Sept. 15, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF returns home this Saturday to resume its non-conference schedule when it hosts reigning MAC champion Buffalo at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by visiting UCFAthletics.com, calling the UCF Ticket Office at 407-823-1000 or meeting with a ticket representative in-person on the west side of Bright House Networks Stadium.
THE OPENING DRIVE
? UCF (1-1 record in 2009) is 5-1 against Buffalo (1-1) all-time, winning the first five before dropping the most recent meeting in 2004. UCF is 4-0 in Orlando.
? Quincy McDuffie is ninth nationally in kickoff returns and Darin Baldwin is 13th while Rocky Ross is 18th in punt returns.
? The Knights have already set a school record by having three different players return a kickoff at least 70 yards this year (McDuffie 95, Newsome 89 and Baldwin 72).
? UCF has excelled on special teams this year. The Knights are second in the nation in punt return defense allowing minus-0.67 yards per return, and seventh in kickoff return defense (14.71 avg.).
? UCF is one of just five teams nationally with at least one kickoff return for a touchdown in 2007, 2008 and 2009 joining Arkansas, Clemson, FIU and Texas.
? Lawrence Young is tied for ninth in the nation with five tackles for loss in two games.
? UCF's 18-play scoring drive at Southern Miss that lasted 8:46 was its longest in two years by both plays and time elapsed.
? Brett Hodges will make his first start at quarterback for UCF, and the third of his career, after transferring from Wake Forest. He is 25-of-43 thus far as a Knight for 287 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 132.58 efficiency rating.
? UCF's passing efficiency rating of 122.50 is a marked improvement from its 86.62 rating during the 2008 season.
? The Buffalo game will mark the 150th game of George O'Leary's 13-year tenure as a head coach at Georgia Tech and UCF combined. He is 79-70 (.530) overall as a collegiate head coach.
O'LEARY HEDGES ON HODGES
? Senior Brett Hodges has assumed the role of starting quarterback with his steady play in the first two games. Hodges has come off of the bench behind Rob Calabrese in both games and gone 25-for-43 for 287 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Wake Forest transfer will make his third career start on Saturday. He started for an injured Riley Skinner in 2007 against Nebraska (9/8) and Army (9/15).
WIN WITH BRYNN
? Sophomore Brynn Harvey ran for 111 yards and two scores in UCF's season-opening win over Samford. It was just the second time in the FBS era (since 1996) that a Knight eclipsed the century mark on opening day. Kevin Smith (who coincidentally attended the Samford game) ran for 217 in a 2007 win at NC State. It was Harvey's second career 100-yard effort, joining his 150 at Marshall last year, and his first career two-TD performance.
? Wide receiver Rocky Ross is in his second senior year after earning a medical redshirt in 2008 due to a broken collar bone suffered at UTEP. As a junior, Ross led the Knights with 50 receptions and 658 yards for an average of 47.0 yards per game. He has started 2009 where he left off, leading UCF thus far with 10 catches, 141 receiving yards and 238 all-purpose yards including his work as a punt returner.
NOT A LOT LOST FROM 2008
? UCF returns 10 starters and the majority of its offensive production from 2008.
Rushing Leaders (100% returns)
-Brynn Harvey - 125 ATT, 519 YDS, 1 TD
-Ronnie Weaver - 102 ATT, 348 YDS, 2 TD
Passing Leaders (100% returns)
-Rob Calabrese - 65-165-5 INT, 7 TD, 664 YDS
-Michael Greco - 52-107-4 INT, 5 TD, 571 YDS
-Joe Weatherford - 15-36-2 INT, 0 TD, 160 YDS
Receiving Leaders (99.6% returns)
-Brian Watters - 42 REC, 594 YDS, 3 TD
-Kamar Aiken - 20 REC, 244 YDS, 1 TD
-Khymest Williams - 17 REC, 114 YDS, 3 TD
The only player lost from 2008 was wide receiver Sidney Haynes (3 REC, 10 YDS, 0 TD).
? Three of the five Knights who finished 2008 as starters on the offensive line also return. Junior Jah Reid, who played right guard, and sophomore Nick Pieschel, who played left guard, both move one spot over to the tackle positions in 2009. Senior Ian Bustillo remains at center.
? The newcomers on the line, junior Abré Leggins, senior Cliff McCray and redshirt freshman Steven Robinson, rotate at guard. Leggins transferred from Copiah-Lincoln JC and also attended Michigan State, while Robinson picked up a redshirt last year at UCF. McCray started the final seven games of the 2007 C-USA Championship season for UCF but was not with the team last fall.
YOUNG GETTING WISER
? Junior outside linebacker Lawrence Young leads all returners with 72 tackles. Through two games in 2009 he has five TFLs, to rank ninth nationally, and a sack. Young is also tied for the team-lead with 16 total tackles.
ROBINSON GOES NORTH AT SOUTHERN MISS
? True freshman Josh Robinson made his first career start on Sept. 12 at Southern Miss and came away leading the Knights with a total of 10 tackles, all of them solo. He also broke up a pass against the Golden Eagles.
NALL ALL-IN AGAIN
? While several key members of the 2007 defense missed all or most of 2008, UCF welcomes back Darius Nall who missed last year while undergoing treatments for cancer. Nall was a member of the 2007 C-USA All-Freshman Team and will see ample time this fall at DE.
FRONT SEVEN INTACT
? UCF brings back almost the entire two-deep from a fearsome front seven in 2008. UCF was third in the nation in TFLs a year ago and 26th in sacks. As a whole, the Knights led C-USA in both rushing defense and passing efficiency defense while ranking second in total defense and scoring defense. UCF started the 2009 season right where it left off with nine TFLs vs. Samford. UCF had six more, three of them sacks, at Southern Miss in week two. The Knights presently rank 29th nationally in tackles for loss.
? Overall, UCF returns players from last year's front seven who accounted for 346 tackles, including 65.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks in 2008 alone.
SENIORS REPLACED BY JUNIORS
? UCF lost four seniors in the secondary from 1008, but a group of juniors and true freshmen are stepping up. At the corners in the opener were Justin Boddie and Darin Baldwin. True freshman Josh Robinson started for Boddie at Southern Miss and led the team with 10 stops. Meanwhile, Reggie Weams and Derrick Hallman have settled in at the safety positions. Hallman was an honorable mention All-C-USA linebacker last fall who is returning to his more natural position in safety. When UCF goes to the nickel, true freshman Kemal Ishmael and senior Michael Greco, a converted quarterback, take to the field.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
COVERING LIKE A BLANKET
? UCF has proven quite adept at covering its punts and kickoffs thus far in 2009. UCF ranks second in the nation in punt return yardage against and seventh in kickoff return yardage against. With punter Blake Clingan's improved hang time, UCF foes have returned just three of his 12 punts for a total of minus-two yards (-0.67 avg.). Only Louisiana Tech is better at minus-four yards on four returns (-1.00 avg.). UCF has yielded 103 yards on seven kickoff returns against (14.71 avg.) this year to rank seventh in the country and first in C-USA.
THIRD IN THE NATION IN KICKOFF RET.
? UCF is excelling in both phases of kickoffs as the Knights also rank third in the nation with an average of 37.22 yards per kick return. Only Arkansas and Florida are ahead of UCF. Meanwhile, the Knights are a solid 29th in punt returns as well, averaging 13.13 yards per try.
THREE RETURNS OVER 70 YARDS
? The season is just two weeks old and UCF has three different players who have returned a kickoff for at least 72 yards. Quincy McDuffie had a 95-yard touchdown against Samford, Jamar Newsome had an 89-yard run back at Southern Miss and Darin Baldwin had a 72-yard return against Samford. It marks the first time in UCF history that the Knights have had three separate players run a kickoff back at least 72 yards in the same season. Newsome's has the dubious honor of being the longest non-scoring play of any type in UCF history.
UCF SETS RECORD VS. SAMFORD
? UCF had a combined 289 yards of special teams yardage vs. Samford (190 kickoff returns, 99 punt returns). This is a FBS-era (since 1996) school record eclipsing the 281 yards (240/41) that UCF had against East Carolina in 2007.
UCF IS ONE OF FIVE
? UCF, Arkansas, Clemson, FIU and Texas are the only teams in the nation that have returned at least one kickoff for a TD in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons.
McDUFFIE'S: I'M LOVIN IT
? True freshman Quincy McDuffie had an auspicious debut for the Knights against Samford. The Orlando native ran a kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth-longest return in school history. Curiously, of UCF's 12 all-time kickoff return touchdowns, six have been by freshmen. McDuffie's was the first in a season-opener.
THREE YEARS IN A ROW
? With McDuffie's kickoff return touchdown, UCF has now returned a kickoff for a touchdown in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Joe Burnett ran back kickoffs for scores against USF and Miami last year. In 2007, Curtis Francis had one against East Carolina and Khymest Williams also had one against SMU.
NOT A ROCKY DEBUT
? Rocky Ross saw his first career action as a punt returner against Samford and averaged 15.17 yards per return, gaining 91 on six tries with a long of 39. Ross currently ranks 18th nationally by average. His six total returns led the nation on opening weekend.
UCF VS. BUFFALO
? UCF is 5-1 all-time against Buffalo, winning each of the first five meetings between the sides before falling in the most recent contest, 48-20, in 2004. UCF went 2-1 against UB when the Knights were fellow members of the Mid-American Conference from 2002-04. UCF is 4-0 against the Bulls in Orlando with each of those games being played at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The teams split a pair of games at UB Stadium in 2002 and 2004. UCF won three games from 1992-94 against UB when both teams played at the Division I-AA level. Saturday's game will mark the first time that UCF has faced a MAC school since leaving the league to join Conference USA in 2005. UCF will face the Bulls next fall at UB Stadium in Amherst, N.Y.
CHAMPIONS COME TO TOWN
? The Bulls will be the first defending conference champion to ever oppose the Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium. UB won the MAC title last year with an upset win over Ball State in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit before going on to represent the league against Connecticut of the BIG EAST at the International Bowl in Toronto. Defending champions of course did play here six times in 2008 as UCF was the defending C-USA champions last fall. UCF's last non-conference home game against a defending conference champion was on Nov. 11, 2000 against defending BIG EAST champion Virginia Tech.
? The Knights have five native New Yorkers although none are from the Buffalo area. They are Nick Black (Bemus Point), Jamie Boyle (Central Valley), Rob Calabrese (Islip Terrace), Brendan Kelly (Shoreham) and Latavius Murray (Nedrow). In addition, George O'Leary is a native Long Islander (Central Islip) who coached at both Central Islip HS and Liverpool HS before beginning his collegiate coaching career at Syracuse from 1980-86...None of Buffalo's Floridians are from the Orlando area...UCF's James Poe and UB's Kenny Scott were teammates last year at Georgia Military College...UB freshman Branden Oliver attended Miami's Southridge High School as did UCF fifth-year senior Cliff McCray. Oliver did play at Southridge with McCray's younger twin brothers Jordan and Justin.