ORLANDO - In just one play last week, BYU went from having one of nation's most explosive offensive players and daydreaming about a possible undefeated season, to facing a remaining schedule soaked in questions.
The Cougars (4-1) have had a short week to adjust to losing Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback and leading rusher Taysom Hill to a season-ending broken leg during their loss to Utah State last week.
The loss dropped BYU out of the Top 25, but coach Bronco Mendenhall is hoping his team can begin to put things back together tonight at UCF. His task is to convince BYU it is is deeper than one player. "I think there was a level of confidence, I wouldn't say dependence," he said of Hill. "Taysom is gone. One player does not make a team, even though Taysom is a fantastic player, but the execution of all positions within their assignment, within their technique - that has to improve right now."
That begins with senior Christian Stewart, who will make his first start. He struggled in relief of Hill, completing 10 of 29 passes for 172 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
"I looked at the film and what came to my mind was the best quarterbacks take what the defense gives them. I was trying to force things," Stewart said. "I learned a lot about things that I can do going forward just with what the defense is giving me and looking at my keys, making the throws I need to make."
Stewart faces a Knights defense that has steadily improved in back-to-back victories the past two weeks.
UCF has given up just 19 points combined in the wins, after surrendering 26 and 31 points in two losses to open the season. But coach George O'Leary doesn't expect to have an easier time with Hill out. "BYU is BYU," he said. "With Stewart, they're doing a lot of the same things they were doing with (Hill) in the game. And they have enough personnel groups, they're gonna mix and match and I'm sure they'll tweak some things. But offenses, I think for the most part when you get to the fourth or fifth game - that's who you are."
QB SHUFFLE? O'Leary said recent inconsistency from sophomore Justin Holman could prompt him to insert sophomore backup Nick Patti. "If we're struggling at all at quarterback, he's going to see action," O'Leary said. "We just gotta get things going offensively. We have too many good players at certain positions that we need to get the ball in their hands and we gotta get it to them quickly, and do the things that we're supposed to do."
RETURNING HOME: After a neutral site game against Penn State and trips to Missouri and Houston, UCF (2-2) is playing just its second true home game. Entering the week only UCF and Eastern Michigan had not played at least two games in their home stadium. ... A win would give UCF six straight seasons with at least two nonconference wins.