John Denton's Knights Insider

Nov. 5, 2009

By John Denton

In an odd twist of fate, UCF's game on Saturday against No. 2 Texas actually pales in comparison to the importance level of the Nov. 14 showdown against Conference USA rival Houston.

But don't try telling UCF's players that the game this Saturday in Austin against the powerhouse Longhorns is a totally meaningless game. Football players simply aren't wired like that, and every time they strap on the headgear they are out there playing for something.

No, the matchup against Texas has no conference title implications. But it still is a game the Knights desperately want to use as a measuring stick against one of the nation's elite programs.

"I can see why people might think this game is meaningless and next week isn't because it's a conference game, but I couldn't tell you one thing about Houston right now," senior wide receiver Rocky Ross said. "Our mindset is all about Texas right now. Texas is the most important game of our season right now."

UCF won a pretty important game last Sunday night, beating Marshall 21-20 in dramatic fashion. Ross caught a one-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left and Nick Cattoi kicked the game-winning extra point, allowing UCF to wipe out a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit. Ross said the celebration from the Marshall win stretched well into Monday, and the team got a noticeable lift from the exhilarating come-from-behind victory.

"That was a big, big win for us," linebacker Cory Hogue said. "It gave the offense more confidence and showed them they can come back and score points when we need them to. And defensively we held Marshall to three points in the second half. So everyone is upbeat and we have a great mindset going into Saturday."

UCF will need an excellent effort to keep pace with Texas, owners of Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Colt McCoy and arguably the country's most complete defense. The Longhorns are a 36-point favorite, but many of the UCF players scoff at those odds and point back to the 2007 game between the two schools. UCF narrowly missed pulling off a major upset against Texas, losing 35-32 in the first-ever game at Bright House Networks Stadium.

"We know who Texas is and they know who we are," Ross said with confidence. "From my years of playing football, I'm sure their coach is telling them not to take us lightly because of what happened a couple of years ago. But they're a different team now and we are too. We'll just have to see what happens on Saturday."

What won't happen on Saturday, Hogue said, is UCF won't mail this game in because it has no bearing on the Conference USA race. The Knights game against No. 15 Houston next Saturday is shaping up to be a huge game because it could potentially vault UCF back atop the East Division race. But the focus for that game will come in due time, and for now the emphasis is on the Longhorns, Hogue said.

"Whenever you play a big team like Texas you look at it as a great opportunity for your team," he said. "You want to see how you as a team and an individual match up against those teams. We go out there approaching it like every game is a one-game season and this is the biggest week of the season because it's now. We have the mindset that this game is as big as any conference game we'll play."

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.