Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Colleges

UCF Knights ready for a breather

ORLANDO — This season UCF has won games and eventually climbed into the Top 25 with a brand of football that was, at times, outright tougher than that of its opponents.

But for each of the past two weeks, the Knights haven't dominated as they inch closer to their first BCS bid. A better word to describe them probably is fortunate.

"You hope it doesn't come down to that, but if it comes down to that you've got to lean on your players that have ability to make plays — whether it's defense or offense — and so far that's happened," coach George O'Leary said. "But you can't bank on that all the time. Eventually it's going to catch up with you."

The 17th-ranked Knights (8-1, 5-0) still sit atop the American Athletic Conference as they prepare to play Rutgers (5-4, 2-3), a team that has largely underachieved, at home tonight.

After starting 4-1, Rutgers has dropped three of its last four games, including a 52-17 loss at home to Cincinnati.

The Scarlet Knights have been banged up in recent weeks, but coach Kyle Flood said they were mending as best they can.

"From a health standpoint you're always on the edge this time of year," Flood said. "… You're always an injury from being younger than you are."

A conference title may be a pipe dream at this point, but the Scarlet Knights can become bowl eligible with a victory. It would put them in position to play in a bowl game for the eighth time in nine years.

One thing UCF is hoping to lean on over these final three weeks of the regular season are the senior class' memories of a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2011 that saw it endure six losses by seven points or fewer.

They've won five games by that margin this season.

O'Leary said this year's team is more skilled at quarterback, has better playmakers and a more capable offensive line, which has helped it be on the favorable side of tight games.

Senior offensive lineman Justin McCray believes the close scrapes helped the team grow.

"I think the experience, especially on the offensive side, is great because we have a lot of players that have just played a lot of games," he said. "We know how it feels, especially with the 2011 year, being in all those close games and not coming out on top. We know how to just find a way to find victory."

Though he's not a senior, a lot of that mettle has come from quarterback Blake Bortles. The junior followed a rocky outing in a 19-14 win against Houston with one of his best — a career-high 403 yards and four touchdowns — in a 39-36 win against Temple last week.

Bortles has completed 70 percent of his passes in back-to-back weeks. Rutgers ranks ninth in the American in pass defense, giving up 328 yards per game.

O'Leary said as nerve-racking as the past two games have been, he doesn't need to say much to focus his team.

"They know," O'Leary said. "They know that they came that close to not doing what they wanted to get done out there. And I think it's great when you don't have to tell them that."

If playing to stay on track for a BCS bid isn't enough for UCF, the Knights have a small revenge motivation. The lone meeting between the schools was in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl when Rutgers, coached by Greg Schiano, downed UCF 45-24 at Tropicana Field.

Comments
Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Florida Gators defensive lineman Cece Jefferson will be out four months after having surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week, according to a report Wednesday evening from the Gainesville Sun.Jefferson, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound senior, injured th...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Tuesday evening's news that quarterback Jake Allen plans to transfer from the Florida Gators isn't a surprise.Allen, a former three-star recruit in 2017, was fourth on the depth chart. The St. Thomas Aquinas product didn't seem to fit new coach ...
Published: 04/18/18
Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

When former Wharton High star Auden Tate hears his name called sometime next week, he'll join a surprisingly small group.Recent Florida State receivers drafted into the NFL.Over the past decade, only two Seminoles receivers have been drafted: Rashad ...
Published: 04/18/18
Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Tallahassee police suspected Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois possessed marijuana with the intent to sell it when they executed a search warrant on his home last week, according to an affidavit.The case — which culminated Thursda...
Published: 04/17/18
Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Even as Florida State was finishing its first recruiting class under Willie Taggart, the Seminoles were already talking about what they could do in the new staff's first full cycle, for 2019."I can only imagine having a year here to be able to recrui...
Published: 04/17/18
Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

TALLAHASSEE – Florida State running back Khalan Laborn's breakout 140-yard output in Saturday night's spring game was a sign of what could be for the former blue-chip recruit.It was also a reminder of what almost wasn't for the Seminoles.With a...
Published: 04/16/18
New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

Steve Spurrier will make one of his first appearances in his new role with the Alliance of American Football tomorrow in Orlando.The league will welcome Spurrier as the coach of its Orlando team at an event at Ember (42 W Central Blvd.) at an event f...
Published: 04/16/18
Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

TALLAHASSEE – Judging by the crowd for Florida State's spring game on Saturday, Seminoles fans are excited about the dawn of the Willie Taggart era.The official attendance of 53,974 — a new record for a spring game — inclu...
Published: 04/14/18
Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

GAINESVILLE —It took some time, but the offense scored points in bunches, much to the delight of the 53,015 in attendance at Florida's spring game.And the Gators had fun doing it, pulling out all the stops with gadgets and celebrations that bro...
Published: 04/14/18
FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois agreed to a pre-arrest diversion program after police found 17 grams of a cannabis/tobacco blend in his bedroom Thursday afternoon.The Tallahassee Police Department previously received a report of drug activ...
Published: 04/13/18