UCF wide receiver Rannell Hall will see the first half of Thursday's game from a unique perspective — from the visitor's locker room at TDECU Stadium in Houston.
After being hit with a targeting penalty against Bethune-Cookman, by rule Hall was ejected from the game and automatically suspended for the first half of the following game. When Breshad Perriman caught a pass over the middle and ran across the field, Hall met an oncoming defender with a crushing blow that led to the flag.
"He can dress and warm up before the game, but once we take the field at the start of the game, he has to stay in the locker room," head coach George O'Leary said. "That is an NCAA rule."
The challenge for Hall will be to warm up with the team, then recede to the locker room and not be able to enter the game in what could be a heated, tightly contested matchup — as most games against Houston are.
"It's a new stadium so I don't know how the locker room is. I know the locker room in the past, you wouldn't be able to see the game because it's way in the back," O'Leary said. "I'm sure he'll know what's going on. It's a national TV game so I'd think it would be on TV or the phone or something. He'll be able to follow it."
While Hall will be suspended for the first half, he will be allowed to return for the second half. Hall leads UCF's wide receivers in touches, despite playing in one less game than the rest of the receivers. Although all eight of his catches and four of his five runs came in one game, quarterback Justin Holman often found Hall against Missouri when plays broke down.
"Thank God he's at a position that we have some depth at," O'Leary said. "The next guy is up to bat — that's all. He'll be fresh in the second half."
UCF still has a plethora of talented receivers to help get Holman through the first half. J.J. Worton, Josh Reese and Perriman favor to be the recipients of added targets, and talented newcomers Jordan Akins, a freshman, and Jackie Williams, a redshirt senior, could make impacts. Although Williams has just one reception with UCF this season, in three seasons at UAB he hauled in 140 receptions.
Akins, who has worked as both a tight end and a wide receiver, could receive the kickoff return duties as he did when Hall sat out against Penn State due to injury. The freshman, who has been involved early in the season in a limited role, could also receive added offensive snaps.
"Seeing the receiver staff that we have, I feel like we won't skip a beat," senior tight end Justin Tukes said. "We have Jackie Williams off the bench and he will definitely make a difference."
The penalty that sidelined Hall proved to be a controversial call. O'Leary attempted to appeal the flag, which was not overturned. His teammates, however, do not hold the flag against Hall. Senior linebacker Troy Gray can relate.
"As a defensive player you're flying, you're non-stop running to the ball. You live for hitting, that's what you love to do," Gray said. "You don't really think about, 'Oh, don't hit up high,' or 'Oh, don't hit down low.' You just try to make that right form tackle that you've been taught to make. Sometimes you get into a position where that may be the only hit you can do."