UCF defeats Florida International in home opener

UCF+defeats+Florida+International+in+home+opener

Inocencio Correa

UCF defensive lineman, Cam Henderson readies himself for the play to begin.

The University of Central Florida Golden Knights opened conference-USA play defeating familiar foe the Florida International Panthers 33-22 in their first home game of the season. Sophomore Quarterback Blake Bortles led the Knights with 251 yards (20-30, 2 TDs, 1 Int.) in front of a home crowd of over 40,000.

The Knights got on the scoreboard seven  minutes into the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Bortles who connected with senior fullback Billy Giovanetti and never looked back, putting up 23 points in the first half alone.

Florida International University’s, FIU’s, special teams added 2 points to the Knights’ lead at the end of the first quarter when the Panthers longsnapper sent the ball sailing over punter Jack Griffin’s head and out of the end zone for a safety.

It wasn’t just the special teams that put the Panthers into a hole. The offense couldn’t get into a rhythm and had two first downs and 26 total offensive yards going into halftime compared to the Knights’ 13 first downs and 249 yards.

UCF scored their second touchdown of the game when Bortles connected with sophomore receiver Rannell Hall (63 yds, 1 TD) on a curl. Hall then spun around a defender and ran into the end zone for the 16-yard touchdown.

FIU’s offense improved coming out of the halftime break scoring on their first drive when quarterback Jake Medlock (154 yards, 12-28,) went 4-4 passing and tossed a 5-yard touchdown to Receiver Kendrick Rhodes for the Panthers’ first points of the game.

“Second half we definitely came out sluggish,” said Warton. “Coach told us we have to be consistent and today we weren’t. So that’s definitely something we are going to work on this week.”

The Knights added their fourth touchdown of the game when former Quarterback Jeff Godfrey took a hand-off and threw a pass to fellow Receiver J.J. Worton (94 yards, 1 TD) in the front corner of the end zone with the gadget play. But it was a diving 47-yard catch by Hall two plays earlier that set up the touchdown and will most likely be making the highlight reels.

“We just have to keep pushing. We had 21 points in the first half. We can’t let up. Have to keep pushing. ‘Cause they came back last year,” said Godfrey.

It seemed like the Panthers figured out UCF’s defense in the second half and the offense was able to break a few long plays that led to eventual touchdowns. After senior Darian Mallory’s (120 total yards, 2 TDs) second touchdown of the game the Panthers chose to go for the 2-point conversion and Medlock failed to connect on the attempt, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Now 2-1, the Knights will have a week off to prepare for the SEC’s newest team, the Missouri Tigers, while the Panthers try to put this game behind them as they face Louisville on Sept. 2.