Looking forward: Previewing the 2012 season
Week Eight — at Marshall
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 15:07
The UCF Knights hit the road in Week Eight at Marshall in what likely will be a crucial Conference USA matchup. At 7-6 last season, the Thundering Herd are on the rise.
What to look for
Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato gained important game experience last season while splitting time with sophomore A.J. Graham, giving Marshall depth at the position. Cato is a playmaker with speed and a throwing arm to turn around broken plays, while Graham is no longer at Marshall.
Marshall returns most of its key offensive skill position players, including its two leading rushers: Tron Martinez and Travon Van, who combined for just more than 1,000 yards. Look for the duo to continue to split carries and make a small jump in their production in 2012.
Receiver Aaron Dobson is the star of the offense, scoring 10 touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-3 rising senior is a match-up nightmare and will be a challenge for A.J. Bouye and the Knights’ secondary. In last year’s matchup, Dobson was held in check at three catches for 33 yards, but it would be a stretch to presume UCF will have a similar level of success again in 2012 against the Herd’s feature receiver.
Knights fans might remember last year’s matchup. In the stormiest weekend of the fall semester, the teams took the field in a steady pouring rain that, at times, affected field visibility. That led to a sloppy 16-6 win for the Knights. In the sloppy conditions, Brynn Harvey shined for the Knights, with 30 carries for 180 yards. UCF ran for 240 yards in the game and controlled the contest on the ground to cruise to victory.
Torrential weather notwithstanding, still look for UCF to take a similar approach this season, while splitting the carries among its stable of backs. After last year’s display, until Marshall proves capable of stopping the run don’t be surprised to see Storm Johnson, Latavius Murray and Harvey to get a steady dose of carries.
While plenty of the talk about UCF’s offense has and will continue to focus on quarterback Blake Bortles, this could very well be a game that signifies the value of the backfield.
Good defense and a strong running game is the formula to win this season. The Knights cannot afford to let winnable games slip away if they are going to achieve success in 2012, and this final foreseeable matchup with the Herd is one of those winnable games.