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Behind enemy lines: Q&A with Underdog Dynasty ahead of Maryland football’s game vs. UCF

Get to know the Terps’ Week 3 opponent.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football plays Central Florida at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, and since we don’t expect you to know UCF inside and out, we’ve enlisted someone who does: Chas Short, who writes about the Knights for Underdog Dynasty.

Feel free follow Chas (@CFBAsterisk) or Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) on Twitter. For our corresponding Q&A, click here.

Testudo Times: UCF has opened the year with a big win against South Carolina State and a big loss at Michigan. How does the team you've seen in the first two weeks compare with what you expected before the season?

Underdog Dunasty: The Knights are a bit better than I predicted. A bit. The run defense is better than I anticipated, for one.

But one of the big questions before the season was how the QB play would be. And it’s still a question. Starter Justin Holman looked promising in 2014. In the second game of the season in 2015, he injured his hand and missed a stretch of time. He was awful when he returned. I have been concerned whether he would be playing more like his 2014 self or his 2015 self. I had the nagging suspicion he would be more like 2015. And so far I’ve been right. He is a poor 17/39 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. And lest you think that’s because Michigan rocked him (which yes, is also true), know that he struggled mightily in the first half against South Carolina State before settling down in the second half. The backup, Nick Patti, also looked bad against Michigan. Like Holman, he completed three passes against the Wolverines. I am still reserving judgment on whether the QB play will be poor the entire season, but I suspect it may be more dire than anticipated.

TT: In "style of play" terms, how different is this team from the 2013 one, which won the Fiesta Bowl with Blake Bortles under center?

UD: The Knights are no longer in a base 4-3 defense, but now in a 3-4. So there’s that.

Historically (by which I mean, in the long George O’Leary era), the Knights have been a run-heavy team. Even during the Bortles years. That continues now, though it looks a bit different. Coach Frost’s offense is spread-to-run. We see more option plays now than we did under O’Leary, including in 2013.

The players are looking different in the Frost era, too. O’Leary prized having bigger guys than the other team rather than having faster guys. This stands out if you look at the running backs on the roster, for example. Contrast O’Leary-era guys Dontravious Wilson (5’10, 210 pounds) and Taj McGowan (6’1, 202) with freshman Jawon Hamilton (5’9, 190) and Adrian Killins (5’8, 155). UCF is now embracing a smaller, speedier back.

TT: What are you looking to see this week from Bortles' successor, senior quarterback Justin Holman?

UD: First, I am looking whether he makes it on to the field this Saturday.

Holman suffered what looked like a hamstring injury at the end of a long run against Michigan and went into the locker room. He eventually returned to the sideline, but not the game.

He appears to be practicing. But Frost has a policy of not discussing injuries. We’ll see whether he plays against Maryland. If he does, I worry about his confidence and performance playing while dinged up. My pessimism here is the result of watching him in 2015 after the hand injury.

TT: The Knights seem to rely heavily on the ground attack, with nearly 60 percent of their plays being runs. What styles do each of UCF's running backs bring to the table?

UD: Jawon Hamilton leads the team in carries so far this season. He is small, and he is fast. I’ve had him pegged as a future star since he committed to the Knights in January of this year.

Senior Dontravious Wilson is listed on the depth chart as a co-starter with Hamilton. He’s more of a bruiser. He leads the team in total rushing yards (thanks in no small part to a 34 yard touchdown run against Michigan) and is second on the team in carries.

Taj McGowan’s performance this year has been workmanlike. Neither his speed nor his power is eye-catching. But he’s been efficient, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Freshman Adrian Killins turned heads last week. Like Hamilton, he’s small. And he is quite fast:

TT: What defensive player (or players) should Terps fans keep an eye on?

UD: Take a look at safety T.J. Mutcherson. I loved his physical play against Michigan. He had five tackles last week (three for a loss) and a sack. This followed a fairly pedestrian game against South Carolina State. I’m hoping that he’ll play with his hair on fire for the second week in a row.

TT: Michigan is obviously a great team, but what positives do you think the Knights took away from that game?

UD: UCF’s defense stood strong against the run and allowed Michigan 119 yards rushing. I’ll have to acknowledge of course that UCF was stacking the box and got shredded through the air as a result. But still, the rushing defense was better than expected.

I’m also happy that UCF had a number of explosive rushes against Michigan. You saw Killins’s 87 yard touchdown run above and I alluded to Wilson’s 34 yard touchdown run through the middle of the Michigan defense. Holman had runs of 30 and 36 yards; Patti added one for 26. UCF totaled 275 yards on the ground. Very happy to see that performance against a defense like Michigan’s.

TT: How important is this game for UCF's season?

UD: A win would be huge boost. It would demonstrate Frost has UCF further along the rebuild than expected.

Conversely, a loss would not be particularly damaging for the Knights. This is a team that was shockingly bad during last year’s winless season.

TT: Complete this sentence: ________ will win because ________.

UD: Maryland will win because the Knights’ poor play at quarterback and suspect secondary will ensure that UCF can’t keep up in a race with Maryland.