Thursday featured the UCF Knights conference opener in what is most likely the final meeting against rival ECU with the Knights move to the Big East next season.

The Knights were coming off a 21-16 loss in their first ever meeting with the Missouri Tigers last weekend and look to get a win during this short week against a conference foe.


CHECK OUT PHOTOS OF UCF’S BIG WIN


The first quarter opened with some fireworks as the Pirates got on the scoreboard early with a 7-yard touchdown run by quarterback Shane Carden after a 13-play drive in which ECU looked in rhythm with no real resistance by the Knights. Their second possession saw a quick 76-yard touchdown to put the Pirates up 14 in a hurry.

Quincy McDuffie answered back with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to draw the Knights within seven. Both teams combined to score 14 points in a span of 25 seconds and the quarter ended with the Knights knocking on the door to tie the game up.

“It was a good win, a good first conference win. I think all three areas: offense, defense and special teams had something to do with the win. It was special teams that gave us the spark with the 99-yard touchdown return and the next punt return by Worton,” said coach George O’Leary.

The kickoff return could not have come at a better time with a Pirates team seizing control of all momentum things looked like they could get out of hand fast. McDuffie’s return was a break that Coach O’Leary said came at the right time to uplift the sidelines.

After the touchdown it seemed like Brighthouse and the Knights came alive. Storm Johnson was able to punch in his third touchdown of the season to tie the game up at 14. The Knights would follow it up with a strong defensive stand resulting in an interception which set up a field goal to give UCF their first lead of the game.

Towards the end of the half, the Knights would tack on another field goal to take a 20-14 lead. Despite the shaky start, the Knights ended on a 20-3 run dating back to the 6:09 mark in the first quarter taking a 20-17 lead into the locker room.

Starting out the second half, the Knights continued their inability to finish as they punched in another field goal to make it 23-17. ECU would respond with a field goal of their own to remain within three.

The Knights would quickly strike back with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Quincy McDuffie finally creating a cushion between the rivals. There would be no letup as UCF would add on another touchdown to go up 37-20 and sink the proverbially dagger into the Pirates.

Despite a poor showing to convert in the red zone, the Knights looked sharp in the second half and were able to create distance between them and their conference rivals.

UCF would eventually double up the Pirates 40-20 to move to 3-2(1-0) and the inside track to a East Division crown.

The Pirates ended their conference rivalry going 9-3 all-time against the Knights as they have played annually after UCF’s move to C-USA in 2005. ECU came into the game 3-2(2-0) after defeating UTEP the week before and now move into third place

The Knights take the field again next Saturday against a win-less Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles team to conclude their four game home stand in which they look to go 3-1 on and come out with a division lead.

Anthony Scalco

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