The only thing sloppier than the field at Bright House Networks Stadium Saturday evening was the UCF offense in the first half. Aside from the offensive line doing a solid job in the run game, many of the preseason concerns about the passing game were valid, as Michael Greco was somewhat erratic yet elusive in the first half, and the collective group of wide receivers' hands were inconsistent early on.
The ground game was the calling card for the UCF offense as they ran, ran, and ran some more against a smaller S.C. State team en route to better than 200 yards rushing on 59 attempts.
In his first game as a starter, Greco completed 9 of 16 passes for 90 yards, with no touchdowns and more importantly no interceptions. Greco's passing accuracy increased greatly in the second half as he felt more comfortable with the Knights offense. Greco also did some damage with his legs, rushing for 72 yards on the night.
"Mike Greco played the whole game, he made some good plays, some plays you'd like to have back," said O'Leary after UCF's victory. "I do think you can see why he's out there. He basically does things with the ball that causes defenses problems."
The running game didn't skip a beat without star Kevin Smith, as a combination of true freshman backs and redshirt freshman Ronnie Weaver pounded the smaller South Carolina State Bulldogs defense. The size and strength of the UCF line began to take its toll in the second period, and although the Knights led just 7-0 at the half, they rushed the ball for 117 yards on 31 attempts. That ground attack keyed a better than 2:1 time of possession advantage, as Weaver led the Knights in rushing with 84 yards on 23 carries, and freshman Latavius Murray found the end zone twice. UCF ended up accumulating 228 rushing yards against S.C State.
"We had some consistency. I wasn't pleased the way the running backs ran, I thought there were too many times their shoulders were facing the wrong way, they need to learn to cut on the moved," said O'Leary.
The Knights offense continued to move the ball in the third quarter, yet it didn't yield any points. UCF's second drive stalled at the S.C. State three-yard line when quarterback Michael Greco fumbled on a third down scramble. Through three quarters UCF dominated the game in every statistical category but the scoreboard, as they only led the MEAC Conference power 7-0.
An early fourth period field goal by Daren Daly from 27 yards gave the Knights a 10-0 advantage and as stingy as their defense played on this night, it would be all they would need. Safety Jason Venson had three tackles and an interception, and redshirt junior Jordan Richards led the team with eight stops.
"I think defensively we played very, I thought they tackled well for a first game. They made plays when they had opportunities to make plays and was overall improved with the defense."
Overall O'Leary was impressed by his team's performance and looks to make some minor adjustments as UCF looks to take on rival USF next week.
- Game note: Joe Burnett became the all-time leader in punt return yardage in Conference USA as he now has over 1,000 career punt return yards.
UCF Game Recap vs SC State
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