ORLANDO, Fla. — Against all logic and in a lackluster performance, UCF was able to scrape together a 20-13 conference win against Tulane on Saturday in front of an announced 35,015 fans.
By all means, this was not a pretty game for the Knights. There were two quarterback changes, an offense that was unable to find a consistent spark, penalties galore, four turnovers and continued struggles with the run game.
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Tulane even scored first, though UCF would head into the half with a 13-3 lead.
“A win is a win,” Head Coach George O’Leary said. “But it’s hard to enjoy a win a game like that, in my opinion.”
“We went into the game talking about four things: consistency, execution, emotion and passion. I don’t think the offense showed one of them in this game,” he said.
It was a sentiment that not only permeated throughout the team, but seemed to resonate with the crowd itself.
“You always want to celebrate a win, but I feel like coach feels it was sloppy all around,” Jordan Ozerites said. “We could have been better in all phases.”
Tulane actually out-gained UCF in total yardage, 278 to 233. Their four takeaways and the stalled-out Knights’ offense consistently gave them unbeatable field position while controlling the clock. As advertised, their ground game constructed the backbone of the attack – good for 131 yards.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall, but we come out fighting,” Troy Gray said. “As a defense, that’s what we harp on. We’re put in these situations in practice, and we work on that all the time.”
When the pressure was on, the defense shone in this game. They stopped all four of Tulane’s attempts to convert on fourth down, and only allowed The Green Wave to convert five of 17 on third down. Jacoby Glenn came up with his fourth interception on the year, while Brandon Alexander notched one of his own.
After a mere three series in which the offense looked totally lost to start the game – failing to convert for first down and turning the ball over twice – O’Leary finally made good on his threat to pull Holman in an effort to move the chains.
Enter Nick Patti, who couldn’t orchestrate any forward progress on his first drive, though he did help the Knights finish their first few scoring drives. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 26 yards in limited action, failing to separate himself from the other signal callers.
Though it seemed O’Leary was anxious to get Patti involved, the move was less about the transfer quarterback and more about opening up Holman’s eyes to what was happening in front of him. His first few throws were off target, only completing three of his first eight after completing eight straight to start last week’s game.
“I thought I’d put him on the sideline and let him watch what was going on,” O’Leary said.
Holman would return to the game in the second half, finishing 9-17 for 113 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. Not an inspiring performance by any measure, but one that the quarterback will have to learn a few harsh lessons from.
Lives are about to change, according to the old school coach, who was more than displeased with his team’s effort in the win. Come Monday the Knights are in for a world of hurt, something they may need to ignite a team with potential that far outweighs the way they played on Saturday.