John Denton's Knights Insider Insights

Sept. 12, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The significance of playing on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon wasn't lost on UCF senior defensive tackle Wes Tunuufi Sauvao, whose family roots run deep in the military.

Tunuufi Sauvao's father has served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq with the United States Army. For a second straight season, Tunuufi Sauvao led the Knights onto the field while carrying an American flag to honor his father and the military.

Just the mention of the 9/11 attacks and the usually boisterous Tunuufi Sauvao turns serious and reflective.

``For me it was a big deal because I lost my father over the next three years with the start of the war,'' Tunuufi Sauvao said of his father, who lives in Alaska. ``He's done three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it's also a great sense of pride to see him and go serve the country and unite and try to make society a better place.''

Tunuufi Sauvao said that if he weren't playing for the Knights, he would likely be in the military like his father. He graduated from UCF back in the spring and he said someday he might be a service member. Tunuufi Sauvao was proud that UCF scheduled several events to honor the military on Saturday and he was proud to carry the flag once again.

``It's a great thing to give back to the military and the people who put their lives on the line every day so that we can enjoy a college football game and do what we do,'' he said.


AMERICAN IDOL RETURNS: Former UCF defensive tackle Michael Lynche, a finalist on the wildly popular talent show American Idol last fall, became the first person to sing the national anthem at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday.

Lynche, known as ``Big Mike'' on Idol, played for the Knights for two seasons from 2001-02. As a freshman he had 24 tackles with eight tackles for loss and a sack. As a sophomore, Lynche played in all 12 games and started each of the last three. He had at least one tackle in 11 of those games and finished the year with 46 tackles, a pair of sacks and six tackles for losses.

Lynche left the team just before the start of the 2003 season, returning to his native St. Petersburg to help care for his ailing mother, Michele, who died of cancer in 2004.

``I love the Knights,'' said Lynche, who recently finished an Idol tour and hopes to have his first solo album out in the fall. ``UCF is trying to get up with the big boys now and I'm proud of them. We have this new stadium, great uniforms and players going to the NFL. It shows how we're coming up as a program.''


DOWNER OF A DAY: No one could blame ACC fans for already casting an eye toward basketball season following Saturday's disastrous day for the conference.

Clearly still reeling from Monday's loss to Boise State, Virginia Tech was stunned by James Madison on Saturday. Georgia Tech was upset in Kansas, while Florida State and Miami were throttled by Oklahoma and Ohio State respectively.

Wake Forest struggled to defeat conference doormat Duke 54-48. Clemson, Boston College and Maryland pounded lesser opponents, while Virginia kicked off late against USC.


ETC: Much like in the season-opening game against South Dakota, UCF's defense played significantly better in the second half. The Knights gave up just five first downs and 65 yards in the final two quarters on Saturday night. UCF allowed just six first downs and 79 yards in the second half of the opener. ... Bruce Miller's sack in the second half was the 28th of his career, the most among any active player in college football. He's now tied for sixth all time in Conference USA history in sacks along with Southern Miss's Michael Boley and East Carolina's Roderick Coleman. ... At one point in the first half on Saturday, NC State had 110 yards rushing compared to UCF's minus-one yard. UCF coach George O'Leary was upset about the lack of a running game, saying that it caused the Knights to be too one-dimensional. ... Quincy McDuffie's 93-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was UCF's first kickoff runback since, well, McDuffie took back a 95-yarder in last season's opener. McDuffie got a key block from Khymest Williams on the play. ... South Dakota, which was whipped 38-7 by UCF in the opener, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college football weekend by beating the Big 10's Minnesota on Saturday.


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