Date of Publication: Jan. 1, 2019
TEMPE, Ariz. – Throughout UCF’s undefeated season, the third quarter has often been the breakthrough point. Multiple times during the year, the Knights found themselves down at halftime but used defensive adjustments to get back in the game with a dominant quarter.
But against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday, the only thing waiting for UCF in the third quarter was more frustration. The Knights simply didn’t have an answer for LSU’s offense all day as the Tigers went on to win 40-32.
“Today we just weren’t good enough to find a way to win a football game,” coach Josh Heupel said. “Love the way that they competed for four quarters, continued to fight with everything that they had … we just weren’t good enough at the end.”
Thanks to a touchdown pass at the very end of the first half, it was only a three-point game coming out of halftime. This was the type of situation that UCF had capitalized on all season, as the defense usually made the necessary adjustments to shut down opponents and the offense used its firepower to build a lead.
But the Knights looked only more helpless after halftime, allowing the Tigers to score 10 points on a pair of long drives in the third quarter. UCF’s offense looked just as lost, failing to even pick up a first down.
“We had some opportunities on both sides of the football … to do some things in the second half and make plays,” Heupel said. “…We just, we didn’t do enough in this football game offensively, just to get the first first down to get the drive going and get behind the chains.”
The Knights seemed even more helpless in the second half simply because they had been able to rely on a third-quarter boost so often throughout the season. Earlier in the year, UCF found itself down by 13 after allowing Memphis to score 30 points in the first half. UCF made adjustments during halftime and held the Tigers scoreless in the second half.
One game later against Temple, the Owls went into the locker room at halftime with 34 points. They were then held scoreless in the third quarter and just six for the rest of the game. Even as recently as the American Athletic Conference championship game, UCF overcame a large deficit by holding Memphis to three points in the second half after the Tigers put up 38 in the first two quarters.
But that reliable formula just didn’t work against LSU, which continued to not only dominate UCF’s defense but shut down its offense.
“I thought they did a good job of getting to the quarterback,” Heupel said. “Part of that is playing behind the chains at times too, where you’re in predictable situations and you put all those things together.”
Despite continuing struggles in the second half and suffering their first loss in two years, the Knights are still very optimistic about the team going forward.
“This program came so far,” senior tight end Michael Colubiale said. “I’m just really excited to watch as a fan for the future. I think this place is just getting started.”