UCF’s road to back-to-back titles continues with Tulane

The American Athletic Conference has been a refuge of sorts for the UCF Knights football team, as UCF has started their time in the new conference with a 9-0 record so far through the American’s first two seasons.

Now the Knights focus goes from winning the inaugural AAC title, which they accomplished last season, to winning back-to-back conference championships. While this year may be a little different for UCF, since the American doesn’t get an automatic BCS bowl bid like they did last year, it’ll be up to the team to win out the rest of the season and win convincingly.

“Coach O’Leary his main point is winning the conference championship,” said wide receiver Jackie Williams. “And that’s the thing he’s been harping us since I’ve been down here being a member of the team. These next seven games we have are very crucial.”

The Knights will put their undefeated conference record to the test this Saturday against the Tulane Green Wave, who are 1-1 in AAC play. UCF has had a taste for the dramatic lately, as they’ve won their past two games on last-second stops on defense.

UCF quarterback Justin Holman will be vital against Tulane after the first-year signal caller threw for a career-high 326 yards on 51 pass attempts, something head coach George O’Leary said he doesn’t see happening again.

“That’s two games for me, sometimes three,” said O’Leary at his weekly press conference. “In this program were not going to rely on 51 throws to win games, if we are we’re in trouble I think myself. Too many bad things happen when that ball’s in the air.”

Holman has progressed well since taking over the starting job in Week 2 against Missouri. Through five games he’s thrown for 985 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions, while completing 56.2 percent of his passes. But while his numbers have been good, his throws lack touch and are often darted into his receivers.

“Justin (Holman) has an incredibly strong arm,” said Williams. “But I think that just goes with experience and him getting more reps, getting  more touches and things like that and being in the game situation where he has to put the touch on the ball.

“But he’s working on that and the older receivers they’ve been talking to him about it, so he’s definitely trying to correct that.”

Tulane has a strong running game that’s led by freshman Sherman Badie and followed by a stable of three other running backs. The Green Wave will run it early and often against UCF, which could be a point of concern for a Knights’ defense that allowed 189 rushing yards to BYU last week.

“They do a great job of breaking tackles,” said O’Leary of Tulane’s offense. “I’ve watched them all against good competition and their breaking tackles against everybody and moving the ball.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game against Tulane is set for noon EST, with the game being televised on ESPNU.