UCF... So Close

UCF's bid for an upset over their cross-highway rival fell just short as the USF Bulls came into Bright House Networks Stadium and defeated the Knights, 31-24 in front of a record attendance of 46,805.

The Knights were left for dead by many, with less than five minutes remaining as they were down 24-10, and had virtually nothing going offensively. Then the game changed when Bruce Miller intercepted a Matt Grothe pass to give UCF some new life. The Knights cashed in with a Mike Greco to Cory Rabazinski touchdown to cut the Bulls lead to 24-17. After a three and out, the Knights received a big punt return by Joe Burnett which set up a Mike Greco to Rocky Ross touchdown from 31 yards. UCF wasn't out of the woods after tying the game, as Matt Grothe led his Bulls offense down to the Knights 20-yard line, before USF kicker Delbert Alvarado missed a potential 37-yard game winner.

In overtime, USF quarterback Matt Grothe hit receiver Taurus Johnson on a 25-yard touchdown pass which proved to be the winning score.

"When you have the opportunity to make plays, you have to make plays," said Knights head coach George O'Leary. "Their quarterback (Grothe), give him his due. He makes plays when he has to, and we didn't make them when we needed to."

UCF then faltered on their final possession as they were short by a matter of inches on a Mike Greco scramble on fourth and six to end the game.

USF linebacker Tyrone McKenzie described the final play—

"As soon as I hit him (Greco), I looked to the sideline and I was like, I got it. But then the ref checked just in case and the spot was there."

UCF head coach George O'Leary's opinion of the final spot was a bit different—

"I think when you start on a line and the ball ends on a line, then it is usually a first down."

Matt Grothe was the story for the Bulls, as he dazzled with his arm, connecting on 23 of 40 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He added 51 more yards on the ground. Grothe connected with four different receivers including Taurus Johnson,who led the Bulls with 143 yards on six catches, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime, and Cedric Hill, who had two receiving scores.

UCF head coach George O'Leary taked about the play of the USF quarterback—

"He made some good plays when he had to make them. I think when he gets into the game, most offenses go as your quarterback goes, and he made the plays when he had to, and that is why I respect him."

Grothe did most of his damage after intermission as the Bulls drove down the field on their opening possession of the half and drove the ball 78 yards for the seemingly go-ahead touchdown as Grothe completed 4 of 4 passes for 79 yards including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Hill.

The Knights shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with miscues, as they committed 12 penalties for 148 yards including a whopping six personal fouls. One of their Knights numerous penalties negated a Johnell Neal touchdown return on an interception.

"Those are unacceptable," said senior cornerback Joe Burnett. "I have never seen so many penalties against one team. We just need to be able to keep our composure and play through what is going on and keep our poise. The penalties really hurt us."

The UCF offense was stymied on the ground, as they ran for just 35 yards on 20 carries as the Bulls defensive line spent nearly as much time in the Knights backfield as starting running back Ronnie Weaver. Quarterback Michael Greco sparked the offense late as he led the team down for the two tying scores in the final minutes of regulation. For the night, he completed 17 of 32 passes for 150 yards, mostly on rollouts and short passes. Despite the comeback, the UCF offense seemed to be outclassed by the quicker, stronger Bulls, and the margin did not reflect the gap between the two teams, as the Knights were outgained 504-226.

One of the bright spots for UCF was cornerback/kick returner Joe Burnett, who accounted for an early Knights touchdown as he dashed 91 yards on a kickoff return in the first quarter to pull the Knights even at seven. Burnett finished with a 35 yard per return average on kickoffs, and he averaged better than 23 yards per return on three punts. With his first period kickoff return, Burnett became the first player in UCF history to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.

The loss leaves the Knights at 1-1 entering a bye week, with a trip to Boston College looming. There are no moral victories, but the Knights have plenty to feel good about as they proved that they will fight for 60+ minutes, and can play with anyone.

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