Marc Daniels' From the Press Box: Waiting is the Hardest Part

Oct. 3, 2010

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By Marc Daniels

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF is more than ready to play a game. It seems like months have passed since that game at Kansas State. Players are anxious to get the bitter taste of the loss in Manhattan out of their system. But just when you thought things might get easier, UAB has come to life.

The Blazers might be 1-3 but they have found an offense. Junior Bryan Ellis has taken over at quarterback and the UAB passing game is rolling. Down 23-7 at Tennessee, Ellis led a rally and the Blazers fell in double overtime, 32-29. Ellis lit up the Volunteers secondary and passed for 373 yards. Ellis threw for 360 against Troy the week before.

UAB is 1-3, but the Blazers have played three games decided by a total of five points. They lost 32-31 to FAU when the Owls blocked a 28-yard field goal try at the end. After losing 28-7 at SMU, the Blazers beat Troy on hail mary pass from 44 yards out on the final play and then lost in OT at Tennessee.

UCF should not need any motivation or attention getter to be ready to play UAB. The above information should be more than enough to get the Knights to take their conference opening foe serious.

UCF has used the few extra days to heal the bruises, both physically and emotionally. Senior linebacker Derrick Hallman felt his team needed a meeting with no coaches to make it clear that there is much to play for and the conference championship is now the only goal that matters.

Here are a few keys to this game that also matter:

Pressure on UAB quarterbacks: That is plural. The Knights must get heat on Ellis and not allow him time to get the ball down field. But UCF cannot forget UAB's second quarterback. David Isabelle, the original starter, is a running threat. He ran for 214 yards in their opener against FAU and scored against Tennessee on a run two weeks ago. UCF must account for Isabelle when he is on the field.

Score early: UCF needed one more score early in that game at Kansas State. Part of the "what ifs" from that game would be what if UCF scored to get a two possession lead? UCF needs confidence early in its offensive game. Knight receivers need a big game. UCF still has no plays on offense of 40 yards or more.

Eliminate the costly penalty: Every coach would say that's a key to winning a game. UCF has had too many drive killing penalties. At Kansas State, a third and short became third and five. You cannot make those mistakes. And UCF has to eliminate the block in the back on kick returns. Too many are happening and they are not necessary. Most are taking place long after Quincy McDuffie has passed.

Win the kicking game: Nick Cattoi struggled at Kansas State missing two field goals. He has been solid and needs a good game as does Blake Clingan. Field position is key and UCF needs to win this battle. UAB's kicker, Josh Zahn is just 3-of-9 in field goals but punter Trey Ragland has been among the nation's best with a long of 75 and is averaging 47.8 per punt. Ragland has punted 19 times and eight have gone for more than 50 yards.

Create an atmosphere: It's a Wednesday game. UCF students will make noise, but UCF needs good things early to get the rest of the crowd going as well. The longer UAB keeps the UCF crowd out of the game, the more challenging the game gets.

Knights notes and more: Just one man's opinion and not jealousy because the story is not about UCF, but I don't buy the rumors of the Big East talking with TCU. Why? The New York Post gave few details and then the two Dallas papers ran bogus headlines stating TCU officials have spoken to the conference about joining the league....according to sources. "According to sources" can be dangerous in reporting but is commonly used by media these days instead of actually doing work and getting someone on the record. Some make the argument that TCU's travel would be about the same if it joined the Big East or stayed in the Mountain West. At least Villanova officials went on record stating an interest by the Big East to move up to D-1 in football. But TCU to the Big East does what to basketball? It adds a 17th team. And does anyone see the power basketball coaches voting for the Horned Frogs to join a league that doesn't need the Dallas market. And let me add this, if you don't think Keith Tribble keeps in contact with the commissioner of the Big East and all potential allies in that league, you are crazy. Is there no chance TCU would join the Big East? No. Anything is possible these days when it comes to guessing conference movement. But also keep in mind, Conference USA and the Mountain West have spoken about potential partnerships. With the Big East possibly losing its place as an automatic BCS league, it might be a reason for that league to look at potential partners as well...Final thought: My kids asked where the fortune in fortune cookies come from. Like any good father with no idea, I made up a story about ancient legends, hundreds of years ago, from the Far East who preached positive messages. When my kids asked if there were lotteries back then since lotto numbers are on the back of the fortune, I did what any great father would do. I said of course, they just weren't televised before the nightly news like today.

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.