UH-UCF: Highs, lows of Houston’s second loss of 2020
Houston suffered its worst loss of the season on Saturday afternoon when UCF came into TDECU Stadium and thoroughly dominated UH as it suffered a 44-21 defeat.
The Cougars (2-2, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) held an early advantage over the Knights (4-2, 3-2 AAC) after the defense was able to force UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel to fumble and senior linebacker Grant Stuard scooped it up and returned it for the touchdown.
Here is what was good and what was bad in the UH’s’ 44-21 loss against UCF:
UH’s defense in first, third quarters
Houston’s defense has been the most notable unit for the team to begin the season, and while it had its struggles containing UCF’s high-powered offense, UH’s defense was able to keep the Cougars within striking distance for most of the contest.
Early in the game for the Cougars, they made the Knights feel their physicality.
While UCF was able to move the ball on three chunk plays in the period, notably a 49-yard catch by sophomore wide receiver Jaylon Williams and a 42-yard completion by senior receiver Marlon Williams that was followed by a 34-yard touchdown catch by sophomore receiver Ryan O’Keefe, Houston’s defense made plays of its own, too.
After the first chunk play by UCF, Houston’s defense was able to do damage control and limited the Knights to only three points after junior defensive tackle Atlias Bell was able to sack quarterback UCF sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel on third and seven at the UH 11-yard line.
On UCF’s next offensive possession, UH senior defensive lineman Payton Turner sacked Gabriel on another third down, which forced a fumble that was scooped up by senior linebacker Grant Stuard, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
Houston’s defense sacked Gabriel three times in the opening quarter.
In the third quarter, Houston held UCF scoreless despite the Cougars’ offense inability to provide any aid.
Whenever the punter is in the highs category, it either means that that player did a good job pinning the opposing team deep, or that the offense was dreadful, and in this game, it was the latter.
Houston freshman punter Laine Wilkins had to punt six times and racked up 270 yards. He averaged 45 yards per punt.
The Cougars were riding into this game with the AAC’s fourth-best offense, but they were out of sync to begin this contest.
While Houston was able to get into UCF’s territory in its first three drives, UH came away with zero points. The result of the drives were two punts and one interception.
In Houston’s fourth drive, the Cougars were unable to get into the Knights’ territory but did get it to midfield and were forced to punt again.
On Houston’s fifth drive of the first half, UH got the ball inside of UCF’s six-yard line after a 32-yard gain by sophomore receiver wide receiver Nathaniel Dell, but the team went backwards after the gain and settled for a field goal attempt that was missed by senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon.
The 6-foot-3-inch quarterback had been off to a solid start in 2020 but on Saturday afternoon, the Carrollton native struggled tremendously and was unable to find his offensive groove.
Tune finished the game with 263 passing yards, one touchdown that came once the game was out of reach, and two interceptions, one of which was an underthrown pass that was intercepted inside the 5-yard line.
Containing the rush
While the Cougars’ defense was able to make big plays in the first quarter, in the second, the Knights were able to impose their will, and UCF’s fast-paced offense was able to build up a 16-point advantage.
After the turnover by UCF in the first quarter, the Knights scored on their final four drives, which were two touchdowns and two field goals.
UCF finished the first half with 358 total yards, which included 114 yards on the ground, which was only the second 100-yard performance by a UH opponent.
It took Navy, who was the first opponent to rush for over 100 yards, until its final drive of the contest when the game out of reach to pass the mark. It took UCF one half.
Once the second half started, Houston’s defense was able to contain UCF in the third quarter, but the Knights were still picking up a significant amount of yardage on the ground.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gabriel found receiver Ryan O’Keefe for his second touchdown of the game, and the Knights were able to put the finishing touches after that.
The Knights finished with 681 total yards of offense, 353 of which was on the ground.