If Saturday night's spring game was any indication of what Knights fans can expect from head coach Scott Frost's team, they're in store for an incredibly fast-paced season come fall.
At a packed Bright House Networks Stadium of 23,147 fans — four to five times more than UCF's previous spring game attendance — the Gold team, coached by offensive coordinator Troy Walters, defeated the black team, led by defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, 21-10.
Students, alumni and former players, including New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, came out to support a team looking to rebound from last year's winless season. With most practices closed to media, a new coach at the helm and several fresh recruits, anticipation was high for the Knights first appearance.
The quarterback position saw four players throughout the night, including redshirt seniors Nick Patti and Justin Holman, who started most of last season's games before suffering a hand injury. Not even two hours long, the game was sans huddles, seeing snap after snap, as part of the "#UCFast" playing style Frost has emphasized.
“From December to where I see them now, it’s a huge step. But that’s a first step,” Frost said. “It’s a little easier to instill defense than offense. Five guys can bust on defense and if one guy makes a phenomenal play, it’s a loss of two. On offense, you need 11 guys to do their job and do it well most times for a play to work.”
Throughout the game, the Knights displayed defensive might and versatile offensive players.
In total, 12 sacks were collected, four of which coming from the combined skills of twins senior Shaquill Griffin and redshirt junior Shaquem Griffin. Shaquem, who was recently switched from a defensive back to a quarterback-chasing linebacker, racked up three by himself.
Team Black also managed to scrape together two interceptions, one of which came by picking off redshirt sophomore Tyler Harris. Another positive was the absence of fumbles — a big problem for last season's team.
“We moved fast, played well and had fun doing it,” Shaquem said. “It makes me feel nice and warm inside, making some plays and having some fun. It’s the best feeling in the world. The main word is fast. From training to the weight room.”
The night also saw a couple of nice receptions, throws and rushes into the end zones.
Holeman in particular put together a 42-yard passing play with redshirt sophomore Tre’Quan Smith. Also stepping up was sophomore Garrett Kruczek, who managed to connect with redshirt sophomore C.J. Jones on a 37-yard pass, which would lead to an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Jones later in the drive.
Harris also managed to throw a touchdown pass after launching a big 37-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior Michael Colubiale, who jumped over three defenders to reel in the ball.
And in the final seconds, when everyone was packing up and ready to go, punter and tight end Mac Loudermilk managed to stride into the end zone, carrying a defender on his back, with a big 43-yard touchdown from Kruczek to end the game 21-10.
“Time management,” Loudermilk said when asked how he manages to play two positions. “Beginning of practice, I’m usually with the specialists warming up, and then throughout practice, I’ll be with the tight ends working drills. I was praying for a touchdown. I saw the safety roll down and I knew it was gonna come to me.”
Evan Abramson is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Abramson and email him at EvanA@centralfloridafuture.com.