Big-time loss unable to define UCF’s season
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 9, 2012 14:09
It won’t look like a knock-down, drag-out grudge match when the casual observer sees the 31-16 score in today’s paper or in a blurb across the bottom of a TV screen.
It won’t even look like too close of a game when a 45-second highlight reel is shown, maybe showcasing one of Braxton Miller’s cross-field runs or a Blake Bortles interception.
But Urban Meyer and his team know what kind of football game that was.
They know that it was a game played between two strong, fast, hard-hitting squads that may both be ineligible for postseason play, but will certainly have earned it come year’s end.
“Both the teams we have played so far are great. I think Central Florida was a little more physical. They pushed a little more and tried a little harder. I could tell they wanted to win,” freshman defensive lineman Noah Spence said in a release.
A little more physical may be the understatement of the year. The Knights delivered several crushing blows to fleet-footed quarterback Miller and put starting running back Carlos Hyde out of commission in the first half.
But at the end of the day, the Knights lost.
Let’s be honest, it took an incredibly optimistic fan to expect the team to pull out a win at the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes have lost only seven games at Ohio Stadium in the past 10 years.
The point of the game was that the Knights were right there.
It hurts to see mistakes and poor game planning cause a game of such weight to slip away, but at this point, UCF is at a crucial moment.
Right now, the team is at a crossroads.
A win on Saturday would have been huge. But now, the team’s fate rests on how it reacts to this loss.
The Knights are about to kick off a four-game home stand that will make or break the entire season, both in the Conference USA standings and in the hearts of the fans.
First comes FIU – the team that broke the UCF faithful with an upset win over the Knights at home last season.
A bye week later, the Knights play in their Super Bowl, a game against SEC opponent Missouri at home.
If UCF can win these two games, it may be able to persuade the fans to show up to a few more contests this year. If it loses, we’re looking at a half-filled bounce house for the remainder of the year.
Next up comes the beasts of the East in C-USA. The Knights play East Carolina and Southern Miss back-to-back at home.
Sweep these games and the Knights are sitting pretty atop the C-USA East standings. Lose them, and UCF will wish it never appealed its postseason ban.
Take 2010, for example.
Remember that year? That magical time when the Knights took the C-USA crown, beat the Dawgs in the Liberty Bowl and finished the year in the top 25 nationally.
That year UCF took a heartbreaking loss to NC State at home in the second game of the year and still managed to find its way to the best season in program history.
Heartbreaking loss to a BCS-level school? Second game of the year? Sound familiar?
The season’s not lost, especially with how the team’s C-USA schedule shapes up. The Knights can afford a loss to Missouri in three weeks and still rally for a historic run.
It all depends on the Knights’ resiliency.
Will Blake Bortles beat himself up over his three interceptions?
Will the defense shut down because of its inability to stop the best quarterback it will see all year?
These questions will be answered in UCF’s next four games. How they’re answered will determine the team’s success.
If what UCF showed on the field on Saturday gives any indication, I think this loss will soon be forgotten. But it will take short-term memory loss from the players first for that to happen.