John Denton's Knights Insider: Knights Hope to Keep Momentum On Their Side Against Rice

Oct. 22, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFathletics.com) - Momentum in football can be a funny thing. It can appear - or disappear for that matter - during drives, in the middle of games and or even the midst of a season. Teams often don't know how they got it, but when they have control of momentum they try to ride it like a surfer on a tidal wave.

Owners of consecutive wins in nationally televised games and playing its best football of the season, UCF has plenty of momentum and good vibes on its side right now. Halfway through the season, the Knights are a solid 4-2 overall and 2-0 in Conference USA play. And the belief now is that if the Knights can whip lowly Rice (2-5, 1-2) in Saturday's Homecoming Game at Bright House Networks Stadium, they can take a three-game winning streak and loads of momentum into their biggest three-game stretch of the season.

``I think confidence and success go hand in hand,'' UCF coach George O'Leary said, referring to the momentum the Knights are riding now. ``I don't think we are very cocky. We are confident in some of the things we are doing. They have had some success. We haven't really changed a lot as far as we have added a little bit more each week to the offensive package and defensively playing a little bit more man coverage. Other than that the kids are settling in on who they are and what they have to get done and accomplish.

``Momentum is the name of the game in football, but each week is a new adventure.''

Clearly, UCF is on a roll now and has fully recovered from two heartbreaking early-season losses to NC State and Kansas State. A play or two here or there in those games and the Knights could very well be looking at a perfect 6-0 record and a possible spot in the Top 25 rankings right now.

But as it is, the Knights like their positioning near the top the C-USA standings and know that they can control their destiny by continuing to beat their conference foes. A win in Saturday's game against Rice would push the Knights to 3-0 in league play and set the stage for next week's massive showdown against East Carolina (4-2, 3-0). But the Knights aren't looking past Rice, especially after the Owls upset Houston last week, and want to keep their feel-good vibes intact.

``I'm a big believer in momentum, and we're all playing pretty well right now,'' freshman defensive tackle Victor Gray said. ``When the defense is doing good it seems like the offense does good. And with those two doing well, special teams gets to rolling. We just don't want to let each other down. When you have it rolling the game goes by fast and you just want to play again and again.''

The Knights are feeling good about themselves because they are playing as well offensively and defensively as they have all season. UCF ranks in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense and passing defense. That kind of efficiency has allowed the Knights to score twice as many points as their foes this season (173-83).

``This defense is only as good as we feel and think that we are,'' senior defensive tackle Wes Tunuufi Sauvao said. ``We have the momentum right now and that helps us in practice. It makes us feel good about ourselves and we want to practice good to not let the team down and not let our coaches down. We try to practice at game speed and take every day as if we're playing that day.''

And offensively, true freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey has settled into the position as a playmaker with his arm and his legs for the Knights. He's completing 61.5 percent of his passes - many of them coming on third downs to keep drives alive - and he's run for 310 yards and four scores this season.

``I think there's a better consistency with him now and more pocket presence,'' O'Leary said of his freshman phenom quarterback from Miami. ``Each game you see something new from him. Quarterbacks are a manner of their experience and each game he should show more consistency. The one thing I like is that he has more pocket presence and isn't looking to take off and run at the least little thing. That's the biggest improvement that he's made.''

Godfrey had split time of late with Rob Calabrese, but that's no longer an option with the junior quarterback tearing the ACL in his left knee in the 35-14 defeat of Marshall last week. Calabrese, will soon undergo season-ending knee surgery, meaning the back-up duties now fall on L.D. Crow. The Stanford transfer has yet to throw a pass this season for the Knights, but he displayed a strong arm from the pocket during preseason drills.

The Knights have also got a big lift of late from junior tailback Ronnie Weaver, who has stabilized the running game with his gritty play. With standout Brynn Harvey recovering from knee surgery and Jonathan Davis struggling, Weaver has become a workhorse back who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry. He ran for 130 yards against Kansas State, scored two touchdowns against UAB and set career highs in yards (150) and carries (30) against Marshall.

Add it all up, and the Knights are on a distinct roll right now. They just know they have to defeat Rice to hang onto the momentum that's on their side now.

``Momentum is a huge thing in football, especially in conference play where we play our best,'' junior tight end Adam Nissley said. ``We just want to keep the momentum rolling. We want to take another step forward and keep moving toward our goal of being the conference champions.''

==== John Denton writes for UCFathletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.