UCF eager for home opener


Ty Wright / Valencia Voice

UCF last started 0-2 in 2005, that season ended with the Knights’ first-ever bowl bid with the Liberty Bowl.

After losing their first two games on the road, returning home on Saturday to play Bethune-Cookman may be just what the UCF Knights need to get their season back on track.

UCF opened up the season with losses against Penn State on Aug. 30 in Ireland, and last week against Missouri. Although the Knights lost by 28 points to Missouri, the game was within reach up until about the midway point of the third quarter.

“You can’t turn the ball over four times and give people a short field and that’s what we did,” Knights head coach George O’Leary said. “When you look at the total yards of that game, Missouri had 23 more yards than we did. What I felt like on the sideline is that we sort of shot ourselves in the foot on drives. We had sustained drives out there but the end result is you got to put the ball in the end zone.”

One of the biggest areas in which the Knights failed against Missouri was on the defensive side of the ball. Heading into the season the Knights’ defense was projected to pick up where they left off from last season, but the defense has been anything but great.

Through the first two games, the Knights’ defense ranks 87th in the country in total defense, including 108th in the country against the pass.

“I think third down has been the issue,” O’Leary said. “We’ve been very poor on third down getting off of the field. You got to make plays on third down, we’ve had our opportunity with tackles in the backfield and you can’t give up the hidden yardage.”

The area of emphasis following the game against Missouri seemed to be tackling. The Knights’ defense missed a lot of tackles and O’Leary already has the team working on tackling drills this week in practice.

“We worked on it today,” O’Leary said. “You can’t teach tackling. You can only form tackling so much; even the pros are starting to show it as far as without the contact that they’ve eliminated. We tackled [on Monday] on all three defensive groups because I think our angles were bad on Saturday.”

Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff at Bright House Networks Stadium marks the Knights’ first home game of the season and it could be a game the Knights use to jump start their season as the school has won six-straight home openers and are 9-1 at home over the last 10 games.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been at home,” senior linebacker Troy Gray said. “Just getting back out on our home field and having our fans behind us and seeing them get [hyped] up and getting excited. I think it’ll definitely motivate us.”

Who: UCF Knights vs Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

When: Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at 6 p.m. EST

Where: Bright House Network Stadiums, Orlando, Florida.

Game will air on ESPN 3

(Taken from Sept. 17, 2014 issue)