Last season, UCF showed glimpses throughout the year of putting together all the ingredients that make up a competitive team. The defense was very good, and the offense was streaky at best. Things never really clicked for the Knights though, as an inexperienced offense really bogged down the entire team.
While the team is still far from being complete, the Knights put together a full half of great football last week against Buffalo and will now look to harness that momentum and spread it out through the rest of the season.
Trailing visiting Buffalo 17-7 at the half, UCF had a gut check in the locker room and what ensued was nearly 30 minutes of perfect football.
"I think we need to continue playing like we played in the second half," said head coach George O'Leary. "I think the second half is what you want to see; offense and defense both playing together and the kicking game needs to continue playing well as far as coverage is concerned."
On both sides of the ball, UCF was utterly dominant, as the Knights outscored the defending MAC champions 16 to nothing the rest of the way. Quarterback Brett Hodges was a perfect 10-of-10 in the half and the defense, which hadn't forced a turnover in the previous two games of the season, had four takeaways. What led to UCF's turnaround?
"I thought the coaches made their adjustments and I basically told them that all these adjustments are fine, but it still comes down to blocking and tackling," said O'Leary. "I quietly told them that ‘whatever 22 want to follow me out, come on' and I just slammed the door. They all came out behind me, thank God."
UCF's offense has gone from putting together a decent series or two a year ago to putting together decent halves, which is certainly an improvement. The defense, which is trying to replace all four starters in the secondary, is also searching for an identity and Saturday's performance against Buffalo was encouraging. What will UCF take from their second half awakening?
"All that came from that was confidence," said junior safety Derrick Hallman. "We just needed to get our feet under us, our wings behind us and to start pinning our ears back and letting it go. That's what coaches talked to us about last week, is just letting it go. We can't play timid or uptight or scared."
Hallman was a key player in UCF's comeback win against the Bulls, as he logged eight tackles in the game and also had an interception and a forced fumble, both of which keyed the second half run. Defensively, Jarvis Geathers also came alive late, as he had three sacks total and two forced fumbles. The Knights hope that the swagger and efficiency they displayed to end the game this past week carries over in a crucial conference game against ECU.
If the Knights are going to travel to Greenville, North Carolina and pull an upset against the defending conference champions, the team will assuredly have to put together two full halves of solid football, something that many in Orlando believe that the Knights are ready to do.
Knights Look to Feed off Momentum
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