UCF peaking as troubled Tulane limps into Orlando

National Sports

So far, so good for UCF in the second half of the season.

The Knights have won their first two games since hitting the midpoint of the season. UCF is coming off the team’s first road win of the season, a 49-7 thrashing of Temple last week.

UCF (5-3, 3-2 AAC) can reach the six-win threshold and bowl eligibility when it hosts Tulane (1-7, 0-4) in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday in Orlando.

“I think we’re getting better,” Knights coach Gus Malzahn said. “I challenged our team to be one of those teams that’s getting better each week.”

Freshman quarterback Mikey Keene threw for five touchdowns — matching his career total in his five previous games — and had a season-high 229 passing yards.

“We had some explosive plays,” Malzahn said. “We threw the ball down the field. We didn’t hit them all, but you’ve got to take some chances to loosen things up. I really think we’re starting to go in the right direction offensively.”

The Knights are going in a steady direction defensively, too.

“When we stop the run we play really good defense,” Malzahn said, “and in the games that we’ve done that it’s been a lot of fun. I think we’re as confident as we’ve been in some time.”

Tulane’s confidence is lagging amid a six-game losing streak, but the Green Wave were surprisingly competitive in a 31-12 home loss to No. 2 Cincinnati last week.

“At this point it’s about your pride day in and day out and how you want to finish,” linebacker Nick Anderson said. “Do you want to tuck your head, throw in the towel and give up or do you want to win these last four and take the positives going forward?”

Tulane has played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, facing four teams that were ranked at the time.

“We’ve done well in spurts,” coach Willie Fritz said, “but we haven’t done it over four quarters in order to beat quality opponents.”

The status of quarterback Michael Pratt, who entered concussion protocol after being injured two weeks ago, is undetermined for Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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