Missed opportunities doom Knights again
Published: Sunday, October 18, 2009
Updated: Sunday, October 18, 2009 15:10
Once again, the UCF football team missed a golden opportunity on Saturday.
Down 17-7 with 7:08 remaining in the third quarter, the Knights (3-3) found themselves on the 2-yard line with a chance to pull to within a field goal against the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes (5-1).
A failed option play, an incomplete pass and a Brett Hodges interception later, the Knights left with nothing on the scoreboard as Miami was able to march down the field and put the game away, leading to a 27-7 victory over UCF in front of a record crowd of 48,453 at Bright House Networks Stadium.
"We had opportunities on offense to get some things done and we didn't get it done," said George O'Leary, whose Knights dropped to 0-21 all-time against ranked opponents. "The ball is on the 2-yard line and, its 17-7 and [if you score] you put yourself back in the game. We came away with no points and in fact, we gave it up on a turnover. I'm very disturbed with that."
After a 9 play, 80-yard drive by the Knights in the third quarter that gave them their first score of the game, UCF found itself with a chance to swing the momentum in the game after a botched snap on a punt that ended in Miami punter Matt Bosher kicking the ball out of the back of the end zone. Three plays later, the Hurricanes were able to get the ball back and scored 10 unanswered points the rest of the way to get the victory.
O'Leary believes the Knights should have managed their play calling better on that key possession.
"I think those three plays could have been diagnosed a little better, but I think that was the series that could have turned the momentum a little bit," he said." "That [option play] is the one call I would like to have back."
Early in the game, UCF looked to make a statement to the Hurricanes. After forcing Miami to punt on its first possession, the Knights looked like they were going to come out strong in the game on offense. Hodges completed a couple of long passes down the field, including a 35-yard strike to Kamar Aiken, which set UCF up in field goal range.
Three plays later, the Knights failed to put any points on the board as Nick Cattoi's 32-yard attempt went wide left, ending what was a 12 play, 65-yard drive.
"I would say it's pretty frustrating," Hodges said of the missed opportunities. "I thought we had a lot of opportunities tonight and we didn't capitalize."
Jacory Harris and the Hurricane offense didn't take long to make UCF pay for it's missed chances. The sophomore quarterback completed four passes of 12 yards or more, including a 23-yard strike to Leonard Hankerson in the back of the end zone to put Miami up 7-0.
Harris, who finished the game 20-for-26 with 293 yards passing and a touchdown, was impressive in the victory, despite being sacked six times by the Knights' defense.
"I thought they did a good job," O'Leary said of the defense on Harris. "I thought we ran at him, but I thought when we had the opportunities to make plays they really got that done and were able to keep us in the game."
After back-to-back punts for UCF, Miami found themselves with the ball again early in the second quarter. Harris completed two long passes down field to Travis Benjamin and found four different receivers on the drive. The drive set up a 31-yard field goal by Bosher, which put Miami up 10-0 before the half.
One of the struggles for the Knights was their inability to get the run game going. In last year's meeting in Miami, the Knights were only able to register four yards on the ground against the Hurricanes.
Saturday, they didn't do much better totaling just 58 yards. Brynn Harvey ran the ball 12 times for 25 yards.
The Knights came out of the half sluggish as a bad punt and good field position for Miami led to another score for the Hurricanes. Javarris James put Miami up 17-0 with 5-yard touchdown run.
O'Leary noticed the lack of big plays from the Knights playmakers.
"[Miami's] talent made plays tonight, and I don't think enough of our kids did when we had an opportunity to make plays," he said. "I think what is happening is we are leaving our defense out there too long and there are too many three-and-outs. I thought we wore down a little bit defensively in the last part of the game."
Despite trailing 17-0, the Knights still found a way to answer on the next possession, but couldn't capitalize from the Miami 2-yard line. It's those kinds of possession that have led to UCF coming up short and wondering what could have been.
"What if's are nice, but we are sitting here right now with a loss," Hodges said. "Like I said, we had a lot of missed opportunities, and you can think of that as a what if, but we didn't get it done today offensively and you can't do that against good teams in Miami."