John Denton's Knights Insider Tulane Game Preview

Nov. 20, 2009

By John Denton

Saturday will most likely be the final home game for 13 UCF football seniors - some of them like Cory Hogue and Rocky Ross who have been around the program five seasons and other who are short-timers like transfer quarterback Brett Hodges.

Regardless their backgrounds and amount of time on campus, UCF's senior class is unified in the notion that these Knights have scratched, clawed and fought to make something grand out of a season that was somewhat shaky just weeks ago.

UCF shook out of a 3-3 start to the season by winning three of the past four games with the only loss coming on the road against No. 2 Texas in a nonconference game. In the process of becoming bowl eligible, UCF routed Rice, won a one-point thriller against Marshall in the final seconds and stunned No. 12 Houston for its first defeat of a ranked team.

And now, UCF heads into today's home finale against Tulane riding the momentum of a feel-good stretch in which it basically saved the season. The Knights (6-4 overall, 4-2 in Conference USA play) need to keep winning to keep alive their conference title hopes, but they want these final two games against Tulane and UAB in order to finish what they started.

A fitting analogy for the season has been the fact that UCF has trailed at halftime of nine of its 10 games. But the Knights haven't quit in games and they haven't quit on the season.

``We've tried to make sure nobody quits and no one quits on themselves,'' said Hogue, the fifth-year senior whose been solid at middle linebacker all season. ``We keep fighting through practice and we never let down and it's showed in a lot of these games. And in this home stretch of the season, guys haven't quit, they've kept fighting and we've gotten a lot of wins.''

Hodges, who transferred in to the UCF program from Wake Forest, admitted that the game will be an emotional one for him. His return has been like the stuff out of Hollywood with the local boy (a Winter Spring native) coming back to rescue the program he grew up rooting for as a child.

And as good as the storyline has been, Hodges has backed it up on the field. At one point in last Saturday's defeat of Houston, he completed 12 consecutive passes and he hit on 21 of 25 in the game for 241 yards and a touchdown to Quincy McDuffie.

``This is something that I've worked hard for, not only this year but the past four years at Wake Forest. I really believe that all things happen for a reason,'' said Hodges, whose thrown for 1,779 yards and 11 touchdowns. ``I had the opportunity to come down here and help this team win and personally I couldn't have asked for much more.''

UCF couldn't ask for much more from senior defensive tackle Torrell Troup, the anchor of a Knights defense that ranks third nationally against the run behind only No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Alabama. Considered one of the nation's best defensive linemen, Troup will undoubtedly play in the NFL soon. But he said he considers the acclaim that UCF is getting nationally now for its defense to be one of the highlights to his football career.

``I definitely feel like the credit that we're starting to get is well-deserved because we have worked our butts off to get to this point,'' said Troup, who was selected recently to play in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game in Orlando. ``We've been well-prepared as a defense, we've worked hard and we've stepped up to every challenge.''

Having been in the program for five years, Hogue has seen the many highs and lows at UCF. He was around for the long losing streak five years ago and he's proud to say he's been a part of the football revival at UCF.

``I'd still have to say my greatest moment was when I was a freshman and we won that first Marshall game and got rid of that 0-17 (losing streak),'' Hogue said. ``And now to have the Marshall win this year - that was a great one - and beating a ranked (Houston) team, it's been fun.''