These two teams are both up-and-comers. What you saw Thursday night, on ESPN like many of us, were two teams desperate to make a name for themselves in their respective leagues.
And like two hungry entities that exist in any realm of nature, both were overly eager to prove their worth and it showed.
While many will claim that Central Florida had the most to prove in their attempt to end what is now a sixteen game losing streak, the Gamecocks had plenty on their shoulders as well and both teams were forced to show their worth in front of a nationally televised audience.
It probably would have been a better game had it been confined strictly to those in attendance.
The few empty seats in the upper decks were expected but still disappointing when the cameras panned past them in the first quarter. The result of a weeknight game being played on the tube. Yet while fans were enjoying the hoopla surrounding the game, the players on both sides of the ball were peddling their wares in front of a judgemental group looking for vast improvement from their teams, no matter the colors they may have been wearing last night.
Both sets of fans should be content this morning.
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Blake Mitchell teamed-up with a promising group of wide receivers to offer up some excitement in the form of a legitimate air attack. Something Gamecock fans have not seen in the Williams-Brice Stadium in quite some time.
Central Florida proved that they are a much-improved and very hungry team. Some of their new off-season additions will help this team end their losing streak soon. Gamecock fans are wishing the gutsy Central Floridians the absolute best for the duration of the coming season. There are no quitters on George O'Leary's team.
Central Florida's inability to score consistently inside the Carolina redzone may be a concern for some Knight fans. That has to be a positive for most Gamecock fans because this was not a bad Central Florida team. They have talent in their backfield and at wide receiver. The Gamecock defense stiffened when they needed to do so the most.
Both squads were game. Central Florida was obviously more nervous to begin the game than they needed to be and it cost them in the long run. Blake Mitchell was surgical in his opener as the starter. He made the Golden Knight's secondary pay on several occassions. Much of that thanks to, (what appears to be), an exceptional group of wide receivers for the Gamecocks.
There is serious concern with regards to the Carolina rushing game. Or perhaps that translates into a major plus for UCF? The Knight's defensive line is better than most are willing to admit. At times they were able to dominate the Gamecocks, especially in the trenches.
South Carolina's secondary was not as good as billed and particularly Johnathan Joseph who was burned on several occassions. Add insult to injury compounding his frustration, with a fumbled punt return.
Joseph will be better than he showed in coming games.
Steve Spurrier thought enough of Ryan Succop's leg to allow him a crack at a fifty yard field goal. And Succop almost hit it to the delight of the Carolina faithful.
South Carolina's defensive line looked porous at times. UCF's Kevin Smith and Jason Peters are worthy rushers, however, and they will make waves for the Golden Knights as this season progresses., You can be sure of that.
The SC defensive line, on the other hand, was schooled just enough to snap them back into reality and help them prepare and improve heading into the Georgia game two Saturdays away. That same defense came very close to shutting down the Knights inside their own redzone. They managed to stop UCF no less than six times within scoring position. One stop came on a fourth down situation with the ball on the Gamecock one yard line.
South Carolina needs to work on their special teams. However, it is important to consider, two fumbled returns were the result of good pops by UCF defenders. They were not careless drops by SC return specialists Joseph and Newton.
All in all, this was not a bad opener for either team and neither team has anything to be ashamed of. Central Florida will win their share of games this season and Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks will shock the conference at some point this season.
Things are often not as they seem on their exteriors. This game, and these teams, are prime examples.
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