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A die hard fan's takes on UCF, Liverpool, Orlando City, and more

UCF

UCF Thrashes FIU: A Tactical Analysis



When Scott Frost came to Orlando he promised that UCF would become "fun to watch." Well after the thrashing the 53-14 thrashing of the glorified community college that is Florida International, I can say that UCF has reached peak fun. The game last night was the most complete game in Frost's tenure. It was utter domination something we haven't seen by a UCF team since 2013. It has been so long since UCF ended the game in the first half. All facets of the game the Knights dominated. Offense made Florida International's defense look slow and unathletic. The defense bullied the poor Panthers offensive line. Oh and UCF killed Ron Turner's coaching career(rip). But here is the scariest part for teams on UCF's schedule: UCF has improved every single week. If this is only the 4th game of the season, imagine what this team is going to look like in conference play. I am so excited.


Offense:
McKenzie Milton shined against Florida International. The fumbles and wrecklessness that had concerned the fanbase against Maryland were eliminated. Instead we got to see the flashes of brilliance that show why he is the future of the quarterback position at UCF. Milton would go 8-14 for 173 yards, 1 touchdown and ran for 26 yards. He was pulled as the Knights took a insurmountable lead in the second half. All the criticisms against him were wiped out. Oh and he also turned an improbable broken play into points. On a designed scramble, Milton realized that all his lanes were clogged. Instead he pulled the ball back, bought some time and threw a laser to Jordan Akins who scored. It's those plays that make him so special. Then there is the option with Dontravious Wilson. UCF had the ball on Florida International's 30 yard line. McKenzie looked like he had some space to gain a few yards after running to the right of the line, instead he pitched the ball to Wilson who found a gap and scored a touchdown. Hat is a play that an upperclassman would make, not a freshman. If this is what Milton looks like in his first two starts, I can not wait for him to get a few more starts under his belt. 

Let us talk about running for a moment. When Scott Frost first came to UCF, I said that UCF would get back to their running identity. Well let us compare the 2015 year to 2016. In 2015 UCF ran for 975 yards and 4 touchdowns. Through four games in 2016, UCF running totals 947 yards and 11 touchdowns 26th in the country in total running yards. So I would say this is a vast improvement over whatever last year was. What makes this rushing attacking so special is the three headed beast that is Dontravious Wilson, Jawon Hamilton, and Adrian Killins(more on him later.) Against Florida International the three combined for 150 yards and 4 touchdowns(other players contributed to the total of 276 yards and 6 touchdowns). Wilson's 3 touchdowns are the most by a UCF running back since Storm Johnson's 3 touchdowns vs Baylor. Frost has overhauled this running game and made it so much better.

Let us talk about Adrian Killins for a second. This is a player that was overlooked by George and the previous staff. A kid from Mainland an hour away from UCF. He was the first recruit that signed for UCF when Frost arrived. He was formally introduced to the UCF fanbase on his 87 yard touchdown run against Michigan. Against FIU, he continued to shine. First he took a screen pass from Milton 60 yards and set UCF for the Wilson touchdown. Then in the third quarter, Killins had a 63 yard touchdown run that was the final dagger in the game. Killins would finish the game with 210 all purpose yards. Killins now has 241 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries for a 15.1 average. To say that he is going to be special is an understatement. It is like Kevin Smith and a healthy Brynn Harvey had a love child and that child is Adrian Killins. He might be the most explosive player in the AAC as a freshman. Just like Milton, Killins has seen limited action, but has improved every game this season. He hasn't reached the peak of his powers yet and that should scare other teams. 

Every single unit on the offense was impressive. The 53 points were the highest points by a UCF team since the 2013 campaign. The 501 total yards were the highest UCF had since 2014. This is what the Scott Frost offense is supposed to look like. Sure it was against lowly FIU, but UCF needed this game. Needed to show that this team will beat the lowly teams and do it in devastating fashion. It was so impressive.

Defense:
I love you Erik Chinander. Seriously the smartest move that Scott Frost made was bringing Chinander over to UCF. Chinander has rejuvenated a dead unit. According to Football Outsiders this unit is the 34th best unit in the country which is impressive. The 3-4 from 4-3 has breathed new life into the defense. The defense was outstanding against FIU. FIU failed to break 100 total yards in the first half and it was only in the middle of the third quarter that the Panthers finally broke 100 total yards against UCF. None of the 3 quarterbacks FIU used threw for 100 yards, in fact they weren't even close. UCF had 5 total sacks and finally forced a turnover(interception by Drico Johnson). But it is the way that this defense mauled FIU that is most impressive. I haven't seen a defense perform like this since the Huxtable days. UCF ranks 19th in the country in yards allowed per game. It showed against FIU as the Knights held FIU to only 189 total yards. It was like watching a bunch of men play a pop warner team. Thank you for all of that Erik Chinander. 

Let us talk about Shaquem Griffin. He led the Knights against FIU having 3 tackles for loss, a pass deflection, and 2 sacks. He excelled so much so that he was named to the AAC Honor Roll for his performance. The move to outside linebacker has benefitted Griffin. He has had a career resurgence and has become UCF's most valuable defensive player. 
Now I know that it was only the glorified community college that is FIU, but UCF looked really impressive on Saturday. Now the AAC season begins and UCF faces a daunting task that is ECU on the road. But if the Knights can pull the upset then the sky is the limit for this team. 

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UCF

Welcome to the McKenzie Milton Era




There are moments when a player makes his presence felt. Has his introduction to the game of college football. Some players shine while others fall under pressure. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton made his debut against Maryland in Saturday and oh boy did he deliver. Milton's final stat line after the doubt overtime heartbreaking loss to Maryland was 21-36 for 260 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. He finished with a quarterback rating of 131.8. Yes, he did have several fumbles and a bad interception, but you know what he's the most exciting quarterback that UCF has seen since Blake Bortles. Consider this he's 18 years old, has only been on campus since July and already has more yards this season than Justin Holman or Nick Patti. Some will say that "oh Justin Holman should have started and UCF would have beaten Maryland.", those people are idiots(hi Bianchi). Milton is the future and that future is oh so special.


All week leading into the Maryland game there was a question about who was going to be the starting quarterback for UCF. There was talk that if he was healthy that the unimpressive Justin Holman would be UCF's starter. That was worrisome since Holman was awful against Michigan. There was also rumors that Nick Patti would be the starter. Again that would not have been an upgrade over Holman. Patti and Holman had showed they were not going to be successful in this offense. Then UCF players started to come out and talk about how McKenzie Milton was making plays like Johny Football. Scott Frost even came out in his weekly press conference  and talked about how Milton had the "It" factor. That was effusive praise coming from a coach of Frost's reputation. It was clear that everyone on the team thought that Milton was the future of the program. 

So here he was the Prince that was Promised. The guy that now carried the hope of every single person associated with UCF on his shoulders. An 18 year old who had traveled thousands of miles away from home to follow Scott Frost to Orlando and had only enrolled in July. He had the weight of a program on his shoulders. Not only that, but he also carried Scott Frost's reputation. If Milton was not the player that he was hyped to be, then the fickle UCF fandom would start to question Frost's ability to evaluate quarterbacks. So Milton not only had the pressure of beating Maryland, but all of these outside factors as well.

With all of this pressure and the fact that he was playing against a very good Maryland defense, a normal quarterback would have folded. Hell Holman and Patti would have, but Milton shined. The offense seemed to be much more free flowing under Milton. There was never a sense of woe when the UCF offense came on. Instead watching Milton became appointment viewing. Feast or famine, you knew that Milton would do something exciting. In the first half, Miltoncould have buckled after fumbling the hand off after moving the ball to Maryland territory on the first drive. Instead Milton and the offense got back on the same page. Milton was able to move the ball and frustrate the Maryland defense as the Knights outgained Maryland in the first quarter 137-27 and took a 7-0 lead. Yes the second quarter was less impressive and filled with mistakes but we can chalk that up to freshman nerves.

It was the second half and overtime where Milton showed how special he can be. McKenzie Milton made plays that I could not fathom. On a 3rd and 14 deep in their own territory Milton realized that the Maryland defense was thinking pass and playing as such, well he took advantage and used his speed to gain 17 yards. Unlike his predecessors who would have just thrown the ball to a covered reliever and prayed for the best or taken a sack, Milton ran and was rewarded. There were a few cases, especially in the second half, where Milton would roll out on broken plays which would cause the defense to pursue and leave a receiver open. That's what he gives you that Holman and Patti don't, a true dual threat quarterback that causes defenses to play back on their heels not knowing exactly what the quarterback is going to do. 

Want more proof? Fine. Look at the 71 yard pass to Jordan Akins. The defense knows that UCF is probably going to pass, but also has a spy in case Milton runs. Milton, because of the system has several options short pass, run, or pass to Akins. Milton chooses the correct option and throws a dart to Akins which leads UCF into Maryland's redzone. We are talking about decisions by a freshman that that not even the seniors can or did make. That is how far advanced Mckenzie is. Let's talk about the fumble in the red zone. Strangely the fumble, which was the fifth of the night, was also one of the smartest plays that Milton made. There is the old axiom in football to fall on the football when it is on the ground. That is the play that most football players make. Yet when Milton fumbled the ball, he picked it up and ran with it, which actually caught the Maryland defense off guard. That allows him to stroll into the end zone and give UCF a 14-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. That play was the embodiment of what Frost called "turning Lemons into Lemonade." An ability that Holman and Patti have yet to show.

Now let us talk about the pass Milton made in overtime. UCF needed to convert the 3rd and 14th in overtime. If not the game would end with a dud. Yet with the offensive line beaten on a blitz, Milton made a play to scramble and by time for Tre'Quan Smith to get open. Not every qb has the advantage of scrambling around to stalk for a receiver to get open. Here is the amazing thing about that pass, besides having two defenders right in his face, Milton had such a narrow window to put the ball to Tre'Quan. Milton had the touch to be able to throw a dime into the hands of UCF's best receiver. Oh and let us not forget that Maryland's best cornerback Will Likely was draped all over Smith. Yet Milton had the ability and guts to throw the ball into a spot where only Tre'Quan could catch the ball. Milton made the type of pass that UCF fans have been begging for from their quarterbacks.

Of course not all of it was good. The fumbles and the bad interception were less than impressive. That has to get corrected. But here is the thing about Milton: he has already shown that he is a better fit for UCF than Holman or Patti. You have idiots(hi dungeon posters and Mike Bianchi), that say that if UCF had started Holman then UCF would have beaten Maryland. To those people I ask, do you know what Holman's record  is against the Power 5 teams he has played against? How about winless. Justin Holman is 0-5 against teams from the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and PAC 12. Outside of a good half against Penn State, Holman's numbers against P5 teams are less than impressive. His rating averages out to be in the 20s. Let us not forget that according to  offensive FEI, after 2 games with Holman as a starter in 2016, UCF ranked 114. After the Maryland game with Milton UCF sat at 81 and climbing. So again I say what gives you any indication that Holman would have led UCF to victory? Milton already matched if not surpassed what Holman has done against Power 5 teams. 
No this is about the future. This is what Scott Frost has wanted ever since he came to UCF. A quarterback that has the ability to run Frost's offense and improvise when need be. Holman and Patti showed they can not do this. Milton can. You see McKenzie Milton is going to be special. He already showed flashes of brilliance against Maryland. Experience and time will only make him better. This is McKenzie Milton's program now. I for one am so damn pumped for what this special young man has in store. 

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UCF

UCF can build on Michigan Loss/Maryland Preview




I know it may seem dumb to say, but I am so enthusiastic after watching UCF losing 51-14 to Michigan this past Saturday. I know perhaps I have a hard on for Frost and will be accused of being blind. Perhaps I do, but if you cannot take some gleam of hope that this team is vastly improved from last year then well I don't know what to tell you. Because if this had been O'Leary's team last year, UCF would not have scored a touchdown. Would not have looked as competitive as they looked against Michigan under Frost. Believe it or not, this loss was beneficial to the program. Sure there were some rough moments, but this is what UCF needed. And actually this was a net positive. Let us dive deep shall we:


Quarterbacks: 
Hey remember when I said Milton should start and people scoffed at that idea? Oops. Well here's why: UCF's quarterbacks completed 6 passes on Saturday. 6 for 56 yards, Holman and Patti were utter disasters. In fact I neither one of them either is a quarterback. They are athletes masquerading as quarterbacks. It's not just the fact that these two struggled against Michigan, it's the fact that they looked rattled. They were more comfortable running the ball than throwing. Take for instance Patti, who helped march UCF down the field in the second half, but on multiple occasions missed easy throws. Look at the play where Patti came in after Holman's injury, Frost called for a pass in the slot to Jordan Franks. Patti completely overthrew Frank's, which cost UCF points. Patti and Holman prefer to bail out on plays than stay in the pocket. 

Even if Holman is healthy, I think UCF needs a different starter in as quarterback against Maryland. Nor should Patti. So who should? Well the true freshman that I wrote about a few months ago. The quarterback of the future no one that all the coaches have been raving about. That is Mckenzie Milton. Yes, he is a true freshman and has played in the system only since July. But listen to Scott Frost's press conference on Monday. He raved about Milton. How Milton had "the It Factor". Yes, McKenzie is not used to the pace of the college game. But it's time to try something different. To spring Milton on Maryland may actually be better than trotting out Holman or Patti. 

Running backs:
Where as the pass game was pathetic, the run game was the direct opposite. Headed into the game, I was so worried that Michigan was going to be able to contain the run against UCF. Especially given that michigan's front 7 is designed to stop the spread run. Yet UCF ran for 275 yards on Michigan, probably the most that wolverines defense will give up this season. Every back that touched the ball excelled. There was Jawon Hamilton(46 yards) proved to be a hard hitting back that would not go down with arm tackles. Then there was Dontravious Wilson who gained 85 yards and a touchdown including a beautiful 34 yard touchdown run. 

But it was Adrian Killins that stole the show for a moment. On a 3rd and long from UCF's own 13 yard line, Killins took the ball and ran 87 yards for a touchdown. Michigan players did not even touch him. That was how fast he was. To embarrass Michigan's defense like that is rare. That will probably be the longest rushing play that Michigan will give up this year. The pairing of Killins with Hamilton is going to be special. 

Special teams:
You blew it

Defense:
Let's talk about the defense. Headed into the Michigan game, everyone knew that  stopping the running attack of the Wolverines was imperative. That if UCF wanted a chance to win the game that they needed to stop the run. Especially after how Chris Evans destroyed Hawaii the week before. UCF needed to stop the run. Needed to force Michigan into throwing the ball. That is why I had no problem with the strategy that Erik Chinander dialed up. In fact I loved it. UCF had to try and make freshman quarterback Wilton Speight beat them. Which he did . Speight threw for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. That's bad. But here is the thing, Chinander never got out of stacking 8 men in the box. His hyper aggressive defense came back to bite him as Michigan decided to run several playactions that got the defense to bite. Still I liked the aggressive strategy and trying to take Michigan's strength away. 

Michigan only ran for 116 yards against UCF. Yes they did score 2 touchdowns, but that was mostly fullback runs from within the UCF 5 yard line. What was more impressive was the fact that UCF got a push against this big Michigan offensive line. Pittman and Hill managed to push this line back on several occasions. The defense did hit hard and aggressive. The defense got pressure and did take Michigan out of their game plan. If not for special teams blunders and no quarterback to speak of, UCF's defense was good enough to keep the game close. Yes, there are some things that needed to be worked out, but overall UCF's defense has been the most impressive unit in the Frost regime by far. 

Maryland preview:
You know unlike Michigan, I actually think UCF is catching Maryland at a good time. Yes, Maryland has looked impressive in its first two games, but that was against Howard and a likely winless program in FIU. UCF will be the first real test of the Durkin regime. Oh don't get me wrong, Maryland is a good team with talented running backs. And Durkin is going to be a spectacular coach. However, I do not fear Maryland like I did Michigan. I actually think UCF matches up very well with the Terps. The fact that the line has gone down from 9.5 to 8.5 tells me that the sports books believe this as well. And if UCF is able to correct the mistakes from the Michigan game, I can see UCF taking home a significant scalp.

On offense Maryland is like UCF. They do a lot of read option under Durkin. The quarterback is Perry Hills. He has impressed this season with his ability to eliminate turnovers and run on his own. However, in the past he has shown that he is turnover prone as last season he had 13 interceptions to only 8 touchdowns. If UCF can pressure Hills, they can force some turnovers. The key of course will be limiting Hills from taking off on runs. But Maryland has a trio of running backs(Trey Edmunds, Lorenzo Harrison, and Kenneth Goins Jr) that are very talented. Like Michigan last week, UCF needs to stop the run. 

Maryland lost a lot of talent from last year's front seven to the draft. Arguably the two most talented players from the team last season are gone. That showed against FIU as FIU ran against this defense for 202 yards. Durkin himself admitted that the line is a work in progress by moving Brett Kulka to starting defensive tackle. This marks the 5th defensive position out of twelve that has changed this year. It's going to take the Terps time to get used to Durkin's changes and gel. In addition Howard and FIU do not have a offensive player as talented as Wilson, Hamilton, or Killins. This trip of running backs can really do some damage.

Keys to UCF victory:
1. Stop the run
2. Get to Hills early
3. Unleash the trio of running backs 
Prediction: UCF 28 Maryland 24

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