John Denton's Knights Insider

Oct. 5, 2009

By John Denton

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UCF got a clutch performance from quarterback Brett Hodges, a career day from tailback Brynn Harvey and a strong outing from its defense in a runaway 32-14 defeat of the University of Memphis on Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium.

The victory helped UCF improve to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in Conference USA play. The Knights now have a week off before hosting state-rival Miami in what could very well be the most important game ever held at Bright House Networks Stadium.

But before we move ahead to the much-anticipated game against the `Canes on Oct. 17, let's look back at the five things that we learned from last Saturday's fifth consecutive defeat of Memphis.

1. Brynn Harvey is becoming a workhorse back for UCF.
Harvey added muscle and weight in the offseason, knowing that he'd get a chance to increase his workload as UCF's featured back this season. But never did he think he'd be lugging the football this much.

Harvey, a sophomore from Largo, battered Memphis for 219 yards on 42 carries. It was the third-most carries in school history and the sixth most rushing yards in UCF history.

What made it more impressive was that the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Harvey seemed to pick up strength as the game progressed. He ran the ball on UCF's last nine plays, the final one a 25-yard thing of beauty in which he ran through a tackle. He had 155 yards in the second half alone, helping UCF seal the big win.

It is the third time this season that Harvey has carried the ball at least 25 times in a game - all UCF victories. He said the large number of carries does not bother him and he doesn't worry about wearing himself down because he has conditioned his body to take the pounding.

"I'm a humble guy, but I once carried the ball 51 times as a senior in high school," Harvey said. "But I've got to say that 42 carries on the college level is a different feeling. My body will be banged up a little, but I'll be all right.

"It's just a nice feeling knowing that the team is relying on me like they are."

2. Ricky Kay and Adam Nissley took advantage of their big opportunities.
Sadly, Corey Rabazinski's suffered a second consecutive season-ending injury on Saturday when he was rolled up from behind and his leg collapsed under him.

But one person's misfortune created an opportunity for Kay and Nissley, and both proved themselves ready to take over at tight end.

Kay repeatedly beat Memphis' linebackers to the flat and caught four passes for 52 yards. His 7-yard snag for a touchdown on the final play of the third period put the Knights ahead 15-14.

Said Kay: "This is kind of how I've gotten here now - by taking advantage of the opportunities that I have gotten. I couldn't believe that Memphis never covered that play, and I just took advantage of it."

Nissley, who has tremendous size with a 6-foot-6, 264-pound frame, had a 34-yard catch and run late in the third period to set up another UCF score. Used primarily as a blocker this season, Nissley showed great acceleration on the play and the Knights would be wise to use him more in the passing game in the future.

3. UCF's rested defense comes through again.
Because UCF's offense moved the ball at will most of the day and controlled the clock, UCF's defense was on the field for just 21 minutes. And it was a very productive 21 minutes as UCF racked up two interceptions, three sacks and held the Tigers to just 4 of 14 on third and fourth downs. Take away Memphis' 61-yard pass for a score in the second quarter and it would have been a flawless day for the Knights defense.

Junior defensive end Bruce Miller was the defensive star of the game with 2.5 sacks and five tackles. But he had plenty of help. Derrick Hallman moved from free safety back to linebacker to replace the injured Jordan Richards and contributed six tackles and a stop for a loss.

Standout freshman cornerback Josh Robinson had his first interception of his collegiate career. And middle linebacker Cory Hogue intercepted his first pass since 2005 in addition to leading the team with seven tackles.

4. Brett Hodges delivers in the red zone.
UCF drove the ball into Memphis territory on each of its first five drives, but mustered just three points because of troubles inside the 20-yard line. It's been a problem most of the season, but UCF solved their issues on this day.

Hodges hit Kay for the 7-yard touchdown that put UCF up to stay late in the third quarter. And his 22-yard scoring strike to Jamar Newsome with 7:28 to play was a thing of beauty. When his first and second options were covered, Hodges simply bought time with his feet and found Newsome on the backside. He threw a strike for the touchdown that basically sealed the victory for the Knights.

Said Hodges: "We just have to keep working on finishing drives and finishing plays."

5. UCF has momentum and rest before hosting Miami.
Some will argue that the 2007 game against No. 6 Texas to open Bright House Networks Stadium was more significant or home defeat of Tulsa for the Conference USA title was more important. But you can certainly make the case that the upcoming game against the Hurricanes might be the biggest home game in school history.

Miami is ranked No. 11 in the country and is fresh off a 21-20 defeat of Oklahoma. The `Canes emerged from a tough starting stretch by going 3-1, and many have proclaimed the Miami program to be back among the national powers.

A UCF defeat of Miami would give the Knights some national acclaim and it would even trump the success that USF had at Florida State two weeks ago.

More importantly, a UCF defeat of Miami would give the Knights even more ammunition in the recruiting battles in South Florida. A significant portion of the roster - 29 players - hail from South Florida and 10 are from Miami alone. Beating the `Canes could allow UCF to make even greater inroads into South Florida's fertile talent base.

Miami hosts Florida A&M this Saturday, while UCF has the week off to prepare for the arrival of the `Canes. UCF returns to the practice field on Thursday and the time off from football should do the team good.

UCF was in position to beat Miami last season, but lost 20-14 in South Florida. The Knights will enter this game with the confidence that they are very much capable of knocking off the nation's 11th ranked team.

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.