Knights deserve credit despite foe’s record
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 14, 2012 15:10
On paper, UCF barely pulled out a double-overtime win against a winless team.
Well, in reality, UCF barely pulled out a double-overtime against a winless team.
But Southern Miss may be the best 0-5 team head coach George O’Leary and the Knights have ever faced. And Saturday night’s win is so much more than a major disaster averted.
It could be a signature win.
UCF came into the game Saturday night with a couple of monkeys on its back. The team had never won an overtime game in school history and had lost its last four games against Southern Miss.
While the Southern Miss statistic isn’t incredibly surprising — it has consistently been one of the best teams in Conference USA for years – the Knights’ failure to win an overtime game has always been perplexing.
In order for a team to make it to overtime in the first place, it has to play relatively well against its opponent. So the team would have to eventually pull out a win, right?
Kemal Ishmael intercepted Southern Miss quarterback Anthony Alford in the second overtime period and the game was over, so was the streak.
The Knights rushed onto the field in celebration because they knew they did more than pull out a crucial conference win, many of the players beat the Golden Eagles for the first time.
Call it killing two monkeys with one pick.
But while one pick may have sealed the game, Southern Miss took all 60 minutes of regulation to prove to UCF that it wouldn’t back down.
That’s what makes the Knights’ win even more special – Southern Miss is one of the better teams they will face all season.
Laugh all you want, but the Golden Eagles, even at 0-6, are lethal.
They are just waiting to hit their stride. And up until that double-overtime interception by Ishmael, it looked like they just might do it against the Knights.
Before playing UCF this season, Southern Miss had lost five games, but each to a respectable opponent.
The team took three gimme losses to ranked teams – Nebraska, Louisville and Boise State – lost a tough conference game to a tough opponent – East Carolina – and fell on the road to one of the best teams outside of a BCS conference – Western Kentucky.
Sure, the Golden Eagles looked pretty awful in some of those losses, but that happens when a team is in the midst of a quarterback controversy between two freshmen.
Head coach Ellis Johnson decided to stick with one quarterback against the Knights, the most talented one.
That decision nearly paid off with a win for the first-year head coach.
Alford did exactly what the talented, but winless, team needed – he played comfortably.
The true freshman wove in and out of the pocket, threw bullets to his sticky-handed receivers and ran for bundles of yards.
It was only a matter of time before talent met execution and Southern Miss shocked somebody.
O’Leary is just glad it wasn’t the Knights Saturday night.
“I think he’s going to be a terrific player,” O’Leary said of Alford after the game. “He can make you look foolish because he’s a better athlete than we have rushing at him.”
While Alford succeeded in making the Knights look foolish on more than one occasion, it was the young signal caller’s two interceptions that eventually led to the Golden Eagles’ demise.
So just like that, Southern Miss lost another game.
Now the team’s record reads 0-6, terrible enough to make its next opponent sleep a little easier tonight, but that’s exactly what UCF didn’t do last week.
“They are going to win a bunch of games from this point on, you watch,” O’Leary said, prophetically.
I think he’s right.
And because of that attitude the Knights are carrying two fewer monkeys on their backs and instead have one more win.