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UCF's win comes with questions

Published: Sunday, September 6, 2009

Updated: Sunday, September 6, 2009 18:09


Rami Rotlewicz

UCF won because

The Knights won because the return game set up favorable field position for the offense all night long, in addition to chipping in a touchdown at the start of the third quarter.

"The punt return sets up our offense," senior wide receiver Rocky Ross said. "That can be a momentum change for either team. When we get big returns, that [helps] with our offense … the sideline gets going, people like that.

"Special teams is a huge part of the game. We practice really hard on that."

Five different players saw action receiving kicks and punts. Ross returned six punts for 98 yards, including returns of 21 and 39 yards while freshman wide receiver Quincy McDuffie returned two kickoffs for 118 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown scamper that began the third quarter.

Junior cornerback Darin Baldwin also nearly took one the distance, with a 72-yard kick-off return but was forced out of bounds at the Samford 17-yard-line.

"It's just fun. It's another way to get the ball in your hands," Ross said. "If [O'Leary] wants me back there, then I want to go back there and just try to make something happen … no matter who he puts back there, you've got to answer it."

In all, the Knights totaled 289-yards through their return game, just about equaling the total number of yards the offense put up.

Samford lost because

The Bulldogs lost because they were unable to get anything going on the ground.

Running back Chris Evans was only able to pick up 81 yards on 23 carries as the Knights' defense controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the contest.

Evans has turned in back-to-back 1,000 plus yard seasons the last two years and was named to the Walter Payton watch list (an award given to the top FCS player) entering the season.

"He's a good back but when you put an extra guy in the box it opens up the passing game so they hit some routes on us … . I think our corners have to have better transition once the ball is in the air, but I thought their running back Evans was a good player," O'Leary said.

The Knights were burned for two touchdowns because of the respect they granted for the Bulldogs run game — including a 29-yard touchdown into single coverage in the second quarter and a 67-yard pass off a trick play just a minute into the third quarter.

What this all means

All things considered, no matter how you look at it, Samford is a Division 1-AA team and the Knights were only able to beat them by four points.

Moral victories are for the birds.

UCF should have been able to start the season off with a convincing win. Instead, the result left everyone puzzled as to how this could be happening all over again. Saturday night was the team of old, the team fans became accustomed to remembering all too well from last season.

Inconsistent quarterback play in the beginning of the game spurred a change under center in the continuing game of QB carousel.

Hand-off after hand-off, accompanied with the inability to pick up key first downs. Points left on the field due to mistakes, turnovers and missed field goals.

Fortunately for their own sanity, they were able to hang tough. Once Brett Hodges found his rhythm after taking over at quarterback, the team finally started to build some momentum.

Hodges led the team to all three of its offensive scoring drives, including an 11 play, 71-yard drive midway through the third quarter that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Harvey.

"I was displeased with some of the mistakes I saw but pleased that they had the character to come back and do some good things," O'Leary said.

Harvey proved he can take the work load of a 30-carry game. The Knights may have to lean on that factor throughout the season in order to control the clock and take pressure off the quarterback.

Game ball

Running back Brynn Harvey gets the game ball in this one. He punched in two scores to go along with 115 yards on 31 carries.

"It just helps our team to do as much as I can," Harvey said. "It just feels great to have two touchdowns and help the team score points."

Harvey credited the offensive line for his success as they were able to create running lanes for much of the game.

Harvey picked several key first downs to keep drives alive and was able to run the clock out at the end of the game when the Knights needed him most.

Looking ahead

The Knights head to Hattiesburg, Miss. to take on conference foe Southern Miss, who stomped week one opponent Alcorn St. 52-0.

Running back Damion Fletcher turned in 126 yards on 19 carries and a score in limited action while as a team, Southern Miss amassed 631 yards in its blow-out win.

Fletcher has totaled 4,287-yards and 36 touchdowns in his first three years playing for the Golden Eagles.

Needless to say, it doesn't get any easier from here.

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