Spring Game Recap

UCF fans got a taste of what their 2009 team is capable of, as the Knights' first team offense and defense put on excellent performances during the team's Spring Game. Both sides of the ball had several standouts and the team has a lot of momentum heading into summer workouts.

In 2008, the Knights' offense struggled to generate points and that seemed to be everyone's focus heading into the spring. UCF capped off three weeks of practice with its Spring Game in which fans were treated to a balanced display of offense and defense.

At the end of the game, the scoreboard read 77-61 in favor of UCF's offense, but there were plenty of positives for both sides of the ball. In reality, UCF's offense reached the end zone three times on the afternoon for 21 points, but the game's scoring system awarded multiple points for different results on every play. A sack for instance was three points for the defense or a first down was one point for the offense.

It was difficult to determine who the clear winner of the afternoon was, as the first team offense and defense never met, but both groups looked dominant against the respective second strings that they faced.

"I was pleased with spring ball, there's no question," said UCF head coach, George O'Leary. "There's no question that defensively we'll be really solid and on offense we'll be much better than last year."

On the first team offense's opening possession, Rob Calabrese looked sharp, making several nice throws. His first incompletion of the game came when he hit A.J. Guyton in stride for what would have been a 64-yard score, but Guyton could not hold onto the ball.

Calabrese got his chance at redemption during his next series, as he got the ball into Brynn Harvey's hands on a screen play that went for a 25-yard score, as Harvey scampered past the pylon for the offense's first score.

On the afternoon, Calabrese went 7-of-13 for 65 yards and a touchdown, to cap off what was an impressive spring.

"I thought Rob had a good spring and has made a lot of progress and is moving to where we'd like him to be," said UCF offensive coordinator, Charlie Taaffe, who added that Calabrese met his goal of completing over 60 percent of his passes during the spring. "Even though it's spring practice, he's made some strides and he has a chance to be a good quarterback."

While Calabrese was efficiently running UCF's offense, Joe Weatherford had a difficult day, as he was harassed on nearly every passing attempt. Weatherford had to go against UCF's monster front four and was part the main victim of the defense's 11 sack performance. Weatherford delivered several well-thrown passes when he wasn't fearing for his life and should still be in contention to earn some playing time this year, although Calabrese has certainly made it difficult for anyone to unseat him.

After Weatherford felt the wrath of UCF's front seven and Andy Slowik was picked off after making a nice 20-yard completion, Calabrese took over at the helm again and showed off his athleticism after scrambling for a 24-yard gain. Later on that series on fourth and one, Harvey found a crease and exploded for a 22-yard touchdown.

The talented sophomore running back had two scores and ran for 47 yards on nine carries and looks to be UCF's undisputed number-one back leaving the spring.

In the second half, UCF's defense came alive, hassling the offense at every turn. Jarvis Geathers had a memorable performance, finishing with eight tackles and 3.5 sacks. Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons manned the interior of the line, as the two defensive tackles made it difficult for the second string offense to do much of anything. The duo accumulated for three sacks, but the whistle was blown before the two could get their hands' on the quarterback several times.

"The refs were biased," joked Timmons. "They told us in the locker room to not hit (the quarterback.) We had like seven, eight, maybe nine, ten sacks that we ran by that the refs didn't call."

The Knights' offense managed some success later on in the game after both Slowik and Weatherford started getting some time. The backups hit Jamar Newsome on several occasions, as Newsome had five receptions for 39 yards, with most of that damage coming in the second half.

With less than four minutes remaining in the game, J.T. McArthur provided the play of the day. Slowik hit the receiver on a 39-yard touchdown pass, in which McArthur jumped in the air, adjusted to the ball and caught it over the defender for the score. On the afternoon, McArthur had three catches for 60 yards.

Although a clear-cut winner could not be decided by the score alone, the Knights can leave the spring feeling good about the overall improvement on offense and the domination that the defense regularly displayed.

"I think the spring went real good as far as competition between offense and defense," said linebacker Chance Henderson. "I thought it was a lot better than last year, there was a lot of improvement amongst the different positions and it was a good spring this year."

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