Knights demolish Memphis 41-0, keep title hopes
The Knights went into Saturday's homecoming game looking to demonstrate that they were still capable of being a dominant football team.
UCF (4-4, 2-2) controlled the contest from start to finish, throttling the Memphis Tigers (2-7, 1-4), 41-0, at Bright House Networks Stadium.
"Coach [George O'Leary] said it was a statement game, and I think we made a statement that we're back," defensive end Troy Davis said.
The Knights scored on their first drive of the day, a keeper by quarterback Jeff Godfrey, and never looked back.
A suffocating defensive effort, a staple of UCF's success at home, made sure the Knights had no reason to look back. Memphis never really found any traction on offense, and the closest the Tigers came to scoring was a missed field-goal attempt.
Nothing was a given for UCF going into the game, but the Knights responded and remain alive and well in the complicated Conference USA Eastern Division.
O'Leary told reporters all week that this was still "Jeff's team," but also said he wouldn't hesitate to pull Godfrey in favor of back-up quarterback Blake Bortles.
The sophomore quarterback responded on Saturday, looking a lot more like the Godfrey of last season and earlier this season when he rushed for 97 yards, passed for 200, threw for a touchdown and ran for another.
"I was seeing the field better all week in practice, breaking them down on film," Godfrey said. "They drop back and don't want to give you the big pass, so when they were dropping [back into coverage] and covering my running backs I realized nobody was on me and just did a great job running the ball."
Godfrey set the tone early with a touchdown run on the first drive of the game. He also hooked up with freshman receiver Josh Reese, who made an acrobatic catch for a gain of 48 yards.
With a little help from Reese, Godfrey was able connect on a deep ball, something that had evaded him in weeks prior.
"Josh Reese, he's a tremendous player," Godfrey said. "That's something he does; make great catches."
On the day, the UCF offense put together 28 first downs, 505 yards of total offense and converted on both fourth-down attempts.
The Knights' defense held the Tigers to zero points on Saturday.
With that, opposing teams have now scored a total of nine points in four games at the Bright House this season. All nine of those points came off of field goals, meaning UCF hasn't allowed a touchdown at home this season.
"It's big when you're at home and you can defend your place like that," defensive back Josh Robinson said. "That's something we take pride in and we work towards."
The Knights limited the Tigers to only six first downs and 134 yards of total offense. UCF was able to get off the field consistently on Saturday, holding Memphis to two-of-13 on third-down conversions.
The Knights got some badly needed pressure on Tigers quarterback Taylor Reed. UCF picked up three sacks on Saturday, and a defensive line that had been struggling with its pass rush found some footing at an opportune time.
"I thought we got a little more heat on the quarterback than we had in the past games," O'Leary said. "But we need to keep growing with that."
Jonathan Davis, Troy Gray and Troy Davis all recorded sacks for UCF. It was the first sack of the season for Troy Davis and the first sack of his collegiate career for Gray.
O'Leary has been increasingly pleased with his special teams efforts as of late after the unit struggled mightily early on in the season. Saturday's game was no different.
"I thought we covered well and got a couple of returns, so we're getting better in those areas," O'Leary said.
UCF's kicking wasn't flawless, though.
Senior Nick Cattoi missed the Knights' first field-goal attempt of the day from 36 yards. Freshman Shawn Moffitt replaced Cattoi for the next two attempts and nailed both from 35 and 39 yards out, respectively.
UCF utilized the opportunity on Saturday to give more than a few players unexpected playing time. One was redshirt freshman kicker Sean Galvin, who relieved Cattoi on kickoffs and boomed a touchback.
"[We] got a chance to play a lot of kids tonight, which is important because of the short week with Tulsa coming here Thursday night," O'Leary said.
The Knights needed a win. That much was painfully obvious.
Almost as obvious was UCF's need for a big win, a statement win like Davis mentioned. The Knights got that with a dominating effort in all three phases of the game, especially on defense.
"We feed off each other in all three phases; offense, defense and special teams," running back Brynn Harvey said. "When all three phases play good, I don't see anybody beating us. … That's what happened tonight; we all played good [and] got a great win."
It was the kind of dominating effort that can be extra valuable with a date with Tulsa in a few days.
"A dominant win was definitely needed today, just for the team morale, just to know in ourselves again that we can do it," running back Ronnie Weaver said. "Just a total mindset thing, that we can go out and put points on the board."
This and that
- UCF played host to a new fan on Saturday; this one a bit taller than most. The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard took in some action down on the field, taking pictures and receiving a large ovation during a break in play.
- UCF alum Kevin Smith was also in attendance at the homecoming game.
- The Knights took the field in their gold jerseys on Saturday for the first time since 2009.
- Wide receiver Quincy McDuffie had a big day for the Knights. McDuffie scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown, the first Knight to do so since Latavius Murray did so in the C-USA Championship Game last season.
- Athletic director Keith Tribble said that UCF and Ohio State have reached an oral agreement to play a game next season at Ohio State.
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