Upset-Minded, UCF Over Marshall 30-14

The UCF Knights traveled to Huntington, West Virginia battered and bruised, losers of four straight games and pulled off an upset as they defeated the Marshall Thundering Herd, 30-14 in front of 24,059 fans on homecoming.

"It felt great to go up here and ruin their homecoming," said Knights senior cornerback Joe Burnett.

UCF looked like the team that was better equipped for the cold, rainy conditions as they out-muscled the home team by continually pounding the football on the ground on offense, and stopping the run on defense. Special teams was extra special for UCF, as they accounted for two touchdowns on fumble recoveries, and executed on a pair of fourth-down conversions.

The Knights struck first following a three and out by their defense which forced Marshall to punt from their own 17 yard line. A high snap and a wet ball proved to be too much for Thundering Herd punter Kase Whitehead and after a pileup in the end zone, UCF wide receiver Jamar Newsome came away with the football and his second touchdown in three games.

UCF added on to their lead on their second possession, as lady luck finally shined on the team in white and gold as punter Blake Clingan dropped the snap, then proceeded to pick up the football and run 16 yards down the sideline for a first down before being blasted. The Knights offense picked up a few more first downs on the ground before the drive stalled at the Marshall 10-yard line. Kicker Nick Cattoi converted the 27-yard field goal which put the Knights up 10-0 with 3:33 left in the first quarter. The drive was 16 plays, covering 68 yards and took 5:41 off the clock.

UCF dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball during the first quarter as they ran for 80 yards and allowed no yards of offense to Marshall. UCF also had eight first downs to Marshall's zero, and neither team had a single passing yard. The Knights offensive line had their best period of the season, and they looked like the team that was more comfortable in the cold weather elements.

"We ran the ball today because it's what we had to do," said Knights head coach George O'Leary.

The Knights third offensive score was once again set up by their dominating defense as cornerback Sha'reff Rashad intercepted a Mark Cann pass and took it back 55 yards to the Marshall 12-yard line, which set up a Nick Cattoi 24-yard field goal. Although the Knights walked away with points, they missed a golden opportunity as wide receiver Kamar Aiken dropped his second pass, this one would've been a touchdown. The scoring drive was four plays for five yards, encompassing 1:16.

Marshall got on the scoreboard with just under six minutes remaining in the first half as a Thundering Herd punt glanced off the helmet of Rashad Shaheed and the home team recovered the ball at the UCF two-yard line. Marshall punched it in one play later on a run by Chubb Small to cut the Knights lead to 13-7, effectively stealing momentum away from the visitors.

Just as UCF gave Marshall a homecoming gift with the botched punt return, Marshall quickly returned the favor as the Knights Reggie Weams recovered a muffed punt on the Marshall one-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Rob Calabrese completed his first pass of the game to redshirt sophomore tight end John Lubischer who was wide open in the end zone. The catch was Lubisher's first as a collegiate. The catch gave UCF their a 20-7 advantage which they would take into halftime.

At the half, the Knights dominated nearly every statistical category, as they had 10 first downs to Marshall's three, 102-69 rushing yard advantage, 42 plays to the Herd's 27, and better than a nine minute time of possession advantage. The big plays in the half all came from mistakes, as UCF scored 17 points off turnovers.

Marshall put together the first legitimate offensive drive of the game in the third period as they took the ball and marched 75 yards in just 1:44. Running back Darius Marshall did most of the work as he broke off a 61-yard run, and the Herd passing game did the rest as quarterback Mark Cann found tight end Cody Slate open in the end zone for a 15-yard pass to cut the Knights lead to 20-14.

The Knights defense once again set the offense up as Sha'reff Rashad picked off his second pass of the day and returned the ball 22 yards to the Marshall 10 yard line. As was the case for much of the day, the Knights couldn't sustain a drive, but they did manage to put three points on the board to make it a two-possession game at 23-14 thanks to a Nick Cattoi 24-yard field goal.

Punter Blake Clingan played a major role in this game for the Knights, as he averaged nearly 42 yards per punt, and gained two first downs with heads up runs in lieu of punting the ball into a heavy rush. Clingan's final rush with roughly six minutes remaining allowed the Knights to keep the ball and burn up more clock.

"It wasn't a called play," Clingan said. "I saw that the punt was going to be blocked and I took off with the ball."

The Knights put the final nail in the coffin as freshman running back Brynn Harvey scampered 50 yards for a touchdown on a 3rd and 11 play to put the Knights up 30-14. Harvey finished with his best performance of his young career, as he gained 150 yards on 33 carries. The 150 rushing yards was the most by a Knight since Kevin Smith ran for 177 yards against SMU a year ago.

"I thought Brynn Harvey played well, he missed a few cuts, but he played well," said Knights head coach George O'Leary.

The UCF defense held Marshall to just 229 total yards of offense, and just 84 yards through the air. The total of 84 passing yards was the lowest total for Marshall since 2006. The Knights offense did just enough as they ran for 213 of their 242 total yards, and possessed the ball for better than 38 minutes.

Junior defensive tackle Torrell Troup was a monster inside, as he took on blocks and clogged up holes en route to a seven tackle performance. Bruce Miller tallied nine tackles and a sack, and senior cornerback Sha'reff Rashad logged two interceptions and had 77 return yards which set the Knights up for two scores.

"The offense made it much easier for us by sustaining some drives so we didn't have to be on the field as long," said cornerback Sha'reff Rashad.

The Knights victory over Marshall moved UCF to a 3-7 record with two games to play, and was the first loss for Marshall on homecoming in 15 years.


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