Nov. 20, 2007
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Senior Day will have a little extra incentive to it as 18 Knights will play their final regular season home game on Saturday vs. UTEP. UCF (8-3, 6-1 C-USA) can clinch the Conference USA East Division title and the right to host the league championship game on Dec. 1 with a victory over the Miners (4-7, 2-5 C-USA).
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium. The Knights have posted a 4-1 record at their new on-campus venue this season and are averaging 43.2 ppg on their home field.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools and the second-consecutive week the Knights have faced a new opponent. Last Saturday, UCF traveled to Dallas and defeated SMU, 49-20, in the first match-up with the Mustangs.
Knights to honor 18 seniors prior to kickoff with UTEP
Saturday's contest with UTEP will mark the final regular season contest for 19 seniors on the 2007 UCF football roster. Tight end Mike Merritt is the elder statesman of the group as he came to Orlando in the fall of 2003. Defensive tackle Keith Shologan leads the class with 44 career starts, while offensive linemen Kyle Smith and Josh Sitton have combined for 79 consecutive starts on the front line for the Knights' offense. Quarterback Kyle Israel has been one of the accurate passers in UCF history, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and only throw 13 interceptions in 454 attempts. Wide receiver Javid James has 26 career receptions. Defensive lineman Leger Douzable has 13 career sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Fellow line mates Emeka Okammor and Rex Hill have combined for four sacks in their careers. Kick returner Curtis Francis will go down in the history books as one of the most prolific in school history. He ranks third with 1,622 career return yards and scored his first-career touchdown vs. East Carolina (Oct. 6) on a 93-yard kick return. In two years, placekicker Michael Torres will end his career in the top 10 on the scoring charts. Entering the UTEP game, he has made 30 field goals and 67 PATs. Tight end Dominic Ignelzi had 13 starts on the offensive line before switching positions this summer. Deep snapper Michael Buscemi has been near flawless on exchanges with holders and punters in his tenure. Linebackers Steven Baker, Blake Carter and Robenson Jean have both been productive special team members this season. Placekicker Michael Batista has been with the team only for this season, but made his lone field goal attempt of 41 yards vs. Louisiana (Sept. 29). The versatile Neil Bittong has seen action on both sides of the ball in his UCF career. The former walk-on registered his first-career sack earlier this season vs. Marshall.
After opening the year 3-3, UCF has won five-consecutive games. The winning streak marks just the third time since the Knights joined the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks in 1996 that UCF has claimed five-consecutive victories. Head coach George O'Leary's team won five-straight in 2005. In 1998, the Knights also won five-consecutive contests under head coach Mike Kruczek when they registered the only nine-win season as an FBS member. In program history, UCF has claimed six-straight games on just one occasion (1990).
Smith is nation's top scorer and touchdown producer
In 11 games this year, Kevin Smith has been responsible for 150 points, good for UCF and Conference USA single-season records. It is also tied for the 18th-best total in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history. His average of 13.7 points per game leads the FBS. Smith has 25 total touchdowns on the year, which is also a school record and ties for the 11th-highest touchdown total in FBS history. With one more touchdown, Smith will move into the top 10, which includes historic names like Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, Nebraska's Mike Rozier, Texas' Ricky Williams and Miami's (Fla.) Willis McGahee. Bret Cooper held the previous UCF single-season scoring mark with 90 points in 1992. With the UCF record already eclipsed, Smith tied the Conference USA record for touchdowns in a season with his four scores at UAB, which was perviously set by DeAngelo Williams of Memphis in 2005 when he found the endzone 23 times (22 rush, 1 rec.). Sanders holds the NCAA FBS record for touchdowns when he found the endzone 39 times during the 1994 season. Smith has seven touchdown runs this season of 20 yards or longer, including three of 80 yards or longer.
Home is sweeter in 2007
Off to a 4-1 start at their new facility, including four consecutive wins, there is a definite home-field advantage for the Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium. UCF has totaled 216 points at the new on-campus venue so far this season - good for an average of 43.2 ppg. In 2006, the Knights played seven home contests at the Florida Citrus Bowl and scored a total of 143 points at the stadium. On the road, the Knights are still averaging a respectable 33.8 ppg and have a 4-2 record away from Orlando.
A year after winning just two games on the road, UCF went 4-2 away from Orlando in the 2007 regular season. The four victories tie for the most single-season road wins in program history. The Knights also claimed four wins away from home in 2005, 1998 and 1994.
The UCF offense, defense and special teams scored touchdowns in the Knights' 49-20 victory over SMU (Nov. 17). In fact, all three units scored from 72 yards out or longer in the game. True freshman Khymest Williams opened the contest with a 99-yard kick return for score - the first of his career. Junior running back Kevin Smith added his third TD run of 80 yards or longer with an 80-yard scamper in the second quarter. Then, in the third quarter, junior Johnell Neal also scored the first TD of his career, returning an interception 72 yards for a score.
Burnett moves into second on UCF career interception list
Joe Burnett registered his second two-interception game of his career in the 49-20 victory over SMU (Nov. 17). His two picks gave him the team-lead with five on the season and moved him into sole possession of second place on the UCF career list with 11. Keith Evans is the record holder with 13 career INTS (1986-88). Burnett's career total of 11 is also tied for seventh on the C-USA career charts. Burnett's five interceptions this season match his career-high set during 2005 when he earned freshman All-America honors and are tied for the lead in Conference USA with Southern Miss cornerback Brandon Sumrall. Burnett is UCF's interception leader during the FBS era.