Knights lose 17-10 heartbreaker to FIU
Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011 16:09
MIAMI – All week leading up to Saturday's game at FIU, all the talk was about T.Y. Hilton.
Before Saturday, Hilton was the nation's leading receiver, and the bulk of the Panthers' offense revolved around him. But Hilton suffered an injury to his right hamstring late in the first half and played only two more snaps the rest of the way before heading to the FIU locker room. The star receiver finished with only three catches for 30 yards.
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No, Hilton was not the reason the Panthers (3-0) beat the Knights (2-1) 17-10 in Miami on Saturday. FIU improved to 3-0 for the first time in school history because the Panthers capitalized on UCF's mistakes and didn't make many of their own, winning an ugly game that no doubt led to a long and quiet drive home to Orlando for the Knights.
Despite out-gaining the Panthers in passing, rushing and total offensive yards, the Knights fumbled three times and lost two of them, both leading to FIU touchdowns.
With time running down in the first half, quarterback Jeff Godfrey was hit as he went to throw. The fumble was picked up by Panther defender Isame Faciane and returned 51 yards for a touchdown, sending the game into the half tied at 7-7.
After the game, head coach George O'Leary and several UCF players commented on the lack of replay on that particular play. Godfrey insisted afterward that his arm was going forward and it should have been an incomplete pass. No plays were reviewed during the contest.
"I thought it was [going forward]," tight end Adam Nissley said. "I was screaming right there alongside O'Leary telling them it was going forward...I'd like to have seen a replay on that one."
UCF's other fumble came on a muffed punt return by Josh Robinson in the third quarter. That fumble led to FIU having the ball on the UCF 8-yard line. After an offside call on the Knights, moving the ball up to the UCF 4-yard line, the Panthers' Darriet Perry found the end zone on a rush, giving FIU the lead and all of the momentum.
"That's the second time he's done that [lost a punt] this year, so we're going to have to sit down and see what we got to do there," O'Leary said.
UCF never seemed to develop a rhythm offensively.
FIU consistently pressured Godfrey, overwhelming UCF's offensive line and getting into the backfield all night. That pressure led to the Panthers sacking Godfrey six times for a total of 42 lost yards.
"I thought the line was soft at times," O'Leary said. "I think Jeff [also] held the ball a little too long at times."
The Knights amassed only 300 yards on offense, 181 of which came through the air. UCF's rushing attack never really got going, compiling only 119 yards on the night.
UCF's defense gave up a touchdown for the first time this year on the run by Perry. The Knights did, however, hold FIU to only 238 yards of offense and limit the Panthers to four third-down conversions on 13 attempts.
Overall, the defense was not why UCF lost. FIU's second touchdown, the only touchdown the defense has allowed this season, came on an 8-yard scoring drive. Other than that, the Knights allowed a field goal.
Unfortunately, with the lackluster offensive output, UCF's defense was essentially burdened with the task of trying to create turnovers, something the Knights were unable to do.
An FIU Stadium record-breaking 20,205 fans witnessed the first meeting between the two programs. Nearly half of that number was UCF fans. The over-capacity crowd (FIU Stadium's capacity is 18,000) and heavy UCF presence paired with a boisterous FIU student section all made for a rowdy atmosphere despite the sloppily played game.
Along with the turnovers, the Knights' play calling was also questionable at times. With 12 minutes left in the game and down 10 points, UCF elected to attempt a 51-yard field goal on fourth and two. The kick would have been a career-long for kicker Nick Cattoi, who, despite going a perfect three-for-three against Boston College last week, was a 57.9 percent kicker last season.
With fewer than six minutes remaining and still down 10 points, the Knights also elected to punt on fourth and nine instead of going for it. That decision put the ball in FIU's hands with 5:25 remaining; UCF was in need of two scoring drives.
The Knights will now have a short week to prepare for their next test and second road game of the season. UCF will travel to Provo, Utah, this week to take on the BYU Cougars (1-2) Friday night. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.