Knights top Panthers in home opener
UCF produced 125 more yards than the FIU Panthers in a 33-20 victory
Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2012 12:09
The Knights (2-1) let fans leave happy after their 2012 home opener, but not without a scare.
After jumping out to a 23-0 lead at halftime, UCF held on despite a furious Panther comeback to maintain a 33-20 win. FIU (1-2) outscored UCF 20-10 in the second half.
"It was a great win, we came out and had a chip on our shoulder; those guys didn't respect us," senior defensive end Troy Davis said. Davis was referring to FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg's comments earlier this week at a school pep rally, where Rosenberg called UCF “that little university."
The UCF defense dominated early, allowing merely 26 yards on 23 plays in the first half. On the opening defensive possession, redshirt senior linebacker Ray Shipman recorded a sack just one play after coming through the middle on a blitz for a hurry.
"The defense definitely helped us out, giving us good field position in the first half," redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles said.
The Knights allowed four first-half passing yards and only one completion. Davis had two sacks, forcing a fumble on both sacks. FIU recovered both fumbles.
In the second half's opening drive, quarterback Jake Medlock and the FIU offense found a groove. Medlock completed all four of his passes on the drive, culminating in a five-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Kedrick Rhodes.
"The routes they completed were linebacker coverage routes, not secondary coverage routes," head coach George O'Leary said.
Medlock finished the game 11 of 20 for 146 yards and one touchdown. Darian Mallary led FIU in rushing with 71 yards and two touchdowns. Mallary also contributed 41 yards receiving on two receptions.
The Knights got on the board early in the first quarter on a four-yard pass to redshirt senior fullback Billy Giovanetti from Bortles. Bortles completed 20 of his 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Bortles also threw an interception in the game.
"I think he [Bortles] had his ups and downs out there," O'Leary said. "He has to be a lot sharper."
Redshirt sophomore J.J. Worton got behind the FIU defense earlier in the scoring drive for a 36-yard gain on a corner route. Worton finished the game with five catches, 94 yards and a touchdown.
After going three-and-out in the first quarter, the Panthers long snapper snapped the ball over the head of punter Josh Brisk's head. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone resulting in a safety and providing the Knights with two points that would affect FIU’s strategy late in the game.
In his second consecutive start, redshirt sophomore tailback Storm Johnson amassed 78 yards on 18 carries.
"He [Johnson] has a great knack for finding a crease," O'Leary said.
On his last carry, Johnson started to the left and spun off a defender before reversing field and taking off for 17 yards up the right sideline.
Senior running back Brynn Harvey had a four-yard touchdown run, capping off an impressive scoring drive late in the first half. Harvey also had 73 yards on 16 carries.
In the middle of the third quarter Bortles connected on a 47-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Rannell Hall. Hall ran past the Panthers defender, before fully extending and making an acrobatic catch.
Hall finished the game with two catches, 63 yards and a touchdown. Hall's score came on a screen pass up the right sideline, where he spun off of a potential tackler and scored from 16 yards out.
Hall's diving catch set up a Worton touchdown from Jeff Godfrey out of the "Wild-Knight" package.
"It's good to have that flexibility, it was great to see Jeff [Godfrey] throw the pass, it was a great pass," O'Leary said.
The Knights showed the Wild-Knight many times throughout the game, with Godfrey and redshirt senior receiver Rob Calabrese attempting passes. Calabrese overthrew an open Dontravius Floyd on his pass attempt.