On paper it looked like AState vs UCF would be a defensive struggle.
The stats told the truth. The two teams combined to run 142 plays for 457 yards an average of just under 3.22 yards per play.
The Red Wolf offense put ten points on the board on drives starting after a punt or kickoff, likewise, UCF managed 10 points on such drives.
AState scored 21 points from special teams and from a short field after a turnover. The two turnovers gave the Red Wolves 37 and 16 yards to score and produced on both. The only UCF turnover AState failed to score on was a 7 play drive that consumed 5:02 of the 6:07 left in the game and AState turned down the chance to try a 31 yard FG, opting to run on fourth and goal at the 14.
AState turned the ball over once and UCF could only muster three yards despite starting at the AState 27, settling for a field goal.
The Red Wolves longest run of the game was 19 yards by Darryl Rollins-Davis. Warren Wand and Johnston White each had a longest run of 6 yards.
The AState offense boiled down to four plays. Receptions of 75, 17, and 12 yards for touchdowns to Sanders and a 67 yard pass to Blake Mack that set up a FG.
Those five plays produced or set-up 24 of AState’s 31 points and 171 of the 234 yards gained, a whopping 73% of the Red Wolves total offense. AState averaged 1.05 yards per play outside of those four plays.
Defense and special teams is getting (and deserves) credit for the win happening. The blocked punt, the fumbled kickoff, and the muffed punt produced 21 points. The longest drive the defense allowed was 48 yards. Five of UCF’s 20 possessions produced negative yards or no yards gained. UCF had 17 first downs but 7 came from penalties.
With six sacks and 15 tackles for loss, the Red Wolf defense simply dominated the night.
Coming in my expectation was that each defense would apply pressure with the secondary playing back to keep the play in front of them. I expected each offense to play a short game nibbling away to gain yards. UCF followed that script beating the secondary twice. Once early but the QB missed the receiver and the other produced UCF’s only TD on a coverage mix-up.
The longest play the defense allowed was a 34 yard pass.
The big special teams play and stifling defense did not win the game. It laid the foundation that made winning a possibility. The offense on the other hand had a rough night but took advantage of the short-field created by the two special teams turnovers and fashioned two successful short yardage TD drives and hit two huge plays that led to 10 more points. The offense was frustrating to watch but delivered the plays need to win.
AState heads into recruiting season and the 2017 football season carrying a two game win streak, five conference championships in six seasons, and a bowl trophy. Another group of new alumni will be created who did not see AState have a losing season during their time at AState.
2016 will be remembered for the frustrations but also for facing the challenge of starting 0-4 and finishing the year by winning 8 of the final 8 and posting a convincing win over an AAC school.
The coaches and staff face the challenge of putting together a better team in 2017.
For fans the challenge is to choose whether the first four games or the last nine define the season or at least find some balance between the frustration of how the year started against the team Appalachian State defeated in the Camellia Bowl and satisfaction of how the year ended in Orlando against a team that went 4-4 in the AAC.