Knights suffer first-ever loss to FCS opponent, start season 0-3

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Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

UCF suffered their first loss to an FCS program since joining the FBS in 1996.

ORLANDO — When it rains it pours and nothing better captures that statement than the 16-15 loss UCF suffered to FCS opponent Furman on Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium.

The Knights went into the game without starting quarterback Justin Holman, who injured his hand a week before against Stanford, so they started Bo Schneider who was the first freshman to start under center since Jeff Godfrey in 2010.

Schneider finished the game 7-11 for 63 yards passing and threw an interception but his numbers were better than Tyler Harris, who came in in the second half and went 7-17 for 35 yards and threw two interceptions including one in the final minute of the game to clinch the Furman win.

“There was nothing tough out there as far as quarterback,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary. “They’ve got to make plays and throw the ball where they are not…We just have to continue to work and get better.”

UCF opened up the scoring with a Nick Patti six-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, the drive went 13 plays for 84 yards with Patti accounting for 39 of those yards on six carries.

The Knights then extended their lead to 10-0 when Matt Wright kicked a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The field goal was followed by a safety four minutes later when Chequan Burkett sacked the Furman quarterback in the end zone to extend UCF’s lead to 12-0.

Furman would get on the scoreboard with a one-yard run by Ernie Cain, cutting the Knights’ lead to 12-7 with 1:10 remaining in the opening half. The Paladins added another touchdown when Reese Hannon connected with Andrej Suttles for a 61-yard score to give Furman a 13-12 lead early in the third quarter.

“We’ve got to come together as a team,” said UCF senior Tarik Cook following the game. “All losses are the same, we just have to come together and win. It’s real hard to go through a loss but you’ve got to step up each week and practice and get ready for the next game up.”

Wright’s 29-yard field goal during the final seconds of the third quarter re-gave UCF the lead at 15-13 but a 55-yard field goal by Furman kicker Jon Crost Hollingsworth allowed the Paladins to retake a 16-15 lead with 12:10 left to play in regulation.

The Knights would have one final opportunity to win the game during the final minute of regulation time but a Harris interception ended all hopes of a UCF comeback and gave the Knights the programs first 0-3 start since 2004, when the program went 0-11 in O’Leary’s first year as head coach.

“I told the players, we are going to continue working,” said O’Leary after the game. “Win or lose, you do it together as a team and obviously no one is as disappointed as I am. We have to improve.”

Wide receiver Jordan Akins was injured on the very first play of the game while returning a kickoff and he did not return to the game, coach O’Leary said he would have to be further evaluated before they knew the extent of the injury.

UCF finished the game with 171 yards rushing but only had 98 yards through the air and were 4-15 on third down.

The loss also marked the program’s first defeat to an FCS opponent since joining the FBS in 1996. Going into the game UCF was 20-0 against teams from the FCS. The win does improve Furman to 2-0 all-time against the Knights and was one of the biggest wins for the Paladins in recent history.

“It was a surreal moment,” said Furman cornerback Trey Robinson. “Knowing we have had a tough past two weeks, knowing how hard everyone had been working, it was a great victory seeing the joy in everyone’s face afterward.”

UCF could get Holman back as soon as next Saturday against South Carolina, as O’Leary said following the game that the second-year quarterback will have stitches removed from his injured hand on Tuesday and will be reevaluated then.

The Knights will now have to travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks on Saturday, Sept. 26 at noon EST.

All photos by Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice