This season the Cardinals defense had quickly built a reputation for shutting down opponents and their play was crucial in the team's victory over Rutgers a week earlier. The unit entered the game against the Knights ranked among the nation's leaders in multiple statistical categories.
Facing what appeared to be a certain loss, UCF didn't flinch and scored 31 points during the games final 20 minutes to pull off the upset victory at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
"Sometimes you have to learn the hard way and we learned the hard way," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. "We didn't finish the game. We had the opportunity to go out there in the two-minute drill and if we execute and tackle well, there's a good chance we win that game and it didn't happen."
The loss was a difficult one for the defense to accept. While the offense only managed a single touchdown during the same time period, many on the defense took responsibility for the loss.
"The guys right now, they were down [Monday] and today there were a lot better and ready to go," Bedford said following Tuesday's practice. "You learn something the hard way. Wish it didn't happen, but it did happen. You can't change and you have to live in the present."
Watching the game film, Bedford and his players noticed the mistakes that were made.
"What we did, we overran the football more than anything else and that's why we had so many missed tackles," he explained, adding that the focus in practice has been to "take better angles to the football, so we worked on that more than anything else."
The aggressive style of play, which has lifted the squad among NCAA leaders for third down defense, scoring defense and total defense, wasn't played properly against the Knights.
"Sometimes when you are over aggressive, and we do press it kind of bit, those things can happen," Bedford said. "That's why you work on it, you coach on it and you try to get your guys to understand taking the proper angles to the football."
This weekend U of L will travel to Tampa, Fla., to face the South Florida Bulls. Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in their last two outings, the Bulls came out victors and are tied with Houston and UCF atop the AAC standings.
Despite their offensive woes, USF has a dangerous running back in Marcus Shaw. The senior's 110 yards per game average ranks 14th in the country and he posts just over 6 yards a carry.
"The running back is like a Warren Dunn type back," said Bedford. "He's quick, he's fast, he can change directions and get to open space. He's going to be hard to handle. We don't want to get him on the perimeter. It makes me nervous just thinking about it."
The Cardinals are currently a three touchdown favorite for the game that is scheduled for a noon kickoff.
"It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a physical game. Hopefully we'll bring our A game and we'll see what happens."