UCF Defense and running game disappears along with ranking with loss to So Miss

It took 15 years  in Divsion 1-A for UCF Football program to get ranked, It lasted 6 days as after jumping out to a 14-0 lead against Southern Miss in the 1st quarter, The Knights were dominated and would see their 11 consecutive C-USA Conference wins, 5 straight overall wins this season, and national ranking all vanish in a 31-21 lost to Golden Eagles.   One of the keys to Knights success during winning streak was the running game and the play of junior running back Ronnie Weaver. Weaver got the Knights off to a great start breaking a couple long runs as he had 112 yards rushing on just 7 carries in the first quarter. However Weaver and Knights running game disappeared for the rest of the game as Weaver had just 6 yards rushing on 5 carries. “Whoever gets the ball is up to coach” said Weaver, “It’s the offensive job to execute for whoever has the ball in the game”. The Knights as a team had just 27 yards rushing in the last 3 quarters after 121 in first as the offensive line had trouble with Southern Miss blitz packages. “We didn’t sustain blocks inside” said Head Coach George O’Leary on his Offensive Line struggles to get the running game going after first quarter. “Too many guys getting off blocks, making plays for them”.

The lack of running game put pressure on freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey who faced pressure all day from Golden Eagles going 16 for 25 for 190 yards while getting sacked 3 times and threw 2 Interceptions in the game. “We just weren’t executing the way we should have,” said senior offensive lineman Jah Reid. “We came out good and then fizzled off and weren’t able to pick it back up.”

The performance grounded the Knights momentum into the game as with a win, Knights would have moved to one game away from clinching a birth into C-USA Championship Game. Instead the Knights though still in control of division now have a tight race with East Carolina and Southern Miss now back in the hunt for the division title. But gone is the ranking , gone is the winning streak, and gone is dominance the Knights Defense were enjoying earlier in the season as Knights have now given up 99 points in their last 3 games. Part of the problem is the defense being unable to get off the field as in the last 3 games; opponents have converted 31 of 49 3rd downs including 11 of 16 from Southern Miss on Saturday.

“That’s been a problem for a few weeks now,” said Senior Defense end Bruce Miller on defense problems on 3rd downs, “That hurt us really bad, not being able to get off the field and letting them sustain drives.”

Now back to being unranked the Knights now must fix its defensive problems it’s had the last 3 weeks and get back to the running game and control the clock which will help the defense stay fresh as they will face for the fourth straight week an offense that does not huddle in Tulane. If the problems are fixed this season can still be a Golden one for the program, if it is not fixed the Knights chances of winning Conference title and getting ranked again will like the ranking, vanish.

News and Notes
          UCF record is now 7-3, the same record they had in 2005 and 2007. Both times the Knights reached C-USA Championship Game.
          So Miss became first visiting team to win twice at BrightHouse Sports Networks Stadium and is 3-0 against UCF in Orlando.
          Knights did not score in 2nd quarter against So Miss snapping streak of 22 straight quarters scoring dating back to the 3rd quarter at Kansas State on Sept 25th, also Knights last lost.
          Sophomore cornerback Josh Robinson had his first Interception of the season on Saturday, Robinson had 6 in 2009.
          UCF had a 100 yard rusher (Weaver – 112) and 100 yard receiver (Jamar Newsome -100) in the game for the first time since Oct 6, 2007 at East Carolina when Kevin Smith ran for 147 yards and Kamar Aiken had 122 yards. UCF lost that game 52-38.
          Saturday was not a good day for UCF Athletic teams as Football was not the only team to lose as UCF’s Women’s Soccer season ended losing in the 2nd round of NCAA Tournament 2-1 in Los Angeles against UCLA.  Loss ends another great season for Knights women’s soccer program that finished 15-5-3 and won its 4th regular season C-USA Title in 6 years and made NCAAs for 4th straight season and 9th in 12 years under Head Coach Amanda Cromwell.