UCF lost its home opener to FIU, 15-14, on Sept. 3. Video by Jarrod Heil, Central Florida Future
A down-to-the-wire season opener for UCF fell flat after a blocked 47-yard field goal attempt Thursday night. UCF (0-1) closed the first half with a 14-3 lead over FIU (1-0) but failed to put points on the board in the final half, ultimately falling 15-14.
Despite a lack of second-half offensive production, the Knights showed bright spots.
Wide receivers Jordan Akins and Tre’Quan Smith each finished with 104 yards on nine receptions. Akins, who totaled 135 yards and no touchdowns on 12 receptions last season, caught both touchdown passes – the first two of his UCF career.
Justin Holman finished the night 23-for-34 with 249 yards and two touchdowns.
“The one bright spot was probably Holman. I thought he played well, throwing the ball,” head coach George O’Leary said. “I thought the receivers hung on to the ball. I think every other phase that I look at needs to improve.”
Chequan Burkett forced a fumble in the first quarter that led to Akins’s first touchdown of his career.
With 3:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Knights drove down to the Panthers’ 25-yard line. Redshirt freshman kicker Matthew Wright stepped back for the potential go-ahead field goal attempt but was halted by a UCF false start, pushing the attempt to 47 yards. Wright’s kick was blocked by Imarjaye Albury, effectively ending the game.
“You don’t block, tackle, or the things you’re supposed to do fundamentally to win games, then that’s usually the end result,” O’Leary said. “I think the biggest adjustment was getting guys to basically get to the ball in time and finish blocks.
“I think we’ve got to work hard on some fundamentals that I didn’t see tonight.”
Shaquill Griffin finished the game with nine tackles, which tied for the Knights’ most with Mark Rucker.
“I feel like the issue with the defense was that we started kind of slow, and I feel like those are starts we can’t have,” Griffin said.
With just 46 yards on 30 carries, UCF lacked run production. Dontravious Wilson, who did not have a single rush in the second half, finished with 34 yards on 12 carries and William Stanback had six yards on 10 carries.
“I didn’t think we made any movement up front, at all,” O’Leary said. “I think there weren’t any cut back lanes to hit and I do think we got some plays out of it but not nearly enough.”
The Knights will travel to Stanford Saturday, Sept. 12 for their first away game of the season, with kickoff set for 10:30 p.m. Stanford ranked third in total defense last season.
Victor Ng is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.