all-time series, 1-0. The game will be aired on ESPNU and can be heard on 93.7 the Fan. Our Alan Saunders will be live from the game in Orlando and the Pittsburgh Sports Now staff will provide in-game updates and observations via Twitter.

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Our Sponsors

Dunkin' Donuts proudly supports Western Pennsylvania high school football
7 Fields Wealth Management
Duquesne Football
Duquesne Men's Basketball
The Travel Company
Archie's Southside
To Top

Send this to a friend