Nov. 28, 2009
By Brian Ormiston
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UCFAthletics.com) - Already with a bowl berth locked up, UCF looked like it was on a mission to reach the postseason playing its best football of the year, and it accomplished that goal by taking down UAB on the road Saturday, 34-27. Along with it being their sixth-straight Conference USA triumph, the Knights (8-4, 6-2) recorded their eighth win in 2009, marking the third time in the last five seasons they posted eight victories or more.
UCF led by as many as 17 in the second half and held off a late rally by the Blazers (5-7, 4-4) to preserve the win. The Black and Gold has now scored 120 points in its last three outings.
Sophomore running back Brynn Harvey became the eighth back in UCF history, and fourth in the FBS era, to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season, accumulating 130 Saturday to give him 1,077 yards this year. While it was Harvey's third 100-yard rushing game in a row, he also posted his 14th rushing touchdown, tied with Marquette Smith for the second most in a single-season at UCF (trails Kevin Smith's 29 TDs in 2007).
Senior quarterback Brett Hodges completed 24-of-38 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with 10 different receivers on the day, the most since 10 Knights pulled in a catch against Miami (Ohio) exactly six years ago on Nov. 28, 2003.
Wide receiver Kamar Aiken had three of those receptions and notched his seventh touchdown catch of the year, which is the most by a receiver since Mike Sims-Walker collected seven in 2006. Also helping out Hodges, senior Rocky Ross had a team-high six catches, giving him 153 all-time as a Knight, which is good for seventh in school history.
Defensively, Josh Robinson picked off his sixth pass of 2009, setting a UCF record for most interceptions by a freshman. It also ranks second all-time, trailing only Keith Evans' eight picks in 1986.
For the second-straight game, the Knights reached the endzone on their first possession, using 10 plays to go 66 yards for the opening 7-0 lead. UCF worked the Blazer defense with six pass plays and four rushes, capped off by Hodges hitting Aiken with a 12-yard TD pass, the fourth different receiver to record a catch on the drive.
UAB struck back quickly with a five-play drive, including three plays of at least 20 yards, highlighted by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Joe Webb to Patrick Hearn.
And the offensive output continued when the Black and Gold regained possession with Hodges going 4-for-5 and Harvey amassing 30 yards on the ground, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Nick Cattoi. Following a three-and-out by UAB, Hodges hit Adam Nissley with a 22-yard pass to move UCF into Blazer territory, and the eight-play drive was wrapped up when Hodges found Billy Giovanetti on a five-yard scoring reception. It was the first-career touchdown catch for the redshirt freshman.
Now trailing 17-7 early in the second quarter, the Blazers wanted to keep punching back and did so when Webb scampered for a 53-yard touchdown run. However, UCF's defense eventually stood its ground by holding UAB to its own 11-yard line, forcing a punt. And A.J. Guyton took advantage by returning it 22 yards and tacked on 15 more on a very late hit out of bounds. Starting at the UAB-12, true freshman Jonathan Davis needed just two rushes to cross the goal line, enabling the Knights to take a 24-14 lead into halftime.
And when the third quarter kicked off, Robinson ruined the Blazers' attempt to cut into their deficit, intercepting a pass by Webb at the UCF-31. Hodges and the Knights' offense then picked up small chunks of yards before Harvey escaped for a 25-yard touchdown run, making it 31-14.
A 17-point cushion may have been a reason to smile, but UAB was not ready to walk away. Opening up a drive on their 20-yard line, the Blazers converted a 3rd-and-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter en route to the endzone, with Webb hooking up with Jeffrey Anderson on a 34-yard TD play.
Cattoi pushed through a 36-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, set up by a 45-yard run from Davis, to boost UCF's lead to 34-21 with just under 12 minutes left. And when the Knights were forced to punt for the first time, Webb guided UAB down inside the UCF-10 only to see his fourth-down pass to Mario Wright come up inches short.
The Blazers tried again, quickly advancing into the redzone, and this time capitalized when Frantrell Forrest pulled in a five-yard pass, yet the extra-point was blocked by Torrell Troup to keep it a seven-point game with 2:49 to go. And that was how it ended as in UAB's last drive, it was forced to try and gain 89 yards in the final 1:06, but could only reach the UCF-39 when Webb's fourth-down pass to Forrest fell incomplete.
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