Black Uniforms On, Black Cloud Lifted

The Knights' program and national image took a huge leap forward with Saturday's win over the Houston Cougars.

The UCF athletic programs have the luxury of training and playing in some of the finest facilities in the country. The campus is reminiscent of a Disney Resort, and there is virtually any amenity that a collegiate athlete or visitor could ever ask for.

Still, there has appeared to be a dark cloud hovering above the program in recent years, going all the way back to the tragic death of Ereck Plancher. The football team has alternated winning seasons which has disappointed many, and the basketball program remains in anonymity despite the efforts of last season's C-USA player of the year in Jermaine Taylor (currently a member of the Houston Rockets) and a very good coach in Kirk Speraw.

Saturday's victory over the 13th-ranked Houston Cougars may have been the first step in lifting that black cloud as the Knights recorded their first-ever win over a ranked opponent.

"It's a great win,'' Knights head coach George O'Leary said. "It's outstanding and sometime you use something like this to catapult your program and catapult your school. It's great. It's a great win for the program and there was no gimme in that one. We worked for it and all three phases of our team played well.''

Aside from potentially ruining the Houston Cougars C-USA title hopes, the Knights kept their own hopes alive as they need some help, but are still in the hunt for the C-USA East title.

"It is huge for us now that we are bowl eligible and huge for us to keep our conference championship hopes alive," Knights quarterback Brett Hodges said. "It really was a team effort today and a huge win."

Another thing for the Knights to hang their proverbial hats on was ending the potential Heisman candidacy of Houston quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum threw for 377 yards, but much of that came in the fourth period when the outcome was all but decided. Keenum's 23 incompletions, including a big interception made the Houston quarterback look mostly mediocre, instead of NFL caliber.

"We were not able to do the things that we wanted to do, whether it was us making mistakes or them just playing really hard,'' Keenum said. "They are really good up front. They have a great front four and some big, strong linebackers. They did a good job covering downfield and putting pressure on me. We could never get it going.''

UCF secured themselves bowl eligible and will look to take yet another step by winning their first bowl game later next month. It's unfair to now place expectations on the program to immediately become a national power, but the victory could be a start of something special. The Knights have been in position to pull upsets before, but they've always fallen short. The team now has a victory to call back on as a frame of reference the next time they are in a spot against a highly ranked opponent.

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