"I told the team right away if they are going to play like that for the rest of the year, they are not going to win another game," UCF coach George O'Leary said after his Golden Knights tamed the Division I-AA Villanova Wildcats 35-16. "The play was sloppy. We have got a lot of things to improve on. The defense gave up big plays."
Big plays? Did Coach O say big plays?
Villanova quarterback Marvin Burrough found open receivers in the UCF secondary completing 22 of 32 for 241 yards and a touchdown at the Citrus Bowl Saturday. The Wildcats also had two pass plays that went for 30-plus yards as well. Even DuQuese May took the Wildcats second snap of the game for 23 yards.
Obviously, it wasn't Disney World and Pleasure Island for the Wildcats. They got pasted 35-16. But, consider these early opportunities, two of which fell by the wayside.
Villanova squandered their opening drive after moving the ball 43 yards on three plays to the UCF 24 yard line. The Wildcats suffered a mental meltdown as a fumble after the catch cost them seven yards and an opportunity at the UCF red zone, followed by a pair of incompletions. The Wildcats topped things off by missing a 44 yard field goal.
Their second offensive series was snuffed three downs and out thanks to an ineffective running game that UCF had no difficulty managing and a couple of misfires by Burroughs and company.
However, the Wildcats impressively turned their third possession into a 13 play, 86 yard scoring drive that closed the deficit to 14-7. UCF
On the opposite sideline, the Golden Knights had only three plays that went for more than 20 yards all day. Quarterback Steven Moffett threw for 199 yards and the running game averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. UCF was outgained 322-304 by Villanova.
"Overall, I think Steven [Moffett] had a good day except for a couple of missed receivers," O'Leary said. "I was concerned with the sloppy play by the offensive line and in the run game. But, I have to say you have got to enjoy the win and just play better. We cannot play that way and expect to win. Our linebackers and safeties blew coverage. There was too much of a lull in the third quarter. The skilled players are only as good as the people protecting them. Again, we will look at the tape and see what we have to correct."
Despite an exhilarating offensive show, the Golden Knights carried out what Meyer and the Gators had hoped to do from the onset- score early and often.
Obviously, it came against a much tougher opponent, but the Gators didn't score their 28th point until true freshman quarterback Tim Tebow took the ball over the left side early in the fourth quarter.
"I was disappointed after the game because I felt we could have played so much better," Meyer said. "We're going to go back out there Monday and do it much harder. We can't start off another game like we did tonight. We dug ourselves out of the hole, and the defense kept us intact all night."
At first glance, the big play, stingy Florida defense should be able to keep the UCF offense in check. Their interior line play could receive a big boost with the anticipated return of nose guard Marcus Thomas. And if the communication between the Golden Knights linebackers and secondary doesn't improve the Gators might have a solid early start courtesy of the big play.