ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – One year ago, the UCF football team faced their first major challenge of its undefeated 2017 season on the road at Navy. This Saturday, the No. 11/11 Knights will face the Midshipmen’s daunting triple-option attack for Homecoming at Spectrum Stadium.
Head Coach Josh Heupel spoke to the media on Thursday, talking about how the defense has improved over the course of the week to handle the Navy offense.
“It’s been really good this week,” Heupel said. “It’s gotten better every single day, and I’m talking defensively. We’re getting dialed into our keys and playing assignment sound football. Our kids practiced really well on Tuesday and Wednesday. They understand the need and urgency on those two days. They’ve done a great job.”
When asked about how much attention to detail was necessary for the Knights to stop the triple option, Heupel emphasized that the defense needed to know their keys and stay with their assignments.
“Everybody has to play their assignment to be successful,” Heupel added. “You have to read your keys, and that’s going to take you to your assignment. You better cover all three phases of dive, quarterback and pitch.”
Last year, UCF’s defense held the top rushing attack in the country 150 yards below its average in a 31-21 win in Annapolis. While the returners on defense have already seen the triple option once, Heupel talked about all the preparation for this season’s battle.
“The more time on task you have against it is important,” Heupel continued. “It was a long time ago, at the same time. Our guys have to be dialed in to what were doing, but we’ve prepared for it. We prepared for it over the course of the summer, before we got into training camp. We had a really good idea of how we want to play it. There’s going to be some tweaks to that with the changes they’ve made this year. Our kids will be ready to go.”
Heupel and the coaching staff have expressed deep reverence for everyone at the Naval Academy this week. Speaking about service to the United States, Heupel spoke with high regard about Director of Player Personnel Brandon Lawson, who served six years in the United States Marine Corps, including three as the Marine One Crew Chief.
“I think that his service and the things that he learned as a Marine are integral part of who he is,” Heupel said of Lawson. “When he has an opportunity to relate and talk with our players, that is the background of where he is coming from, whether it’s the discipline or life lessons he had as part of a team. Those are all parts of developing our young players.”
UCF and Navy are set for a noon kickoff on ESPN2 and FM 96.9/AM 740 The Game.