ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – As of Thursday afternoon, this Saturday’s game between No. 13 UCF and Pitt at Spectrum Stadium was less than 200 tickets away from being a hard sellout. With another above capacity crowd expected at the Bounce House, Knights head coach Josh Heupel talked about the impact fans can have on the game. Heupel’s comments came late Thursday morning in his final media session prior to this weekend’s contest.
“Great energy, electricity, crowd noise can be critical in a football game,” Heupel said. “It can create energy, momentum for your side but also make it extremely difficult – especially when they’re on offense – for them to communicate up front, make sure their calls are correct … (it can) create an advantage as far as them really struggling to be able to communicate.”
Following a pair of home games with at or near capacity crowds, Heupel lauded the Black and Gold faithful.
“The first couple weeks we’ve been at home, (it has been a) great environment,” Heupel said. “Great electricity. Great crowd noise. I expect Saturday at 3:30 to be the best we’ve had so far.”
Pitt features a starting offensive line that averages nearly 310 pounds, with each starter standing 6-foot 3-inches or taller. Add in a 6-2, 225-pound tailback (Qadree Ollison) and the Knights’ defense will have its work cut out for it against the 35th-ranked rushing attack in the country.
“His thickness, his ability to get behind his pads, that creates a different dimension maybe than the guy we played last week,” Heupel said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to tackle well in space. You’ve got to condense space. You’ve got to rally to the football and it can’t be just one guy. Our ability to tackle will be a big part … of us playing well on the defensive side of the ball.”
Heupel mentioned the ground game as being important to both teams in this contest. While the Panthers rush for 212-plus yards per game. The Knights currently average just less than 284 yards per game (seventh in the nation).
“It’s a huge part of the game,” Heupel said. “Certainly early in the football game, being able to set into our pads on the offensive line, be really good on our double teams and change the line of scrimmage. That’s a big portion … the run game. It sets up how the rest of the game is played, because you’re either in third-and-long or third-and-short, manageable situations on either side of the ball. That will be a big part of success or failure in the ballgame.”
One major difference may be the air attack. While both teams bring stout ground games into the contest, Pitt ranks No. 117 in the nation with just 149 yards passing per contest. Meanwhile, McKenzie Milton and the Knights are currently No. 21 in passing offense and are putting up an average of more than 300 yards per contest.
Kickoff for Saturday’s contest is slated for 3:32 p.m. inside Spectrum Stadium. The game will be broadcast to a nation-wide audience on ESPNU. It can also be heard on FM 96.9/AM 740 The Game and worldwide via iHeart Radio.