When the Knights take the field Saturday night at 7:30, they will be staring down the nose at the toughest test they have faced thus far.
The away game will feature a second-to-last ranked UCF (0-6, 0-2 in AAC) offense going up against a No. 28-ranked Temple (5-0, 2-0 in AAC) defense.
“They’re a very good football team and we’ll have our work cut out for us,” head coach George O’Leary said. “They’re playing really good defense and I think they have an exciting quarterback that makes a lot of plays.”
The Owls are one spot out of the NCAA’s Top 25 and are outscoring opponents by 100 points (172-72), including a 49-10 trumping of Tulane. UCF lost, 45-31, to Tulane but trailed 38-10 going into the fourth quarter.
The Knights were without junior quarterback Justin Holman for that game, who returned to action last week after suffering a finger injury on his throwing hand. He returned to the field wearing a glove on the hand.
“The glove is there as an aid to help me grip the ball. It’s doing fine,” Holman said. “There’s some zip that’s lost, but it’s going to come back as I keep rehabbing.”
Holman finished the 40-13 loss to the Huskies 27-for-50 with 255 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, but he did not receive as much help as O’Leary would have liked.
The receiving core, which featured nine different Knights recording a catch, also dropped nine balls. Six of the dropped passes were on third down.
“[Those] would have prolonged the series and obviously the field position,” O’Leary said. “There was nobody around them. Catch the ball and the chains move. The defense is on the field way too long because of those types of situations.
“We’re just not solid enough right now on defense with a lot of the youth back there to sustain on the field.”
But UCF’s one-game-season mentality hopes to find solace in a win against its toughest matchup yet.
“[We] treat every game as a new season and just win the next one. That’s the biggest thing right now,” said Caleb Houston, who is averaging 45.2 yards per punt. That average is No. 15 in the nation among all FBS teams. “We’re very self-motivated as a group and we all want to win and get better. That’s a big thing pushing us right now.”
While the team has said the losses have not affected them, a tough road test may be a make-or-break moment for some Knights.
“Coach O’Leary says it all the time, ‘It’s not what you’re doing when everything is going sweet and everybody is winning, it’s what you do when situations get sticky. And that’s when you see the true character of guys and see what guys are made of,’” Holman said. “We’re going to see who was built for this and who’s not.”
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.