UCF’s game against Tulsa means something extra to senior class

UCF has dropped four-straight games to the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, including a heartbreaking loss in the C-USA championship game in 2012, which is something this group of seniors hasn’t yet forgotten.

“All the seniors know this is the one team that we haven’t beaten when we’ve been here,” said Worton of the matchup with Tulsa. “And we don’t want to leave here leaving it like that.”

Key players on this year’s team were on that 2012 Knights team that went into Oklahoma for that overtime defeat, including Worton, Clayton Geathers, Terrance Plummer and Troy Gray.

“We lost twice in one year to them, once for the championship,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary in his weekly press conference on Monday. “You’d like to see them get that off their record before they graduate, that’s something I spoke to the kids about this week.”

UCF comes into the game controlling their own destiny in the American Athletic Conference, but despite a potential unofficial championship game looming in December with ECU in Greensboro, N.C. the Knights are approaching this last stretch of games with a playoff mentality.

“You have a four-game playoff, that’s what you have and you’ve got one at a time and that determines what you’re doing,” said O’Leary. “So it really doesn’t make any difference what you’ve done before this weekend, because you’ve got a four-game slate that you’ve got to do well in if you want to reach the goal the team set.”

UCF’s secondary will have their hands full with Tulsa’s wide receiving duo of Keyarris Garrett and Keevan Lucas. Lucas leads the Golden Hurricanes in receiving with 1,017 yards and 10 touchdowns, he’s averaging 113 yards per game.

Tulsa’s offense likes to run a lot of clock, as they rank 18th nationally in time of possession, so getting stops on third down will be key for UCF. But more importantly the running game will be vital to keeping the defense off the field and well rested in between drives.

“The best way to provide ball possession is for offense to keep it too, sometimes your best defense is a good offense as far as getting things done,” said O’Leary. “We need to have ball possession and worry about moving the chains, but we got to make plays on third down, that’s what all good defenses do.”

The Golden Hurricanes offense is led by sophomore quarterback Dane Evans, who already has 2,576 yards and 19 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Lucas and Garrett have accounted for over 58 percent of Tulsa’s passing yards.

Justin Holman is scheduled to start at quarterback for UCF on Saturday, as he’s made progress through the bye week after throwing four interceptions in the loss to UConn two weeks ago. William Stanback however is coming off a career game with his 141 yards rushing against the Huskies and the Knights will look to him again this week to control the tempo of the game.

A win over the Golden Hurricanes doesn’t just keep the Knights in the AAC championship picture, but it will also make them bowl eligible for the third year in a row.

“It’s definitely like an award for the seniors to go out the way you want to, but honestly I wouldn’t really want to go to a bowl game unless we win the conference championship because that’s our goal.” said Worton after practice on Monday. “To go to a bowl without winning the championship would always leave me with an unsatisfied feeling and that’s not what I want.”

UCF takes on Tulsa at 8 p.m. on Friday at Bright House Networks Stadium, marking the third of five weekday games the Knights will have this season, not including a potential bowl game. The game will be televised on ESPN2.