Marc Daniels' From the Press Box: Little Apple Awaits Knights

Sept. 20, 2010

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By Marc Daniels

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - I have such fond memories of my last visit to Manhattan, Kan. Back in early January 2003, the UCF men's basketball team played at Kansas State. I drove through, what I believe most call a blizzard, from Kansas City to the campus in the town known as the "Little Apple." When I checked into the hotel, I remember telling the woman how the bad the snow on my drive was.

I also remember her telling me: "That's no blizzard. That's what we call flurries." My dear, it was so cold even the snowman came inside. But the good news is the forecast calls for temperatures near 80 when the Knights and Wildcats kickoff Saturday.

Before we get to the state Dorothy and Toto called home, here are the leftovers from the UCF win at Buffalo:

Ronnie Weaver is what college football is about: The former walk-on just wanted to play college football somewhere. The Vero Beach product came to UCF seeking a chance to show the coaches he would do anything to play. All Weaver has done at UCF is play on the scout team, make tackles on specials teams, help other running backs learn the offensive system, block to help quarterbacks have time to throw, start games, not get into games and never stop smiling. Weaver was not a four or five-star recruit. But he is the ultimate team player and appreciates playing college football sometimes more than those highly recruited players. Weaver scored twice at Buffalo and there's no ovation loud enough to appreciate the Ronnie Weavers of college football.

Darius Nall is what college football is about: The fact that Nall is playing again is a story in itself. Does anyone think anything could be tougher than battling cancer? All Nall has done in his journey back is become a beast on the defensive line. His nine-tackle, two-sack performance at Buffalo was his third-straight game in which he shined, and while much attention is on Bruce Miller, UCF's next great pass rusher is Darius Nall.

Godfrey was good enough: There was not a 400-yard passing performance or three rushing touchdowns, but Jeff's poise and leadership on UCF's 15-play, 90-yard drive should not go unnoticed. Godfrey may have been just 3-for-3 on the drive, but there was no sign of a nervous rookie under center. If anything, he looked like a veteran. It was Godfrey who directed receivers where to be out of the huddle. It was Godfrey checking off when he needed to. Leadership is more than stats and Godfrey scored in his first start.

Yellow is not a good color: After being among the least penalized teams in the country last season, the Knights have hurt themselves this season in that category. Seven flags hurt drives on offense and allowed Buffalo to score its only touchdown when a defensive penalty negated a third-down incompletion at the 16. Winning at Kansas State is challenging enough, penalties cannot be an additional obstacle.

Speaking of Kansas State, the Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2006 after opening Big 12 play with a win over Iowa State, 27-20, in a game played in Kansas City. Bill Snyder is in his second season of his second tour as coach of the program he guided from one of the worst in the country to a power. Kansas State won 11 games for six years over a seven-season run from 1997-03. Last season, Kansas State played Nebraska for the Big 12 North title on the final week of the season. They fell 17-3 and at 6-6 did not play in a bowl game. Kansas State has a bye week after the UCF game and then hosts Nebraska on a Thursday night. The Wildcats feature one of the best running backs in the nation that few people even know and that's where our key matchups begin.

Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas vs. UCF's defense: Thomas is a bruising 6-foot-2, 230-pound back who was a quarterback in junior college. He ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He carried the ball 34 times for 181 yards against Iowa State. It was his third-straight 100-yard game and he is averaging 184 yards per game this season. Thomas might be a first round NFL pick and the Knights' defense will be challenged to stop the run. UCF's young defensive tackles will be tested by an offensive line that features four returning starters from last season.

Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman vs. UCF's defensive ends: Coffman is a first-time starter and has been slow to get going through three games. He completed just six passes last week and had an interception returned for a touchdown. UCF's ends have had two solid games and will need to get the heat on Coffman early.

UCF wide receivers vs. Kansas State's defense: Yes, we all know Jeff Godfrey will need to make plays and use his legs in this game but the Knights' receivers need to come up big. UCF needs someone to break a play and turn a small gain into a big gain and take it to the house. At Buffalo, UCF's longest play was Bruce Miller's interception return for a score. On offense, the biggest play was a Godfrey 27-yard pass to Kamar Aiken. The Knights have not had a 40-yard play this season.

Win the turnover and penalty categories: UCF cannot get flagged and kill drives or big returns. Quincy McDuffie is becoming one of the best kick returners in the country, and pushes in the back when McDuffie is already passed cannot happen. The Knights got turnovers at Buffalo and did not cough it up. The same formula goes a long way at Kansas State.

Kansas State is 37-3 at home vs. non-conference opponents since 1996...How much does Kansas State and its fans think of head coach Bill Snyder? The game Saturday will be played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium...Manhattan was settled in 1885 and is listed by Money Magazine as one of the top 10 places to retire (I thought Florida owned the top 250 spots on that list).

Knights notes and more: A little promo here for the starting lineup segment on our radio pregame show before games. The players introduce themselves and I can assure you every player needed only one take when we recorded. Well, one take for the one we chose to use...Torell Troup paid a visit to the UCF hotel in Buffalo. Two days later he squared off against former Knight teammate Josh Sitton, now of the Green Bay Packers...Traveler of the year? Kicker Jamie Boyle's dad. I had the good fortune of talking with Mr. Boyle in Buffalo. He attends all games, home and away. Did I mention he lives in Central Valley, N.Y.? This week he will fly from Manhattan to Manhattan. Actually, he will fly to Kansas City and then drive to the game...Final thought: A man outside a Buffalo restaurant asked the radio crew what part of the state the University of Central Florida was located in. My answer? East of South Florida.

Marc Daniels' From the Press Box runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.