Three Things UCF Coach Gus Malzahn Said ahead OSU’s Trip to Orlando

For the first time this season, the Cowboys will hit the road to face a Big 12 newcomer.

No. 15 Oklahoma State plays UCF at 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Saturday in Orlando. UCF coach Gus Malzahn met with reporters this week to preview the matchup. Here are three things he said that stood out entering this game.

Knights Could Get Xavier Townsend Back

The Knight’s could see a dynamic receiver return against the Cowboys. 

Xavier Townsend, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound sophomore from Tampa, has missed UCF’s past two games with an unspecified injury. 

Townsend does a little bit of everything for the Knights. He has 20 catches on the season for 190 yards and a pair of scores. He also has 11 rushes for 150 yards, and he is UCF’s primary return man, leading the Knights with 120 punt return yards and 78 kick return yards. He is essentially the Knights’ Brennan Presley.

“We’re hoping we get X back,” Malzahn said. “That would be a good shot in the arm. We’ll see. He did practice somewhat [Sunday] night. We’ll see how he progresses.”

‘They’re Gonna Give It to That Big Dude’

This pairs well with something Mike Gundy said on Monday: what OSU is doing isn’t a secret anymore.

The Cowboys’ offense starts and ends with Ollie Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher at 1,225 yards thus far this season. Gordon provides a unique task for opposing defenses in that he is 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, or as Malzahn put a “big dude.”

“This happens to be the No. 15 team in the country — probably the hottest team in the country right now,” Malzahn said. “If you look and see at where they’ve improved on an gotten better, they kinda know who they are now. You can tell early in the year, they were trying to figure — now they know. They’re gonna give it to that big dude, and he can run it downhill. Fourth quarter, he imposes his will on people. We gotta do a good job at gang tackling.

“Their quarterback does a really good job. Defensively, they’ve got a new defensive coordinator from a small school. The dude does a really, really good job. Sometimes that’s the best coaches that, you know, are at small [schools], you don’t know much about them, and they earn their way up. I’m really impressed with that defensive coordinator, too.”

‘There’s No Catching Your Breath in This Conference’

In their first season at the Power Five level, the Knights are just 1-5 in Big 12 play. Their only win has been against Cincinnati, another team making the transition to Power Five football.

The Knights have played in close games. They’ve played in some not-so-close games. Shoot they’ve even seen a 27-point lead evaporate in a little over a quarter.

Malzahn has made coaching stops at Arkansas, Tulsa, Arkansas State and Auburn, but he said he hasn’t seen a conference with the depth the Big 12 has. The league’s depth is evident by the fact that there is a five-way tie at third in the league at 4-2. There are also four teams that are 2-4. 

“Every opponent we’ve had has been a quality opponent in this league,” Malzahn said. “Other conferences I’ve been in, there’s one or two that, ‘OK, we can kinda catch our breath.’ There’s no catching your breath in this conference.”