COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the 2011 season slipped away and losses piled up, defensive lineman Victor Gray constantly shouted at his teammates.
He begged them to focus, prodding them to fight back, searching for any button he could push to avoid a losing season. It wasn't enough, and the Knights finished 5-7.
Gray hated walking out of Ohio Stadium with the first loss of the 2012 season Saturday, but he was inspired by what he saw during the Knights' (1-1) 31-16 loss at No. 14 Ohio State (2-0).
"I was proud of the way the team stayed out there and fought," Gray said. "We stayed together. We didn't get our heads down. We didn't point fingers at anybody. I'm happy about that and that's something you can grow and be a dangerous team from."
The game was played at the Horseshoe before an announced crowd of 104,745. It was broadcast nationally on ESPN2, putting the Knights on an elevated stage.
UCF made a lot of mistakes, including three critical interceptions by sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles. And the Knights struggled to contain star quarterback Braxton Miller.
But 2012 could still be special because Gray wasn't the only one on the sideline unhappy about the botched plays. He wasn't the only one still chasing Miller after he made a string of highlight-worthy plays.
"There's more people helping out," Gray said. "I'm still going out there talking to guys, but people are doing it to themselves now. Everybody's holding each other accountable."
The Buckeyes led 31-10 early in the third, but UCF scored off a Bortles pass to senior Billy Giovanetti with 1:37 left in the quarter. Sophomore Shawn Moffit's extra point was blocked, making the score 31-16.
UCF senior cornerback A.J. Bouye then intercepted Miller to give the Knights strong field position. Senior reserve running back and former Largo High star Brynn Harvey used powerful downhill running to push the Knights into the red zone.
However, Ohio State's Orhian Johnson picked off Bortles at the Buckeyes' 7-yard line.
"I think basically we played sporadically," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "…You can't turn the ball over, No. 1, against good football teams. Ohio State's a good football team. And then I don't think we tackled very well. Too many missed tackles."
Miller finished with 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. He also was 18-of-24 passing for 155 yards, one touchdown and interception.
"It was very frustrating because we all expected to win this game," Bortles said. "No one comes into a game just hoping to win."