Potential game-winning field goal comes up short, UCF fall to FIU

Produced by Bryce Brimhall

Justin+Holman+threw+for+249+and+two+touchdowns+in+the+Knights+loss+to+FIU+on+Thursday.

Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Justin Holman threw for 249 and two touchdowns in the Knights loss to FIU on Thursday.

ORLANDO — UCF didn’t start off the season the way they’d hoped as the Knights fell in their season opener 15-14 to the FIU Panthers in front of an announced attendance of 39,184 at Bright House Networks Stadium.

UCF had an opportunity to win the game with a 47-yard field goal attempt by Matthew Wright with 0:25 left in the game, but the freshman’s kick was tipped by Darrian Dyson forcing the ball to fall short.

The Knights were held to 46 rushing yards for the game by the Panthers defense, which in turn forced UCF to throw the ball 34 times, including a few near interceptions.

“I didn’t think we got any movement up front,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary. “I think we got some plays out of it but in the end too many loss yards plays in the running game. I thought we threw the ball well enough.”

FIU scored first with a 28-yard field goal by Austin Taylor to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.

The Knights then took a 7-3 lead when Justin Holman hit Jordan Akins with a 9-yard pass giving the 23-year old sophomore his first career touchdown catch.

UCF extended their lead to 14-3 when Holman hit Akins for another touchdown early in the second quarter, but that would be the last time the Knights would score for the rest of the game as the Panthers held the Knights to 154 yards of total offense during the second half.

“We didn’t play well enough in all phases of the game to win,” said O’Leary. “I thought offensively we were very sporadic out there, defensively probably as poor of tackling demonstration that I’ve seen in a while.”

FIU trailed 14-3 at the start of the third quarter but cut the deficit to 14-9 when Alex Gardner rushed 7-yards for a score with 8:41 remaining in the quarter. The Panthers would fail on the two-point conversion try following the touchdown.

The UCF defense held strong until the fourth quarter when FIU quarterback Alex McGough threw a touchdown pass to Ya’Keem Griner which was tipped in the end zone before landing in Griner’s hands for six.

“It definitely can be fixed,” said Shaquill Griffin about the defense. “The passes and screens that we saw today we recognized them because we did personnel in practice it’s just now we need to make tackles, we’ve got to wrap up, round our feet and make tackles and that’s something we’re going to work on during practice.”

UCF will now have more than a full week of practice before heading out to the west coast to take on Stanford at Stanford Stadium in California. Kickoff for the game against Stanford is set for 10:30 p.m. EST with the game being televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.
“Keep your head up,” said Akins following the game. “We learn from it and we try to capitalize on the negatives and worry about the next game.”