Nov. 18, 2005
HOUSTON - The UCF Golden Knights (7-3, 6-1 Conference USA) will hit the road for the seventh and final time this year on Saturday to face the Rice Owls (1-8, 1-5 C-USA) for their last contest of the regular season. Kickoff at Rice Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern.
The Golden Knights, thanks to a Southern Miss loss last weekend, now control their own C-USA destiny. A UCF victory on Saturday would make the team Eastern Division champions and would give them a berth in the conference championship on Dec. 3. UCF has engineered a remarkable turnaround after its 0-11 campaign just a year ago and dropping the first two games this year. The Golden Knights have won seven of their past eight games and have solidified themselves as one of the nation's most improved teams with their plus-seven increase in victories in 2005.
The game will be televised on CSTV's "All-Access" package. Fans can view the game for free on Dish Network (channel 449), via pay-per-view through your local cable provide on digital cable and on the Internet at www.UCFathletics.com. Fans that have purchased the CSTV "All-Access" package through Bright House Networks in Orlando will be able to view the game on digital cable.
The UCF ISP Network and its flagship station 740- The Team AM (WQTM) will broadcast the game live. Marc Daniels will once again have the call with Gary Parris. Jerry O'Neill will handle the sideline duties. Network affiliates in include WMMV-1350 in Cocoa, WDCF-1350 Dade City, WROD-1340 in Daytona Beach and WMMB-1240 Melbourne
Fans looking for a more extensive preview and UCF head coach George O'Leary's thoughts on Rice, should tune into "The George O'Leary Show," which will air Friday at 5:30 p.m. on Sun Sports and again Saturday at 1 p.m. on WESH-2.
UCF is currently tied for third among the most improved teams in NCAA history. The victory against UAB on Nov. 12 made UCF the most improved team in the history of C-USA
Rice is coming off its first victory of the year, a 42-34 win over Tulane last Saturday. Prior to the win over the Green Wave, the Owls had owned the nation's longest current losing streak at 14 games. Rice, just like UCF, is wrapping up its first season in C-USA after nine years in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Owls come into the game with the number two rushing attack in the league and 13th overall in the country. Much of their rushing success is due to utilizing an offense that UCF has not seen this season.
"Well it is the wishbone (offense) and different formations with the wishbone," said O'Leary. "I think that is what makes it unique. You do not see it any other time during the year. It is the wishbone and then the quickness of the wishbone. You really can't duplicate it in practice."
"It breaks down the responsibilities of your defense in that somebody has the dive, somebody has the quarterback, somebody has the pitch and somebody has the play action. I always look at missed assignments because all it takes is one and somebody is running free."
Running back Quinton Smith leads the Owl rushing attack, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He has rushed for 766 yards and four touchdowns on the season. John Wall has also had a successful season on the ground. He has rushed for 411 yards on just 75 carries this season and scored six touchdowns. Overall, the Owls have three players who have rushed for over 300 yards so far this season and as team they have accounted for 20 rushing touchdowns this year, compared to just five through the air.
Quarterbacks Chase Clement and Joel Armstrong have both split time under center this season. Clement has thrown for 469 yards and four touchdowns while Joel Armstrong has accounted for 343 yards and one touchdown.
The Rice defense has had its share of struggles this year. The Owls are giving up over 212 yards per game on the ground this year and over 460 total yards per game, ranking them near the bottom of both those statistical categories in both the conference and the nation. They are also giving up just over 42 points per game, ranking them 116th nationally in scoring defense.
Rice has had one of the tougher schedules in the country this year, facing three opponents that appeared in a bowl game last season: Texas, Navy and UCLA.
The Golden Knights are coming off a 27-21 come from behind victory over host UAB last week. The victory over the Blazers was their second come from behind victory on the road this season.
Senior place kicker Matt Prater turned in his best performance of the year, converting on 4-of- 5 field goal attempts, including two in the final five minutes to give the Golden Knights the victory. Prater was named C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
For the second week in a row, the UCF defense stepped up when it was needed the most. The Golden Knights forced four fourth quarter turnovers that put them in position to win the game.
"It is amazing that when you are playing well how many more opportunities you get through turnovers to make good things happen," said O'Leary.
Freshman cornerback Joe Burnett ranks second in C-USA in interceptions with five on the year. Burnett had an interception against UAB to help set up the final Prater field goal that put the Golden Knights up for good.
UCF has now recorded an interception in eight straight games and leads C-USA in turnover margin at plus-14.
Quarterback Steven Moffett continues to lead the offense. Despite having his streak of 12 straight games with at least one touchdown pass end, Moffett completed 15-of-24 passes for 183 yards with no interceptions against the Blazers. Moffett continues to be one of C-USA's most efficient passers as he is currently ranked third in the conference in passing efficiency.
Jason Peters and Kevin Smith continue to be a dual-threat in the UCF backfield. Peters ran for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Smith ran for 67 yards and the only other UCF touchdown a week ago. Smith and Peters have helped engineer a rushing attack that has averaged nearly 200 yards a game on the ground against C-USA opponents this year.
The UCF turnaround has helped gain some national attention as well. For the first time since 1998, the Golden Knights received votes in both top-25 polls this week.