A Tale of Two Halves; UCF Loses 21-16 to SEC Opponent MissouriFootball, Sports — By Eric Py on September 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm Tweet
ORLANDO- The UCF Knights (2-1) lured a beaten but not broken Missouri Tigers (2-2) team to Orlando with the promises of fun in the sun and a relaxing weekend away from the SEC. Aside from a very strong and promising first half from the Knights, that’s exactly what the Tigers got. The Tigers had lost two straight conference games coming into todays contest, but after being down 7-10 to UCF after the first half, they rallied and silenced the UCF offense to win 21-16.
The Knights had 21 first downs and 269 yards in the first half, but the third quarter yielded only 29 yards for the Knights and 97 in the fourth was just not enough to take back the lead.
Blake Bortles threw the ball well; going 20-of-29 for 181 yards and 1 TD while Storm Johnson averaged 6.0 Yds/Carry for 93 yards.
Kemal Ishmael had 5 tackles and a big red zone interception to keep the game within range, but the defense could not keep coming up big without getting a little support from the offense who had a hard time sustaining a drive in the second half.
The defense held the Tigers to 1-for-11 on third down conversions only to have the offense go three and out.
“[The defense] kept us in the game in the second half, offensively, especially in the spread offense, you just can’t put your defense on the field three downs and out, three downs and out.” UCF Coach George O’Leary said about the defensive effort.
The Knights first score came on their second possession. The Knights went 57 yards on 10 plays to set up a 42-yard field goal. Knight’s fans were privileged to witness something rare and amazing when UCF kicker Shawn Moffitt kicked the ball through the uprights. It has been several years since UCF had a kicker capable of converting those tries into 3 points; the 28-yard line has been 4 down territory for too long.
Right from the gun, the Knights and Storm Johnson made it a point to assert their running game. Leading into the field goal, with 3:28 left in the first quarter, Johnson had already hustled for 49 yards on just 5 attempts.
Early in the second quarter, Mizzou QB James Franklin hooked up with TE Dorial Green-Beckham on a post route that went for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive.
The Knights responded beautifully though with a 7 play, 86-yard drive featuring one of the coolest plays ever called by the O’Leary conservative play calling staff. On the UCF 44, what started as a reverse, turned into a double reverse to Bortles who laced a ball to a wide-open TE Rob Calabrese who took the ball 41 yards to the Mizzou 15. A screen pass to WR Quincy McDuffie translated into a 12-yard TD pass after McDuffie broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and burned into the end zone.
The UCF defense continued to look strong on their next outing, sacking Franklin twice to force a 3 and out. UCF DE Troy Davis was responsible for 1.5 of the sacks along with Thomas Niles assisting on one.
UCF started a drive on their 12-yard line with 3:13 left in the half. On the 18-play, 80-yard drive, Bortles completed 8 passes and drove the Knights all the way down to the 2-yard line. With 11 seconds left and no timeouts, the Knights tried one more shot at getting into the end zone when a sack squelched the Knights chance of getting any points and left them empty handed going into Halftime with a 10-7 lead.
The Tigers received to start the third quarter and looked very strong out of the gate. Momentum had clearly shifted to the Tigers after their goal line stop just before half to keep the Knights off the scoreboard. The Tigers marched all the way down to the UCF 15 and looked poised to score before UCF free safety Kemal Ishmael picked off a pass at the 6-yard line and retuned it 19 yards to the 25.
Unfortunately the Knights offense was unable to do anything with the turnover and the Tigers forced a 3 and out punt. At least the pick gave the Knights defense some breathing room and slowed down a Tiger offense that was taking what they wanted.
The Knights D made another big stop but again the offense could not gain a yard. UCF punted the ball from deep in their territory for a second time in two drives and this time paid the full price giving up a TD return to Mizzou’s Marcus Murphy. It was Murphy’s third return for a TD this season.
On the Tigers next possession, the Knights made a big third and one stop followed by a fourth and two stand on their 32-yard line to get the ball back to start the fourth quarter, trailing 14-10. After finally getting a first down, the Knights were forced to punt again as the offense had completely lost its mojo by now.
After 269 yards of total offense in the first half, UCF only squeaked out 29 yards of offense in the third quarter compared to 112 yards from the Tigers. The defense could only be expected to hold the game close for so long before Mizzou would inevitably score. With 9:31 left in the game, Kendial Lawrence scored by cutting back on a 10-yard TD run right after he ran the ball 33 yards down to the UCF 10. The TD put the Tigers up 21-10 with just over 9 minutes to play.
It’s not UCF football without highly suspect situational play calling. While UCF was able to move the ball in the first half, Mizzou made adjustments at halftime and came out looking like a new team. Meanwhile the Knights looked like they spent their halftime playing Mario Kart and came out with nothing new, playing right into Mizzou’s perfectly adjusted scheme.
After another 3 play, 0-yard drive by the Knights, the defense stepped up yet again and forced a three and out.
Suddenly, something spectacular happened. Angels sang out in immaculate chorus, the clouds disbursed and sunbeams shined down on Bright House Networks stadium as the offense showed signs of life. Bortles went 5-for-5 on a 5-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. An 18-yard TD pass to Godfrey brought the Knights within reach. Down 5, the Knights went for a two-point conversion but came up unsuccessful.
With 4:26 left in the game, the Knights kicked the ball downfield and once again put their defense in a sticky situation to either stop the Tigers or lose the game. After the way the defense played, it was not much surprise that they not only forced a three and out, but hurried the punter into only a 25-yard punt to regain possession at the UCF 35 with 2:44 left to play.
With the game on the line and just enough time to score a potential game-winning touchdown, the Knight offense went back to work…
…but it did not last long. On the second play of the drive, Bortles completed a pass to Godfrey who made a nice move in the open field to pick up a solid chunk of yards but had the ball stripped. Missouri recovered the fumble and iced the game to seal the victory.
While there was very little sunshine state lounging in the first half, the Knights shot themselves in the foot in the second half to let the Tigers cruise to a nice and easy 21-16 victory.
“It wasn’t anything they did, it was what we didn’t do. We moved the ball well in the first half and we came out in the second half with the same game plan and didn’t quite execute. It was just us and our execution.” Bortles commented after the game when asked what Mizzou did to stifle the offense in the second half.
The Knights have a short week and little time to dwell on their second lost opportunity to bring down a big time program. Next Thursday, October 4th at Bright House Networks Stadium the Knights will open the door to conference play against the East Carolina Pirates. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM.