Between Matt Grothe accumulating 400 yards of total offense, an anemic running game for UCF, as well as several absent minded penalties, the Knights had enough problems against the cross-state rival USF Bulls. Despite some breakdowns, UCF fought valiantly and overcame a 14-point deficit with just three minutes remaining to put the game into overtime. The Knights eventually fell to USF 31-24.
UCF's coaches and players will make the point clear; they did not lose the game because of officiating.
"I'm not talking about officiating, obviously I wasn't real happy but that wasn't the difference in the game," said Coach George O'Leary. "When you have an opportunity to make plays, you have to make plays. Their quarterback, give him his dues, he makes plays when he has to make them and we didn't make them when we needed to make them."
In fact, UCF made numerous plays in which they played with too much passion and let their emotion get out of hand. The Knights were flagged with six personal foul penalties, most notably two early hits that Reggie Weams made when covering a punt that cost the team 30 yards.
"You're playing in a big game like that, there's going to be a lot of talk, but have to hold your composure and play through that type of stuff," said Joe Burnett after Saturday's game.
The Knight's were actually penalized 12 times for 148 yards. USF also had a fair share of penalties, but there were several plays in which UCF was flagged for personal fouls after being baited by Bulls players.
Senior receiver Rocky Ross was one of several UCF players that thought officiating was a bit lopsided when it came to judgment calls.
"I didn't even think it should go to overtime with those penalties, I don't even want to know the stats on the penalties, but we had them where we wanted them and we lost by an inch in a game of inches, but we'll learn from it."
There were several notable plays in which penalties, or lack thereof, were certainly debatable. On one play, Johnell Neal picked off an errant pass by Grothe and took it all the way back for a touchdown, only to have the play brought back by a questionable block in the back call. There were also occasions when USF could have received personal foul calls, or both sides could have, but the Knights received a brunt of those type of penalties, such as when Emery Allen hit an opposing player in the face after he was clearly shoved after the play in the full eye of the official; only Allen was penalized.
O'Leary referenced another play in the post-game press conference in which a USF player hit Reggie Weaver when he was out of bounds. A penalty was called, but then was retracted.
"I thought there were a lot of calls out there that I'm anxious to see on film to see exactly what did happen. In all my years coaching I've never been involved with so many personal fouls, or a personal foul that was turned back, that was taken away. Normally that doesn't happen; I've never seen that in all my coaching."
Perhaps the most controversial call of the night was during Michael Greco's desperation scramble for a first down in overtime. Greco appeared to fall just short, but the Big East officiating crew neglected to view an instant replay.
"I thought I had it. I thought I had the first down, but I guess I didn't, sometimes the ball just rolls that way," said Greco.
After the game, UCF fans swarmed around a police-led van that carried the referees off the field and shouted obscenities toward the officials.
There is early indication that O'Leary might make a formal complaint to the Big East in regards to the officiating crew. While O'Leary knows that his team needed to make more plays in order to win the game, he also made it clear that he wasn't happy with Saturday's controversial officiating.
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