UCF Defense Dominant in Shutout of S.C. State


Aug. 30, 2008

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Posting its first shutout since 2001, UCF (1-0) opened the 2008 season with a 17-0 victory over visiting South Carolina State (0-1) on a rainy Saturday night at Bright House Networks Stadium. Playing in front of a crowd of more than 42,000, the Knights' earned their third-straight win in season openers.

A nine-play, 40-yard drive was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by freshman Latavius Murray to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 11:18 left in the second quarter. A 30-yard pass from junior Michael Greco to senior Rocky Ross at the three converted a fourth-and-17 to keep the drive alive. The Knights limited the Bulldogs to just five first downs and 126 yards of total offense in the game, including just 35 yards in a dominant second half performance.

UCF took the opening kickoff, returned by Darin Baldwin 24 yards to its own 48, and marched to the S.C. State 20 before Daren Daly's 37-yard field goal missed wide left.

On the Bulldogs' opening drive, UCF's Bruce Miller forced a fumble on a completed pass to S.C. State's Markee Hamlin. The Knights' Travis Timmons recovered the fumble for the team's first takeaway of the young season.

Jason Venson's interception of Malcolm Long's pass, the senior free safety's seventh career interception, with just under a minute left in the opening quarter gave the Knights excellent field position at the S.C. State 40-yard line.

The Knights drove into Bulldogs' territory once again late in the second quarter, but stalled at the 33-yard line, turning the ball over on downs after a Greco run came up short of the first down marker with 1:53 remaining.

UCF held a 7-0 halftime lead thanks in large part to their defense. The unit held S.C. State to 91 total yards of offense on 24 plays, an average of just 3.8 yards per play. The Knights held the ball for over 20 minutes in the period, totaling 155 yards on 40 plays.

After the Bulldogs went three-and-out on the opening possession of the first half, UCF senior Joe Burnett returned the punt 31 yards, breaking the Conference USA all-time record for punt return yardage. Barnett finished the night with 83 yards on four returns, going over 1,000 for his career.

The Knights marched inside the five with a 10-play drive for 57 yards in the third quarter, but UCF turned the ball over on a Greco fumble that was recovered at the two-yard line.

Aside from that Knights' possession, neither offense was able to manage significant offense in the third quarter. The Bulldogs had just one first down and 26 total yards in the third while UCF had 74 total yards.

UCF stretched its lead to 10-0 with 11:25 left in the fourth on Daly's 27-yard field goal, his first made field goal as a Knight. UCF's 11-play, 26-yard Knights' drive lasted 5:02 and included a fourth down conversion and a 14-yard strike from Greco to Ross on third-and-10 from the Bulldogs' 24.

After the defense forced another three and out, UCF mounted another long drive to ice the game, capped by Murray's second rushing TD of the night from seven yards out. The play ended a 12-play, 62-yard drive, the Knights' fourth drive of 10 or more plays.

Running backs Ronnie Weaver and Murray combined for 141 yards rushing on 36 carries to lead a UCF rushing attack that accumulated 228 yards on 59 carries.

Making his first career start, Greco finished the game 9-for-16 for 90 yards. The junior added 72 yards rushing on 13 carries.

The defensive unit was led by junior Jordan Richards, who had six solo and seven total tackles. Fellow junior Chance Henderson added six tackles, and T.J. Harnden had three tackles and the squad's lone sack.

The Knights return to their home field next Saturday, hosting USF at 7 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.