No. 19 UCF focused on improvement vs South Carolina State
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — UCF is determined to not let complacency creep into its game.
The 19th-ranked Knights will take the nation’s longest winning streak into Saturday’s home opener against heavy underdog South Carolina State, however coach Josh Heupel and his players won’t be content with simply tacking on a 15th consecutive victory.
With a road matchup against Power 5 conference opponent North Carolina a week away, the goal is to clean up early season mistakes that might prove costly down the line against stronger competition.
“It’s always a race against yourself to become the best you possibly can as fast as you can,” Heupel said, stressing the importance of getting better each week.
“We know they’re going to play hard. It’s really their Super Bowl,” quarterback McKenzie Milton added. “We really can’t overlook anyone.”
UCF (1-0) is coming off a 56-17 season-opening rout of American Athletic Conference rival Connecticut, with Milton completing 24 of 32 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns without an interception on the road.
South Carolina State (0-1) is coming off a 37-6 road loss to Georgia Southern, a game in which the Bulldogs yielded 319 yards rushing.
UCF has one of the most productive offenses in the nation. Excluding running out the clock at the end of each half, the Knights scored on eight of nine possessions against UConn. None of the scoring drives lasted more than 2 minutes, 39 seconds. With 56 points in 21:52 of possession time, only two teams are averaging more points per minute — Oregon and Nevada.
Milton, a junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, has thrown for 6,366 yards, 52 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 24 career games. But UCF, which has scored at least 30 points in every game throughout its school-record winning streak, is far from a one-man machine on offense. The Knights rushed for 315 yards against UConn, and red-shirt sophomore receiver Tre Nixon had five catches for 101 yards and two TDs in his UCF debut.
TIGHTEN THE ‘D
The Knights allowed 486 yards on defense in the season opener, in part because of the success of their high-powered offense. UConn had the ball for just over 38 minutes. The positive that emerged from that is UConn was only able to score 17 points. South Carolina State struggled offensively in its opener, so this may not be the best week to evaluate progress of the UCF defense.
South Carolina State yielded 348 yards, including 319 rushing, against Georgia Southern. Offensively, the Bulldogs rushed for 120 yards, however QBs Dewann Ford and Tyrece Nick combined to throw for just 31 yards on 2 of 9 passing with one interception. The ream’s next victory will move Oliver “Buddy” Pough (120-65 in 17 seasons at his alma mater) within eight of becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach.
It’s the third time South Carolina State has traveled to Orlando for a UCF home opener. On their most recent visit, the Bulldogs were beaten 38-0 in 2016.