When UCF’s 2017 schedule came out in February, it was highlighted by a big three-game home stand to open the season. Now, the Knights are set to play just their second home game of the year — on Sept. 30.
The team had its games with Memphis and Georgia Tech called off due to Hurricane Irma, but some rearranging allowed for that Memphis game to be played in week five. No matter the circumstances that led to the delay, UCF is just ready to play in front of its home fans once again.
“We’re excited. This state, this area and community have been through a lot,” coach Scott Frost said. “To get out and play in front of that group of people, it’s gonna be fun. I expect it to be loud and full in there.”
UCF last played at Spectrum Stadium in its season opener, beating FIU 61-17. Since then, they added a second win against Maryland by a score of 38-10. A 2-0 record with two blowout wins garnered some recognition this week, as the Knights received four votes in the AP poll and 13 in the Coaches Poll. Saturday’s opponent, though, is getting some recognition of its own.
Memphis comes into Saturday’s conference opener at 3-0. The Tigers posted unimpressive wins in weeks one and four, but came up with a 48-45 upset of No. 25 UCLA in week two. As a result of that win and an undefeated record, they received 26 votes in the AP Poll and 44 in the Coaches Poll.
“They’re a good team. This is gonna be a battle,” Frost said. “This is a challenge for us, an opportunity for us. I want our guys to go in and attack. We want to be the hunters, not the hunted.”
Saturday is a major opportunity for UCF, considering Memphis was the preseason favorite to win the AAC West. That translates to what will undoubtedly be the Knights’ biggest home game since 2013. A win could very well lead to a top-25 ranking next week, which would be the program’s first since the end of the 2013 season.
UCF’s defense will face its toughest test of the season thus far, as Memphis comes in led by senior quarterback Riley Ferguson. Through three games, he has thrown for 783 yards and eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. Six of those scores came against UCLA.
“I think Riley’s got an NFL arm,” Frost said. “He makes all the throws, you saw that in the UCLA game. Between him and the receiver, they made plays when they needed them.”
Stopping Ferguson and the Tigers offense will be a tall task for a defensive unit that dominated its first two opponents with relative ease. Memphis has been involved in some high-scoring games, so if UCF’s defense can come up with stops, it will put the Knights’ offense in a great position to win against a vulnerable defense. The Tigers have suffered from injuries throughout the season, which could leave some room for the Knights to work with.
Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton (538 yards, five touchdowns to one interception) has shown improvement through two games. He has been helped by production from several different receivers, including redshirt junior Tre’Quan Smith (101 yards, two touchdowns), senior Jordan Akins (102 yards, two touchdowns) and sophomore Dredrick Snelson (107 yards).
In the backfield, UCF will be missing sophomore Jawon Hamilton, who left last weekend’s game in the first quarter. In his absence, UCF will turn to junior Taj McGowan, sophomore Adrian Killins and freshmen Otis Anderson and Cordarrian Richardson.
Kickoff for Saturday’s conference opener is set for 7 p.m.