The UCF football team’s woes continued Thursday night, but this time they were on a national pedestal during a 44-7 loss that was televised on ESPN.
For just a blip on the game’s radar, it looked as if last week’s bye helped shake off the blues the Knights (0-11, 0-7 American Athletic Conference) had showed in their previous 10 games.
“We’ve been talking all week about giving effort for 60 minutes, and I don’t think we did that in every aspect,” redshirt senior H-back Cedric Thompson said. “We’ve been harping on that, so I feel like there’s no excuse why it didn’t occur. That’s definitely a reason why the game turned out the way it did.”
After quarterback Justin Holman fumbled on the first play of UCF’s opening drive, he led his team 71 yards to the end zone on an eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. East Carolina (5-6, 3-4 AAC) would score on its ensuing drive to tie it.
Then the game took a Pirate turn as Tristan Payton lost a fumble on a kickoff return. It was the Knights’ 16th fumble this season. That would set up a four-play, 30-yard touchdown drive for ECU. The Pirates would eventually score 44 unanswered points and keep UCF off the board for the remainder of the game.
Holman finished 9-for-17 with 110 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But that interception came at a vital point as it was picked off at the East Carolina 7-yard line. He also had a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that was negated by a holding penalty.
“Once we had the touchdown called back on the penalty, it looked like all the momentum and energy that we had kind of left the sidelines,” said interim head coach Danny Barrett.
Holman left the game in the second quarter due to an injury.
“He had been hobbling a little bit from the previous week anyway, so it was a high ankle sprain. As opposed to risking him to further injury, put the other two guys out there, [and] see if we can do something different,” Barrett said.
Tre’Quan Smith caught the Knights’ only touchdown pass, an 11-yard reception. He finished with 50 yards on 4 catches. He became UCF’s all-time freshman leader in receptions (45) and receiving yards (622) in a single season.
The breaks never came for the Knights — even when Pirates’ punter Gregory Worth muffed a snap but still got off a 50-yard punt.
“It’s been the whole story of the season: once we get cut, you can’t stop the bleeding. And that’s what it was again today,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Thomas Niles. “You’ve got to step up to the plate when you’re called.”
East Carolina quarterback Blake Kemp dominated UCF’s defense, completing 34 of 50 passes for 448 yards and 4 touchdowns. He connected with Isaiah Jones on 13 of those completions for 164 yards. The Pirates had 605 yards of total offense compared to the Knights’ 131.
The Knights opened the third quarter by recovering their first onside kick since Oct. 29, 2011, which was by Sean Galvin in a 41-0 win.
“Only thing that we did good tonight was execute the onside kick coming out [in] the second half. Other than that, not a good performance at all,” Barrett said. “You’re a young team; you don’t have anything positive going, so it’s hard to stay motivated.
“Those guys were looking more hungry than we were to finish the game today.”
The Knights will play their last game of the season at home Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. against rival USF.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.