In UCF's first conference loss of the season, the Knights were fortunate to lose to Southern Miss by seven points after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. Now in the Knights' second conference loss of the early season, the team may not be able to find much positive in a game that they let get away.
The Knights lost to ECU on the road 19-14 and will now likely have to run the table in the conference to have a chance at winning their division in the C-USA. Failing to 0-2 in conference play is not where the Knights want to be, but what's frustrating is that UCF squandered one opportunity after another in Greensville.
At first it appeared that it was the Pirates that were blowing opportunities when Jordan Richards, a North Carolina native, forced a Jon Williams fumble deep inside UCF territory. Later in the game, Richards would take a shot to his head and would leave the game on a stretcher. He was moving his hands as he left the field.
Brett Hodges made the most of the opportunity, finding Kamar Aiken deep down the sideline for a 40-yard pass that put the Knights inside ECU's 20. On the next play, Brynn Harvey exploded up the middle for a 19-yard score, giving the Knight an early 7-0 lead.
The Pirates fired right back and drove the ball into UCF territory to settle for a field goal. With UCF missing numerous tackles on the drive, it would be just the beginning of blown assignments and not executing.
On the following drive, redshirt freshman Brendan Kelly had his first career carry for 18 yards but he coughed it up and the Pirates recovered. Again, the Pirates would capitalize on UCF's mistakes, as ECU scored on a nine-play drive that was finished with receiver Dwayne Harris juking past UCF defenders down the field for a 25-yard score out of the wildcat formation.
UCF mustered up another solid drive with Hodges and Harvey leading the way. Both looked crisp in the first half, as Harvey was running explosively and with a purposes and Hodges was efficient, starting the game 9-of-11. A.J. Guyton also made plays in the first half on several bubble screens. All three led UCF down the field, only to have the series stalled a blocked field goal.
Later in the second quarter, the Knights moved the ball down to ECU's four-yard line but a dropped pass by Aiken in the end zone on second down led to a Hodges interception on third.
Hodges, who started the game off blazing, finished the game with four interceptions. Guyton brought consistency to the offense as he had nine receptions for 119 yards.
In the second half, things would go from bad to worse. The defense, which bend but didn't break in the first half, missed tackle after tackle, giving ECU extra yards and second opportunities.
After ECU made a field goal following a questionable pass interference on Darrin Baldwin to make the game 13-7, the Knights were able to get the ball back into ECU territory, but Nick Cattoi couldn't connect on 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The Pirates marched right down the field and Patrick Pinkney found Harris for a three-yard score, helping the Pirates extend their lead to 19-7.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, UCF tried to put the blow opportunities in the rear view mirror and the team began to get some rhythm. On a 1:17 drive, UCF sprinted down the field and Hodges found Aiken for a 10-yard pass in the end zone to get the game to 19-14.
After recovering the onside kick, Hodges threw another interception with 56 seconds left to seal the game. Despite blown opportunities, UCF still was in a position to win the game late but the program is beyond moral victories. With several players injured during the game (Aiken was helped off the field after Hodges' final pick) and 13 points left off the board, the Knights will have to do some soul searching when they return home.
Knight Squander Opportunity to Upset ECU
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