It's Not Over for UCF

The UCF Knights football team finished their 2007 season as Conference USA champs, and expectations were high for the team entering 2008. Many realized that the losses of running backs Kevin Smith and Phillip Smith would certainly cost the team some offensive production, but very few envisioned a 1-3 start. But is it really that bad?

The Knights have tons of youth on the offensive side of the ball, as they play all freshmen at the running back position, and last Saturday started a true freshman quarterback. The results were six turnovers which led to easy points for the UTEP Miners.

"The thing about it (the running backs), it is almost like they tease you," Knights head coach George O'Leary explained to reporters. "They go for 10 (yards) and the next play they act like freshmen. I think that they missed some things that they should have picked up. I am not going to put up with fumbles, you can book that one. That is just careless, especially when they lead to points. You talk about a game where we had six turnovers. The turnovers led to 31 points. It was 27-7 at halftime, and 17 of the points were off of turnovers. That is where you have to look at your whole team, as far as the chemistry and if the offense and defense are playing together as a whole. Right now defensively, that is where our maturity is. I don't really care where the ball is, they are on scholarship to play defense. No matter where they go on they field, we have to execute."

The Knights were so disgusted by their showing last Saturday against UTEP, the team decided to call a players only meeting on Monday, led by senior leader Johnell Neal.

"I think it gets to a point where they have to determine what kind of football team they want to be," Coach O'Leary said. "Coaches can talk all the time and it sounds like rhetoric, but it is a player's game. The thing that bothered more than anything was that they (UTEP) didn't do anything different than we had practiced."

At 1-3, the Knights look like anything but champs, but the season is far from over. The only team in the Conference USA east division that doesn't have a loss is Marshall, and it's less than likely that they'll be able to run away with the division. The only record that's important to UCF right now is their 0-1 conference record, which they have a golden opportunity to even this week as SMU visits Orlando.

"We have to defend our house," said senior tackle Patrick Brown. "This is our house and we can't let anybody come in here and beat us. We know that we need to protect this place and win."

UCF still controls their own destiny inside of Conference USA, and they are looking to make an appearance in their third C-USA championship game. Although they aren't playing at a championship level, all of the bad feelings from the first month of the season can be turned around quickly.

"The seniors have stepped up right now and tried to talk to the younger guys and we told them that this is what we were going through last year and we need to stick together," senior tackle Patrick Brown said.

Turning everything around will have to begin this Saturday as the Knights have a very winnable game against an SMU team that currently has a 1-4 record. Patrick Brown knows the significance of Saturday's game—

"It's got to be a must win for the standings in conference, and these games determine what we're going to do at the end of the season, and I know everybody doesn't want to go home for Christmas and Christmas break. So we definitely want to win and go to the conference championship and play more football."

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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