Knights ready to open up season against FIU

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Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Justin Holman threw for 2,952 yards and 23 touchdowns during his first year as UCF’s starting quarterback in 2014.

ORLANDO — Expectations have been high for UCF’s football program over the past two years and that doesn’t change going into the 2015 season as the Knights are set out to win their third-straight American Athletic Conference championship.

The Knights open up this season with a matchup against in-state opponent FIU at Bright House Networks Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 3. UCF is 2-1 all-time against the Panthers with the Knights winning the most recent matchup 38-0 in 2013.

FIU have a pair of very experienced cornerbacks in Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon that will try to keep second-year quarterback Justin Holman from making the big plays with his arm. With the experience in the secondary the Knights will rely on the running game to help keep the defense off balance and control the tempo.

“You’ve got to run the ball and stop the run to win championships,” said head coach George O’Leary during his Monday press conference. “The whole purpose is to win and do what you have to do to win the game, don’t worry about stats.”

William Stanback should get the start at running back to open the season after he rushed for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns on 189 carries in 2014.

Joey Grant is healthy and will be back starting at center for UCF after the senior missed much of last season due to an injury.

“It’s a privilege to play this game and every game you’ve got to play it like it can be taken away from you because you never know when it’s going to happen,” said Grant. “I’ve played this camp and these practices with a little chip on my shoulder and again I’m just trying to motivate these guys under me and the rest of this offensive line and this offense to play hard.

The Knights lost all four of their starters in the secondary from last season and will rely on the pass rush of the defensive line to help the young secondary remain from being exposed early on in the season.

UCF take on FIU to start the season on Thursday with kickoff set for 6 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.