“Don’t Stop Believing” – probably one of the greatest songs of all time. Only in this case, there are no small-town girls involved and UCF certainly isn’t located anywhere near Detroit. But what rings true in the minds and hearts of all of the Knights’ faithful is the fact that this season is not over yet…far from it.
UCF took the field on Wednesday night and showed why they are still considered the top contender for the C-USA crown, dominating the University of Alabama-Birmingham on both sides of the ball from start to finish.
For the Knights (3-2, 1-0), this was a statement game. A game that was nationally televised in primetime on ESPN and the only football game on Wednesday night. The announced crowd of 40, 281 was loud and raucous throughout the entire game leading to a UCF victory over the visiting UAB Blazers (1-4, 0-2).
This was just the remedy the Knights were looking for. After an incredibly heartbreaking loss to Kansas State last week, UCF had to come out and prove that they are better than their record states. The Knights could easily be an undefeated 5-0 team but their inability to finish drives and take advantage of certain situations has been their downfall so far this season.
Not this time.
On the opening drive, UCF was stuck in a 4th and 1 situation where Coach George O’Leary decided to be aggressive early and tried for a 1st down. The Knights came up short but quickly made up for it with Kemal Ishmael’s interception on UAB’s ensuing drive. UCF then scored first on a Ronnie Weaver four-yard touchdown run.
UCF had two more opportunities to score early, but both drives were spoiled by fumbles. The most crucial fumble came after UCF’s longest offensive play of the season, a 44-yard deep pass from Jeff Godfrey to Jamar Newsome that gave the Knights a 1st and goal from the 2-yard line. From there, Weaver fumbled on the exchange from Godfrey and UCF again looked incapable of capitalizing on its opportunities.
It was then that the #10-ranked defense in the country took over. Led by senior defensive end, Bruce Miller, the Knights swarmed all over the field and made it extremely difficult for the Blazers’ offense to produce.
Later in the second quarter, Jeff Godfrey rushed for UCF’s longest run of the year, a 35-yard scamper that set up another Ronnie Weaver touchdown. On the next drive, backup quarterback, Rob Calabrese, threw a late touchdown to Brian Watters to give the Knights a commanding lead heading into halftime.
Apparently O’Leary made it clear to his players at halftime that they were going to play to win in the second half instead of playing not to lose, as has been one of the contributing factors to the two losses so far this season. On UAB’s opening drive of the 3rd quarter, Ishmael stripped UAB’s quarterback allowing Josh Robinson to return the fumble 56 yards for a UCF touchdown that brought down the house.
UAB looked to have some offensive rhythm later in the 3rd quarter with a 78-yard scoring drive that ended in a Patrick Hearn touchdown catch. The 11-play drive was really the only successful offensive attack put together by the Blazers the entire game.
UCF, on the other hand, continued to drive the ball well and scored again on a Latavius Murray 9-yard touchdown run. On the next UAB drive, UCF put the game out of reach with another defensive touchdown. This time, Troy Davis intercepted a pass and ran it back 29 yards for the score.
UCF – 47, UAB – 7
Of course, for Knights fans, this game comes as much needed relief for the stinging pain that still lingers from close losses to both NC State and Kansas State earlier this year. Now, however, there is hope. Hope that the Knights can maintain this swagger heading into another Wednesday night game at Marshall next week. Hope that UCF can still state its claim as the class of Conference USA by making it to the title game for the first time since 2007. Hope that one day UCF will be recognized on the national map.
What a way to start. The atmosphere, the stadium, and the fans were electric Wednesday night. The ESPN commentators kept talking about the great the facilities are at the UCF, the academic prowess of the school, and the amount of students on campus. Not to mention the fact that they kept comparing UCF’s freshman quarterback, Jeff Godfrey to none other than Michael Vick. This night was one huge commercial for the University of Central Florida. And the Knights stepped into the limelight in a big way.
The season is still very young. Stay patient, Knights fans. Stay positive. This team has the strength and ability to still have a special season. An undefeated year in conference play still looks like a definite possibility if they continue to dominate their opponents like they did against UAB on Wednesday night.
The time is now. Support your team. “Don’t Stop Believing” in the UCF Knights.