John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF-K-State Game Will Be Decided in Trenches

Sept. 24, 2010

="" alt="Knight Head" border="0" class="imported"> Read John Denton's Knights Insider | ="" alt="Twitter Logo" border="0" class="imported">Follow us on Twitter | ="" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" class="imported">Get social with the Knights on Facebook

By John Denton

MANHATTAN, Kan. (UCFAthletics.com) - Saturday's nationally televised game between UCF and Kansas State is headlined by the dazzling playmaking abilities of Knights' quarterback Jeff Godfrey and the dynamic running skills of Wildcats' tailback Daniel Thomas. But it's the classic David versus Goliath battle on the lines that will ultimately decide the game's winner.

Kansas State's offensive line is one of the biggest and most talented groups that the Knights will see this season, averaging 6-foot-4 and 314.8 pounds. All five linemen weight at least 305 pounds. That massive line has allowed Thomas to become the nation's second-leading rusher with 552 yards and six touchdowns.

Conversely, UCF's defensive line of Bruce Miller, Darius Nall, David Williams, Victor Gray and E.J. Dunston rely more on their quickness and speed instead of mass. UCF's ability to withstand the punishment from K-State's massive line could be the determining factor in Saturday's game that kicks off at 12:30 p.m.

``We're a hit-and-get team, so we've got to hit them and then get off blocks and get some things done,'' UCF coach George O'Leary said. ``They have a good offensive line and a great running back so we'll have our work cut out for us defensively.''

The primary reason for K-State's success is Thomas, a Hilliard, Fla, native who originally committed to the University of Florida before having to attend Junior College. He ran the ball a career-high 34 times last week against Iowa State and ground out 181 yards. He run for 234 and 181 yards in the first two games and has averaged 6.7 yards a carry for the season.

And what has impressed the Knights most is how Thomas as run with power and made would-be tacklers miss with his shiftiness. At 6-foot-2 and 228 poinds, he's almost the same size as UCF defensive ends Miller (6-2, 255) and Williams (6-2, 235).

``Against a back like him you have to be prepared for it because the average back is nowhere near that size,'' said Williams, who tied a career-high with seven tackles last week at Buffalo. ``He so shifty too. For his size, his athleticism is almost unforeseen in college football. Body weight we'll only have 20 or 30 pounds on him with our defensive ends. So we'll just have to attack him hard and gang tackle him.''

Just as Thomas has sparked the Wildcats, Godfrey has breathed life into UCF's offense with his playmaking skills with his feet and his powerful right arm. Despite being a true freshman, he's yet to throw an interception in three games and he's directed five fourth-quarter touchdown drives. So far, he's completed 28 of his 41 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown. And because he's so adept at scrambling, he's already UCF's second-leading rusher with 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Clearly mature beyond his years, Godfrey said one of the keys to his success is remaining calm and poised in stressful situations. He rallied UCF to two scoring drives two weeks ago against NC State, and last week he engineered a game-winning, 90-yard scoring drive that allowed the Knights to defeat Buffalo 24-10.

``It's just another game in the way for us,'' Godfrey said. ``(UCF players) have my back and I have their back. (Kansas State) is just another game in my way to my destination and that's it. ... Just go out there and have fun, don't play nervous and do your assignments and that's it.''

O'Leary is anxious to see how Godfrey, a prep star in Miami a year ago, handles the crowd noise at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and swarming Kansas State defense on Saturday. Kansas State has announced a sellout for the game, and in anticipation of that UCF practiced this week with crowd noise in the background. And in an attempt to make matters more confusing for Godfrey, O'Leary expects to blitz the young quarterback from all angles the way Buffalo did a week ago.

``They are a seven- and eight-man front and he's seen just about everything,'' O'Leary said. ``If we have to calm him down a little bit, we'll do that. But he's a different kind of kid than most normal freshmen. For a young kid, he's been outstanding.''

O'Leary also knows that Godfrey can do UCF's undersized defensive line a favor by controlling the ball and playing keep-away from Thomas and Kansas State's big offensive line. Kansas State is 7-3 the past two seasons when it has won the time of possession battle, and O'Leary wants his offense to keep the chains moving and in control of the football.

``As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense,'' he said. ``We have to move the chains and limit the three-and-outs. Anytime you play away it's a field position game. They're a good football team and they are 3-0 for a reason, so we'll have to play well and do a lot of things right.''


Click here to receive the Knights Insider via email

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