Tech moved the ball well enough to reach the red zone five times in 12 total possessions. The Jackets failed to score on all five drives, a disastrous rate of inefficiency. Tech missed two field-goal attempts, fumbled the ball away twice and turned it over once on downs. Before Saturday, Tech had scored four times on six red-zone possessions, a 67% rate that was tied for 120th nationally.
“I just think that critical situations, have to make sure we’re getting points on the board, and we’re not doing it, and obviously that falls on me as the head football coach,” Collins said.
Aside from its ability to execute in the red zone, Tech was exceptional in its ability to move the ball, averaging 7.2 yards per play against a defense that had given up 5.4 yards per play in its two games this season against FBS opponents and last season allowed 5.1 yards per play. But the Jackets couldn’t move the ball when it counted most. Since the start of the 2000 season, before Saturday, ACC teams had averaged at least 7.2 yards per play 438 times, according to sports-reference.com. None had ever scored fewer than 17 points.
What we learned
A week after a game in which the Jackets lost 42-0 to No. 16 Ole Miss, the Jackets responded with a much more determined and effective performance. They slowed a potent offense and moved the ball on offense (at least outside the red zone). The kickoff and return games were solid.
But the litany of ill-timed mistakes rendered what could have been a big road win for Tech and Collins into a 17-point defeat, repeating a familiar theme for the Jackets.
UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee ran 16 times for an even 100 yards and one touchdown. Of his 16 carries, five produced first downs (including the touchdown), all when the Knights needed at least seven yards to convert. His 28-yard touchdown run on a keeper in the fourth quarter, on the play immediately following linebacker Charlie Thomas’ ejection for targeting, gave UCF a 24-10 lead with 10:37 to play. Plumlee also was 8-for-16 passing for 49 yards.
They said it
“Outgained them by over 100 yards, but when the other series of events happen, it’s hard to win games against a really good football team. Obviously, credit to UCF, but not the result we wanted.” – Collins
“This was a tough loss, but I believe in coach Collins. I like his energy every day, and I just felt like this game was on us (players). I had the key fumble in the red zone. We can’t have that. I believe in coach Collins. We’re going to come in tomorrow, restart and get ready for Pitt.” – wide receiver Nate McCollum
Tech: The Jackets (1-3) will play at No. 24 Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. Saturday on ACC Network in the Panthers’ ACC opener and Tech’s first game against a Coastal Division opponent. The Panthers, who defeated FCS Rhode Island on Saturday to improve to 3-1, have won four games in a row against the Jackets.
UCF: The Knights (3-1) will begin American Athletic Conference play at home against SMU, which is 2-2 after losing to TCU on Saturday. This is UCF’s final season in the AAC before moving to the Big 12 next season.