Knights weather storm against Marshall, 16-6
Published: Friday, October 7, 2011
Updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 15:10
It rained. It poured.
But the Knights (3-2, 1-0) overcame the weather and their opponent, beating the Marshall Thundering Herd (2-4, 1-1) Saturday night, 16-6, at Bright House Networks Stadium.
Ghosts of weeks past resurfaced with the Knights, finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot via penalties and turnovers, but this time UCF found a way to hold it together and come out victorious.
That was thanks largely in part to another suffocating defensive attack and a breakout game from running back Brynn Harvey, who single-handedly out-produced the Marshall offensive attack.
With the win, the Knights successfully have begun defending their Conference USA Title. They also helped head coach George O'Leary reach a milestone. Saturday's win was the 100th win of his career as a head coach.
UCF also extended its winning streak over Marshall to seven games.
Rain, rain, go away
With regards to weather, Saturday night was something else.
"Obviously, I've been in football a long time, [but] I've never been involved with a whole game that rained like that," O'Leary said.
Roughly eight inches of rain in 68-degree weather made for the wettest October day in Central Florida since the 1950s, and the attendance at the Bright House was reflective of that fact. Only 24,750 of UCF's most faithful, predominately clad in ponchos, filled the 45,000-seat stadium.
Down on the field, every step, every bounce of the ball and every tackle resulted in a splash in a game that, at times, resembled a swim meet.
Despite the slippery nature of the ball in such conditions, both teams didn't shy away from passing the football. The teams combined for 51 pass attempts and surprisingly only one interception, tossed by the Knights. The three fumbles both teams combined for on the night wasn't a particularly glaring statistic either, all things considered.
While the conditions made things difficult and scared off fans, they weren't universally panned by the players.
"We've never really experienced [a game] like that, but it was fun," center Jordan Rae said.
For a quarter, the Knights looked really good on offense.
UCF totaled 204 yards of offense in the first quarter. Harvey accounted for 106 of those.
On the first drive of the game, the Knights rid themselves of one demon, connecting for their first touchdown pass of the season when quarterback Jeff Godfrey found receiver A.J. Guyton from five yards out.
Later, Latavius Murray found the end zone from four yards out, putting the Knights up 14-0 early on.
Marshall's defense adapted though, bringing more pressure as the game went on, and it created problems for the Knights offensively.
"I thought offensively we had our moments," O'Leary said. "But we had too many moments where we had opportunities that we squandered on the field."
After racking up 204 yards in the first, the Knights had added only 67 more yards in the second and third quarters, going into the final quarter with 271.
Finally, with Marshall lingering and the game still in question, the UCF offense found its footing again late. The Knights put together two late, time-consuming drives that ran the clock and put the game away.
UCF finished the contest with 240 rushing yards and 147 passing yards for a total of 387 on the evening.
Harvey ran for 180 of those yards on 30 carries, out gaining the entire Marshall team (130 total yards).
The redshirt junior did contribute to Marshall's only points of the evening, though, when he fumbled and the Herd's Rashad Jackson picked up the ball and took it into the end zone.
Godfrey connected on 13 of his 22 attempts on the night and was efficient. The sophomore quarterback did, however, throw a costly interception in the red zone. The Knights also lost two fumbles on the night, one of which was also in the red zone.
UCF's defense was nearly flawless most of the night, and it frustrated Marshall's offensive attack.
"Look at their stats," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said afterward. "They are No. 1 in America in rushing defense, they are one of the top-five defenses in the country and by far the top in the conference."
The Knights were especially dominant early on. At halftime, the Herd had only one first down and 47 yards of total offense. They finished the game having allowed only six first downs and 130 yards.
Knights A.J. Bouye and Josh Linam led the defensive effort with six tackles a piece, and Linam also picked up UCF's lone sack of Rakeem Cato.
The Knights didn't give up a scoring drive as Marshall's lone touchdown came on the Harvey fumble.
UCF also forced its first safety of the season when, after pinning Marshall right in front of its own goal line, the Knights forced Cato to scramble in the end zone and a hold was called, resulting in a safety. It was the first forced safety for UCF since 2008 at Tulsa.
The Knights' biggest improvement with regards to punt returns was that, in most cases, they elected not to attempt a return. The slippery conditions led to some short kicks and irregular bounces, and UCF returners wisely stayed away from the ball and didn't attempt to return most of the kicks.
Freshman Shawn Moffitt kicked the extra points for the Knights instead of senior place kicker Nick Cattoi. Moffitt also came on to try UCF's sole field goal attempt, but instead came the Knights' only special teams blunder of the evening as the snap and hold were botched and the kick was never attempted.