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UCF Knights and Ball State Cardinals set to face off Friday

Football beat writer

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 17:12

Blake Bortles

Nick Russett / Central Florida Future

Blake Bortles drops back in a game against East Carolina.

Coming off an up-and-down 9-4 regular season, UCF is scheduled to travel across the state to play Ball State in the Beef 'O' Bradys Bowl at Tropicana Field on Friday night.

Ball State finished its season on a six-game winning streak. The Cardinals have one win against a ranked team, and that came against the No. 25 ranked team at the time, Toledo.

If there is such a thing as a quality loss, then Ball State has three of them. The Cardinals fell to No. 12 Clemson, MAC champion Northern Illinois and MAC runner-up Kent State.

Ball State boasts a strong passing game headlined by sophomore wide receiver Willie Snead. Snead has 82 catches for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Expect the Knights to roll coverage to his side, as he will be the focal point of the offense.

Junior Jamill Smith may also get a lot of looks early on. Smith causes problems for defenses due to his quickness. Smith is as small as receivers come, at 5-foot-8, 138 pounds, he was able to score six touchdowns on 69 catches.

The UCF pass rush has its hands full in trying to get after junior quarterback Keith Wenning. Wenning has been sacked only seven times in 426 attempts. Look for the Knights to try to get senior defensive end Troy Davis going early, as he has shown a tendency to disappear if he doesn't have early success, according to head coach George O'Leary.

Wenning has 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season, and will have the ball in his hands plenty.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles is a completely different player than he was in the beginning of the season. Bortles has developed patience and an ability to extend plays, which has led to some of the Knights longest plays of the season. Bortles tossed 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on the season.

Bortles also has shown an aggressiveness in the running game at times this season. Bortles has 205 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground.

The majority of the workload on the ground will come from redshirt senior Latavius Murray. After battling a series of injuries early in the season, Murray was still able to run for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns.

UCF will likely look to Murray early in the game to set up the play-action passing game and to soften up the Cardinals defense.

Bortles has found an increased trust in freshman Breshad Perriman, and the big receiver has found an bigger role in the offense in the past few games. The Knights passing game is difficult to prepare for due to its balance. UCF has six players with at least 21 receptions and eight players with multiple touchdown receptions.

The game kicks off at 7:30 PM, and will be televised on ESPN.


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