UCF had two weeks to reflect and two weeks to prepare. Coming off a crushing eight-point loss against UConn, the players had to buckle down and prepare for a team that beat UCF twice in a three-game span just two seasons ago.
Also what UCF's 31-7 victory Friday night against Tulsa did is keep it in the heart of the American Athletic Conference chase. The Knights moved into a three-way tie with Memphis and Cincinnati atop the conference.
"It was pivotal for the rest of this year, in these playoff games you are what you put on tape," senior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. "What we put on tape [against UConn] was pretty bad on both sides of the ball."
However, what the Knights put on tape this week was impressive. Tulsa was limited to just 72 yards through air -- more than 220 yards below its season average -- and intercepted senior quarterback Dane Evans three times.
For UCF to win the American Athletic Conference, it essentially needs to win its final three games, which starts with SMU at home next Saturday.
Despite the high stakes in the remainder of the season, the Knights attempted to start focusing on having fun and worrying about their assignments.
"Let's be honest, the only way you have fun is by winning games and hitting people," said Plummer, who led the Knights with eight tackles.
The tone was set on the first snap of the game by three of the reserve linebackers. Willie Mitchell opened the game with a tackle covering the kick, but Plummer noted Domenic Spencer and Mark Rucker each leveled a guy on the opening kickoff.
Coming off the worst game of his career, a four interception showing two weeks ago, sophomore quarterback Justin Holman flipped the script and was able to complete 16-of-27 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
After a slow start, Holman exploded in the second quarter with a five-yard score to J.J. Worton, and then hit Josh Reese with a 77-yard touchdown.
"These last two weeks have been work, work, work and all about preparation," Holman said, "and staying focused and not getting high or too low, just staying even keeled."
For one of the first times all season, UCF was able to maintain balance offensively. Dontravious Wilson rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown in relief of an injured William Stanback. Prior to leaving with a shoulder injury, Stanback gained 54 yards on 17 carries.
Kicker Rodrigo Quirarte finished the game one for three and missed two short field goals. Both Shawn Moffitt and Sean Galvin were suspended from the game for a violation of team rules; O'Leary said he wasn't sure when they will return.