defensive players have said they’ve more than doubled the time spent in film sessions while preparing for Monday’s Peach Bowl showdown with No. 7 .
The No. 12 Knights are concerned about finding ways to stop talented Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson and quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but they also are focused on fixing what they insist are self-inflicted mistakes during UCF’s past two games.
UCF allowed USF and to put up nearly 100 points on the scoreboard and 1,000 yards of offense. That’s something that has festered in the mind of defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman.
“That bothers me so much,” Pittman said. “We always went into the games saying we didn’t want it to be a shoot-out. We didn’t want to have to depend on our offense because we felt like we shouldn’t. We felt like we were good enough to stop people.
“But mistakes here and there kept teams in the game and against good teams, you just can’t play that way.”
Paul Abell / ABELL IMAGES Jamiyus Pittman, UCF, defensive tackle, talks during press conference before the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Jamiyus Pittman, UCF, defensive tackle, talks during press conference before the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. (Paul Abell / ABELL IMAGES)
The Knights will be playing a pretty darned good team Monday. Two of Auburn’s three losses have come to teams that are playing in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs [ and ], but the Tigers have also beaten two of those teams [Georgia and Alabama]. Auburn will be the best team, athletically and physically, that UCF has seen all season and the Knights probably needed the month-long preparation to come up with ways to not only stop their SEC foe, but also to shore up some of their own lapses on defense.
“We don‘t like giving up all those yards in those games, but the W is the most important stat for us. It was a great team win. In both games, we ended the game with a turnover which is — it‘s kind of two-fold,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “Obviously, you look back and say, ‘That was a lot of yards given up and a lot of points on the board.’ Do I like that? No. But do I love the fact that those guys didn‘t lose their edge, didn‘t lose their camaraderie, didn‘t give up and came back and won the game for the team.
“We‘re going to fight to the end of the Peach Bowl and it‘s going to be an awesome game to watch.”
Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel Erik Chinander, UCF, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, UCF, defensive coordinator (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
UCF coach Scott Frost, who leaves, along with his staff, for Nebraska for good following the game, understands what’s in store for his Knights.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us. … [Auburn is] as good as we‘ve seen at almost every position on the field. So our players know they have a challenge,” Frost said. “They are excited for it. But I know when people tune in, they are going to see a group of guys that love being around each other and play for each other. And as long as I‘m coaching, that‘s the type of team I want to have.”
The preparation is done. Now comes the easy part, or at least the part that sounds easy, according to Pittman. The idea, however, is for the Knights to apply what they’ve been planning and hope to contain an offense that can — just like USF and Memphis — get explosive, if allowed.
“I feel like we know what’s going on. We know exactly what our coaches want us to do. All we have to do is go out and execute,” Pittman said. “It sounds easy but I think we can get it done.”