UCF Rips Akron 56-14 in Season OpenerFootball, Sports — By Eric Py on August 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm Tweet
Like every other UCF game ever played, the analysts made their predications and the fans came up with their own theories, but at that moment of Kickoff, no one had a clue what to expect.
Tonight the Knights gave everyone a reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season however, with a 56-14 routing against the Akron Zips.
After nearly a year of anticipation, months of preparation, and weeks of speculation, the UCF Knights were finally ready to kick off the 2012-2013 season with an away game in Akron, Ohio.
Blake Bortles conducted the offense beautifully, going 13-for-16 for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
Latavius Murray led the running backs with 108 yards rushing and one touchdown, while Storm Johnson received a warm welcome to the team, putting up two touchdowns on 34 yards rushing.
Rannell Hall led the receivers with four receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense was the unsung hero of the game however, holding the Zips to 59 yards rushing and forcing four turnovers. The young UCF defensive backs did allow 266 yards in the air however.
The Zips, who are commanded by Terry Bowden (yes, the son of Bobby Bowden), are 3-0 when hosting the Knights and 5-2 overall against UCF. The Knights are also coming off a season that featured a winless road record.
The manner in which the Knights conducted themselves on the field was far superior to that of last year’s team. They were sharp, they were disciplined, and they were fired up.
The Knights set out to display their running prowess early as Latavius Murray
marched the ball down the field on UCF’s first possession. Murray carried the ball six times for a total of 68 yards in that one drive, highlighted by a 43-yard draw play to put the Knights in the red zone. After Murray pounded the ball down to the five, Blake Bortles fooled the defense on a play action pass and hit wide-open tight end Chris Martin for the touchdown.
So far so good, the Knights displayed exactly what fans and coaches wanted to see with a powerful running game to open up the play action pass for an easy touchdown to give the Knights their first points of the season.
There would be no shortage of points however, not tonight.
Don’t worry about Murray not getting the touchdown he earned, after the Knights defense forced an Akron punt and a missed field goal, Murray was at it again running hard downhill to set up the Knights at the two yard line, before punching it in himself to give the Knights a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The 10-play, 80-yard drive also featured a completion to Murray and one to ex-quarterback turned receiver, Jeff Godfrey.
The defense stepped up to the plate when Akron put together a 43-yard drive down to UCF’s 25 and the Knights locked it up, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Knights were forced to punt after gaining the possession but Kemal Ishmael streaked down the field to recover a fumble on the Akron nine-yard line. Storm Johnson, making his long anticipated UCF debut tonight, made short work of the nine yards, muscling his way in on two carries to give the Knights a 21-0 lead.
At this point the wheels started to fall off for the Zips as Brynn Harvey entered the game to complete the three-headed monster that is the UCF running back core. It only took UCF six plays and a precision passing attack from Bortles to construct a 45-yard scoring drive, capped off by an 18-yard completion to Rannell Hall. Hall displayed great hands, and even better feet, when he caught the slant at the 13-yard line and shucked off the tackler to stumble into the end zone.
After the defense forced another fumble on the Akron five-yard line, Storm Johnson surged his way to his second touchdown of the evening giving the Knights a 35-0 lead going into the half.
After a first half shut out, Akron managed to get on the board in their opening drive of the 3rd quarter when quarterback Dalton Williams launched a back foot prayer to L.T. Smith on third down for a 37-yard completion to the Knights 13 yard line. The Williams to Smith connection was not done yet however, when Smith made a gorgeous catch over the UCF defender for a 13-yard touchdown reception.
While on the next possession, Bortles threw his first interception of the season with a limp wristed, defender wrapping up his legs, shot put of a pass, the UCF defense would again lay down the gilded curtain and force a turnover on downs to put the ball back in Bortles hands.
Brynn Harvey started the drive for the Knights with two rushes to earn a fresh set of downs. The next three plays were pass, pass, pass, the third being the deadliest of the three completions. Rannell Hall proved that he was no one-catch wonder, and displayed his elite speed when he caught a 5-yard slant, ditched his coverage and out sprinted five Zip defenders for a 56-yard touchdown.
The next set of downs for the Knights featured back-up quarterback Tyler Gabbert. Gabbert is the younger brother of the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blain Gabbert, and a redshirt sophomore transfer from Missouri. Gabbert started the drive on the Akron 25 thanks to yet another forced fumble by the Knight defense, this time Jordan Ozerities both forced and recovered the fumble.
Gabbert’s drive was handled primarily by Storm Johnson, who rushed the ball down to the Akron 12 yard-line. Gabbert then delivered a pretty fade ball that was roped in by yet another ex-quarterback, Rob Calabrese, who’s athletic catch proved that he is indeed a receiver to be reckoned with.
The touchdown gave the Knights a 49-7 lead, which translated into a 56-14 victory after running back Cedric Thompson added a four yard touchdown run to complete the victory.
The impressive outing by the Knights is a testament to extra work they put in during the off-season. Bortles was on point, the Knights running trio were all on point, but most importantly, the defense was rock solid. It has been expected that the Knights will put up points, but no one knew quite what to make of the defense and their young backs.
Next week the Knights will return to Ohio for another road game, but this time the opponent will be a much more formidable and daunting challenge. At 12 o’clock on Saturday the 8th, the Knights will kick off against the Ohio State Buckeyes and 102,000 wild, screaming, chanting fans. The showdown against the Big Ten powerhouse will be not just a test of skill, but a battle of will power and mental stability to stay focused in the hostile territory.