Despite leading 14-3 after one quarter, UCF failed to pull off the upset of No. 7 Cincinnati on Saturday at the Bounce House, losing 36-33 to snap a three-game winning streak.
The Knights’ second home loss of the year dropped them to 5-3 overall in 2020, and their 4-3 record in AAC play has them seventh in the conference, which sounds pretty disastrous when you consider the heights this program had reached just a couple of years ago. On the opposite side of Saturday’s game was the Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 AAC), who got the better of Josh Heupel’s team for the second straight season en route to keeping their New Year’s Six Bowl hopes—and their slim College Football Playoff chances—alive.
UCF will now wrap up its regular season on Black Friday, making the short drive to Tampa for the annual War on I-4 rivalry game. Knocking South Florida (1-7, 0-6 AAC) around to finish 6-3 on the season and even the all-time football series between the two programs would be a nice way for the Knights to earn back some good will with the fan base, that’s for sure. But before we get there, it’s time for one last look at the Cincinnati game with our weekly Knights of the Round Table feature.
A reminder of how this works: After each of UCF’s games, we’ll decide which Knights were the top performers, and those guys will get a seat at that week’s round table. The top performer will fittingly get the seat at the head of the table. OK, let’s go.
Seat 1: Tre’mon Morris-Brash (6 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss)
In a game that saw UCF largely pushed around in the trenches, Tre’mon Morris-Brash still managed to stand out in a positive light. The sophomore defensive end seemed to be one of the only Knights who was managing to win his matchups pretty consistently, and that led to him finishing with six tackles (three solo), a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. The sack for Morris-Brash, at the time, was a big one. With UCF leading 14-3 in the first quarter, Cincinnati was backed up in its own territory. A second-down sack for a loss of nine pushed the Bearcats to a difficult 3rd & 25, which they couldn’t convert. That gave the offense a shot to push the lead to 21-3, but it didn’t take advantage. Nonetheless, Morris-Brash continued his strong play in this game and will certainly be looking to dominate on Friday in the same stadium where he returned a fumble for a touchdown in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl.
This is Tre’mon Morris-Brash’s second appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 2: Dillon Gabriel (26-49, 243 yards, 3 TD, INT; 30 rush yards)
Dillon Gabriel hasn’t quite been putting up Heisman-worthy numbers like he was earlier in the season, but he still threw for three scores against Cincinnati’s highly ranked defense on Saturday and became the third quarterback in program history to have two 3,000-yard passing seasons, joining Daunte Culpepper and Blake Bortles. He completed passes to seven different receivers and his big mistake and did what he could to get the Knights back in the ball game late. Down 36-25 late in the fourth quarter, he led a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion that got his team within three. Unfortunately for Gabriel and the Knights, they only got to run one more offensive play after that. With any time to work with, things may have ended better for the home team.
This is Dillon Gabriel’s fifth appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 3: Richie Grant (16 tackles, 10 solo, 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 PBU)
While the UCF defense had its issues with Cincinnati’s offense on Saturday, Richie Grant had himself a big day. Now, he had his own struggles at times and dropped what could’ve been an easy interception, but he still totaled a career-high 16 tackles (10 solo), with 1.5 going for a loss. He also came up with two pass breakups, playing a pretty strong game in the last Bounce House appearance of his impressive collegiate career. That performance earned him a spot on this week’s AAC Honor Roll, and with another standout performance against South Florida, Grant could take some momentum into what is sure to be big few months for his future. He has had some success against the Bulls in the past, forcing a fumble in the 2017 meeting between the two teams before intercepting a pass in the 2018 game at Raymond James Stadium. Black Friday could be a big game for the senior, as South Florida’s offense is ranked No. 110 in scoring and No. 107 in yards per game.
This is Richie Grant’s third appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Seat 4: Marlon Williams (8 catches, 97 yards, 2 TD, 12.1 AVG)
Despite a forgettable moment that led to a momentum-changing interception, senior receiver Marlon Williams had another strong performance for the Knights. He was their leading receiver, catching eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12.1 yards per catch. His first score came in the first quarter to put UCF on top 14-3, then his second came late in the third quarter to give his team what would be its final lead of the day. Williams took his touchdown total to eight on the season, tying him for second-most in the country, while his 1,039 receiving yards are good for second in the nation. The volume of standout receivers across the Division I level may make it difficult for a receiver from UCF to get some Biletnikoff Award love, but Knight Nation knows just how good Williams has been this year. In his first—and only—season as UCF’s No. 1 receiver, he more than lived up to the standards set before him by the likes of Gabriel Davis and Tre’Quan Smith.
This is Marlon Williams’ sixth appearance on Knights of the Round Table.
Head of the Table: Tatum Bethune (10 tackles, 6 solo, 1 sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hit)
There hasn’t been another Knight who has stepped up more over the last month or so than sophomore linebacker Tatum Bethune. After initially bursting onto the scene against Houston while starting in place of Eric Mitchell, Bethune followed that performance up with a good game against Temple and then another impressive performance on Saturday against Cincinnati. He posted 10 tackles (6 solo), a sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and an additional quarterback hit. It seemed as if the Miami product was all over the field against the Bearcats, consistently making plays when UCF’s defense needed them. He picked up a tackle for loss in the first quarter to help force a field goal, then his second-quarter sack inside the 10-yard line forced another field goal. And yet again, in the third quarter, he was responsible for another tackle for loss that led to another field goal. Bethune almost singlehandedly kept the Knights in the game by stepping up, and despite the loss, it looks as if UCF can count on him being a big part of its future.
This is Tatum Bethune’s second appearance on Knights of the Round Table and his first appearance at the Head of the Table.