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Harvey was key to win

Published: Sunday, September 6, 2009

Updated: Monday, September 7, 2009 13:09

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Caitlin Bush

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Caitlin Bush

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Caitlin Bush

It was destined to be running back Brynn Harvey's night in the UCF Football game against Samford. Kickoff started at exactly 7:34. There were more than 34,000 people at the game. No. 34 made sure he would continue the number trend.

Harvey carried the ball 31 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, leading UCF to a season-opening victory over Samford, 28-24, at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday night. He was one of the bright spots for UCF in a game that featured a lot of potential costly mistakes.

"I thought the kids hung in there," head coach George O'Leary said. "I was pleased and displeased. Displeased with some of the mistakes I saw, but pleased that they had the character to come back and do some good things."

One of the main stars in the game besides Harvey was backup quarterback Brett Hodges, who entered the game late in the first half to try to get the offense rolling after Calabrese completed only 3-of-7 passes. On his second possession, Hodges led UCF down the field on an eight play, 43 yard drive that led to the early game tying touchdown. He finished the game 10-for-17 with 129 yards passing and a touchdown.

"I thought Hodges went in and did a good job," O'Leary said. "He moves the team and he plays well within himself, so I was pleased with that."

Down 24-21 late in the third quarter after a Samford field goal, the Knights rallied for a touchdown with 10:53 left in the game off a nine yard pass from Hodges to Jamar Newsome, pulling UCF ahead for good at 28-24. Despite Hodges strong play, O'Leary still says there is no quarterback controversy.

"As far as I'm concerned, I will talk it over with coordinators, but I still think it's Calabrese's team," he said. "I think it's a long season and I don't see a quarterback controversy, if that's what people want to write about. I think both have to be able to go in a game and play and they both did today."

Both teams failed to move the ball in the first quarter, with Samford and UCF combining for a total of 72 yards offensively. The first score of the game came from the Bulldogs off an 80 yard drive that ended with a 29-yard strike from QB Dustin Taliaferro to Riley Hawkins to put Samford up 7-0.

It didn't take long for the Knights to answer back, scoring a touchdown off a 1-yard scamper by Harvey with :57 remaining in the half. It was Harvey's first rushing TD of the season, tying his total from 2008. Fighting fatigue and cramps, Harvey was still able to nab his second career 100-yard rushing game and his first career multi-touchdown game on Saturday.

"I was getting banged up," said Harvey. "I felt great just helping the team out with rushing yards and just trying to run the clock down. It was a little cramps (towards the end of the game), but it will be better next game."

UCF opened the second half with a bang, with Quincy McDuffie returning a kick 95 yards, putting the Knights up 13-7 after a missed extra point. It was the return game that sparked the second half momentum for the Knights.

"I thought the special team's game was good and the return game," O'Leary said. "I was happy to see McDuffie take one to the house. We also had a couple of long returns, so I am happy in that sense."

Hodges continued to start in the second half even after he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Samford's Ryan Anderson, giving the Bulldogs the 21-13 advantage after they had already answered a UCF score earlier in the quarter. Taaffe and O'Leary wanted to keep the momentum from Hodges' good first half going.

"The intent was to put (Hodges) in and then put Rob back in during the second half," O'Leary said. "Charlie wanted to stay with Hodges to see what was going on and then if it didn't work out, get Rob back in the game. As it was, I thought Brett took the most of his opportunity was and went with it."

The Knights fought back and eventually tied the score at 21-21 off Harvey's second rushing touchdown of the day and a two-point conversion. UCF missed out on numerous other opportunities to score, including freshman kicker Jamie Boyle missing a field goal, an extra point and having a kick blocked. They also turned it over twice, including a fumble by Ross into the end zone that Samford recovered for a touchback.

"I thought we went out and left too many points on the field," O'Leary said. "I think you have the ball inside the five twice and you fumble it one time and get a penalty another time and then we miss two field goals and a PAT. You can't leave points like that at all. That's 17 points that you have to be able to put on the scoreboard."

Despite Calabrese's rough start, Hodges thought his teammate wasn't praised enough for some of the good plays he made.

"He made a lot of plays that were kind of overlooked because of the result," said Hodges, who saw his first action in a UCF uniform on Saturday. "Rob didn't do anything bad at all today. He didn't make any mistakes. We just switched it like Coach Taaffe said and I look the momentum a little bit and I think coach O'Leary wanted to run with it."

After just squeaking by with a victory, wide receiver Rocky Ross knows the importance of making adjustments heading into the Southern Miss game next weekend.

"I remember saying the same thing after the first game last year that we left points on the field," Ross said. "We can't have a repeat of last season. We have to take this serious and I think this team has some good character and we really want it this year.

"We work hard and I think we will learn from this in a positive way."

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