UCF: Ultimate Cage Football

It was the Ultimate Cage Fight between two unbeatens.  And for three hours, it was a back and forth offensive slug fest.  The Knights jumped out to the early lead, but the Lions roared back to even the score.  But for the third straight week of the season, the Nittany Lion offense just couldn’t keep focus in the first half, and they fell behind 21-7 before the half time bell rang and the scoreboard showed a 21-10 advantage to the visiting Knights of Orlando.

Penn State squandered a great opportunity to build momentum going into the second half, when Malcolm Willis intercepted a Bortles pass and gave PSU possession of the ball on their own 21 yard line.  Unfortunately, there was only 1:17 on the clock, but a field goal here, and knowing the Lions would have the ball first in the second half, Penn State could cut the lead to a score or even take the lead on these two possessions.

But on a second down play, Hackenberg took an ill-advised sack instead of getting rid of the ball.  (Insert your comment about freshman mistakes here, but even their senior signal caller threw a pass away late when he should have kept the clock rolling, so those things happen.) The clock kept winding down, and without any time outs, Penn State had to spike the ball, leaving fourth and two and a 59 yard field goal attempt.  Ficken did his best, but came up short.  Had Penn State been able to actually run a play on third down instead of spiking the ball, everything might have been different.  On the other hand, we might have fumbled, lost yards, or thrown an INT.  But just another 5 or 6 yards would have kept Ficken perfect on the year, and Penn State down by 8 at the half.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Penn State never stopped fighting back, and despite giving up 507 yards to the Golden Knights, they were down only ten in the fourth quarter when Zach Zwinak had the ball stripped and lost the only fumble of the day.  Not to make the young man feels worse than he already does, but the turn over was critical.  There was 5:43 left on the clock, and PSU had driven the ball inside the UCF thirty.

And the Nittany Lion defense rose to the occasion for the second time that day, forcing a punt that went awry for the Knights and should have sealed their doom.  The snap sailed over the punters head toward the end zone, but he managed to scramble away and boot a short shank out of bounds.

Penn State finally capitalized on the misplay with a TD that pulled them within a field goal.  O’Brien opted to pooch kick or some such strategy, eschewing the on-sides kick with only 2:51 left on the clock.  But the kick rolled the whole way to the end zone and was downed for a touchback.  With only one time out left, Penn State had to keep the Knights from a first down.

And they failed.  Bout over.  Win to UCF.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From GoPSUsports:

UCF PSU
FIRST DOWNS………………. 20 24
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)………… 38-219 35-193
PASSING YDS (NET)…………. 288 262
Passes Att-Comp-Int……….. 27-20-1 29-21-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS….. 65-507 64-455
Fumble Returns-Yards………. 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards………… 0-0 1-15
Kickoff Returns-Yards……… 5-115 7-162
Interception Returns-Yards…. 0-0 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg)………… 2-17.0 2-34.5
Fumbles-Lost……………… 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards…………… 6-62 5-33
Possession Time…………… 32:37 27:23
Third-Down Conversions…….. 7 of 12 2 of 8
Fourth-Down Conversions……. 0 of 1 1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances……. 4-4 4-4
Sacks By: Number-Yards…….. 1-10 0-0

Penn State doubled the number of third down conversions on the season, going 2 for 8.  UCF won time of possession, largely on the fact that they kept the chains moving on third down by converting 7 of 12.

Otherwise, the stats are pretty similar.  They outgained us, but not by an insurmountable amount.  Both teams had a turn over.

Perhaps the key stat of the game is NO SACKS by the PSU D.  I’m not even sure we ever hurried him, let alone touched him.  It did not even appear as if we were trying to put any pressure–stunts/blitzes–on Bortles, who frequently had time to sign autographs in the pocket, if he were so Johnny Football inclined to do so.

To place blame in this game is a misguided pursuit.  No one play really changed the complexion of the game.  But if we have to over analyze things, I would have to question the defensive coaching decision to not pressure the QB.  I have felt to this point that the coaching staff has been really good at making half time adjustments, but I felt we should have made a choice to become more aggressive in the second half–to take some chances to get back in the game and stop the Knights.  But hind sight is 20/20 and such a change could have given up more big plays.  Who knows?

In the final analysis, it was an exciting game to the end.  After the game, the guy who parks next to me asked whether I’d like to sit through a 6-4 loss or a 34-31 loss.  I take the latter.  Pretty loss beats ugly loss any day.  And I really felt like this team was going to pull it out.  I never felt that against Iowa.  Even Kirk Ferentz didn’t believe we could pull it out as he intentionally took the safety to seal that game.

And there will be better (K)nights for both of these teams this year.

INTANGIBLES:

The crowd was listed at 92,855 but sounded as loud as I’ve ever heard for a non-conference, non-marquee game.  We just couldn’t convert that support and emotion into plays on the field.

The Drum Major stuck both flips.

UCF won the toss and took the ball first.  They never looked back.

THE BIG (TEN) PICTURE:

A week after the Irish and THEM battled in the Boring Bowl, Purdue, who barely edged Indiana State, took the Irish all the way, losing 31-24.  Akron almost upset the wolvereenies, coming up a couple yards short and losing 28-24.

It was a wild finish, but one that would be outdone by Wisconsin.  The Badgers, down by two, could have kicked a winning field goal, but in a bizarre play, the quarterback didn’t take a knee–a phantom kneel according to ESPN (I didn’t stay up to watch the game!) and time ran out.

The Spartans defeated Youngstown State 55-17.  Minnesota beat Western Illinois 29-12.  The Illini lost to Washington at Soldier Field, 34-24.  Indiana rebounded from the loss to Navy with a 42-10 victory over Bowling Green.  Northwestern continued to roll, defeating Western Michigan 38-17, and the Buckeyes with a back-up QB beat Cal 52-34.

And the Huskers, leading 21-3, allowed 38 unanswered points to fall 41-21 to UCLA.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Texas A and M–Tide rolls 49-42.  Revenge is a bitch.

2.  Temple Owls–lost to Fordham 30-29.

3.  Texas–lost second straight, falling to Ole Miss 44-23.  Who gets fired this week?

4.  Florida International–fell 34-13 to Bethune-Cookman.  Don’t ask me.  I assume it’s a school.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Kent State comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for a 3:30 game.

After going 11-3 last season, capped by a loss to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl, KSU opened the 2013 season with a 17-10 win over Liberty, but then went on to lose back to back games against Bowling Green (41-22) and LSU (45-13.)

GO STATE!  BEAT FLASHES!

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