UCF Falls Just Short at Southern Miss in 26-19 Los

Sept. 12, 2009

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. ( - Senior quarterback Brett Hodges went 15-for-26 and threw for two touchdowns but was unable to help UCF erase an early 14-0 deficit as it fell in its Conference USA opener at Southern Miss Saturday, 26-19. Hodges finished with a career-high 158 yards in the air and no interceptions for the Knights (1-1, 0-1).

A total of seven different players hauled in receptions for UCF against Southern Miss (2-0, 1-0), with senior Rocky Ross leading the way with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Junior Kamar Aiken, meanwhile, pulled in four receptions, including a dazzling TD catch in the second quarter.

On the other side of the ball, true freshman defensive back Josh Robinson amassed a game-high 10 tackles.

Ball control was the story in the early minutes of the first quarter as UCF fumbled twice in its first three possessions. The second turnover gave Southern Miss the initial lead when sophomore quarterback Rob Calabrese coughed it up on his own 22-yard line and Martez Smith returned it to the house for a touchdown.

Following a Knights' punt, the Golden Eagles needed 1:39 to drive 44 yards and put it back in the endzone, capped off by an 18-yard strike from Austin Davis to Leroy Banks.

Hodges then took over under center for UCF and helped the offense put together an 18-play drive using small gains to wear down the defense. Only one of those plays was over 10 yards - a 20-yard reception by Aiken that put the Black and Gold at USM's 9-yard line. But that's where it would stall, and sophomore Nick Cattoi booted a 28-yard field goal with 11:20 remaining in the second quarter to make it 14-3.

Southern Miss would add a field goal of its own on its next possession, but the Knights would strike again. Kick-started by a 19-yard toss to Aiken, Hodges would later find junior Brian Watters on a 20-yard gain to get into Golden Eagle territory. One play later and Hodges connected with Ross for 29 yards. Eventually on third down and the ball resting on the USM-4, the UCF quarterback pump-faked and placed it perfectly in the back of the endzone for a leaping Aiken, who just got his foot in to cut the deficit to 17-10.

While UCF hoped to keep it a one-possession game going into halftime, Southern Miss took it all the way from its own-17 to the UCF-19 in the final minute, setting up Justin Estes' 36-yard field goal.

Now trailing 20-10, the Knights were in danger of falling further behind on USM's second possession of the final half. With the rain steadily falling, Southern Miss decided to go for it on fourth and four on the UCF-29 only to see junior linebacker Bruce Miller race up the middle to sack Davis, turning the ball over on downs.

When the end of the third quarter approached, USM's Freddie Parham mishandled a UCF punt and junior Reggie Weams was there to fall on it on the USM-48. Six players later and Cattoi converted his longest-career field goal, a 50-yarder that put the score at 20-13 with 12:18 left in the fourth quarter. It was the eighth-longest FG in UCF history.

Midway through the fourth, the Golden Eagles put the game away with a nine-play drive that culminated in a Damion Fletcher 5-yard touchdown run. Even though junior Jamar Newsome returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards and Hodges hooked up with Ross on a five-yard touchdown pass to the back of the endzone, the Knights could not recover the onside kick with just over a minute showing on the clock.

UCF resumes its non-conference schedule at home next weekend when it hosts Buffalo Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 407-823-1000.

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