Nov. 27, 2010
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By John Denton
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - UCF is back in the Conference USA Championship Game for the first time since 2007, but head coach George O'Leary said that's where the similarities end between the Knights of four seasons ago and this year's squad.
Whereas the 2007 team featured a mostly run-based squad centered around star tailback Kevin Smith, this year's squad features two solid running backs (Latavius Murray and Ronnie Weaver) and a dynamic quarterback (Jeff Godfrey) capable to torching teams deep down the field. UCF's defense carried the team early in the season and has made a comeback of late following some mid-season struggles.
O'Leary said he sees the two teams as totally different because this squad is mostly senior based. With 22 seniors on this year's squad, O'Leary has said this team has more leadership than any of his squads at UCF.
``I think right now we are a lot more fluid and flexible as far as whether it's run, option, power game (and) zone schemes. We are doing more things,'' O'Leary said of the comparisons between the 2007 and 2010 teams. ``Defensively, everybody is complaining about pass defense but, when you look at it, we are second in the conference. I am not a big stat guy but I think it is like 200-yards a game we are giving up in the pass game. We are giving up too many big plays in the pass game. I mean long plays. When you look at teams that are throwing for 350, 400-yards a game we are tackling where they catch it's just that we have given up five, maybe six big plays in the last three games for touchdowns. That is what needs to stop.''
HAPPY MURRAY: Murray started his second consecutive game on Saturday and has become one of the best stories on the Knights this season.
Murray missed all of the 2009 season with a torn ligament in his knee and then contemplated transferring from UCF because he didn't expect to play much behind projected starter Brynn Harvey. Murray stayed at UCF at the behest of his mother, Tawanna Wright, and worked his way back to the tailback slot after starting the season as an H-back.
With Harvey out for the season, Murray filled in for Weaver early in the season and rose up to a starting role last week against Tulane. In his first-ever start, Murray delivered the first 100-yard rushing day of his career with 146 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Murray said recently he's delighted that he stayed at UCF and he's even happier that he moved back to the running back slot.
``I'm very happy and proud of myself to come from not playing and hurt last year and I'm so excited now,'' Murray said. ``I love running back and playing that position. I'm just trying to do what I can do.''
THANKFUL COACH: O'Leary said he had plenty to be thankful during this holiday season, namely the fact that he gets to coach a game that he loves. O'Leary has coached at the high school, college and NFL levels for the past 43 years, and he said it's rare that he ever has consecutive bad days.
He stressed that this Knights team has made the season a true delight to be around. O'Leary has leaned on his senior class more than ever for leadership and direction and he's delighted by the growth of that group.
``I am just thankful I am still breathing. I tell you a great family, faith and coaching a game I wouldn't want to do anything else. I have done nothing else for 43 years and each day you get to work you get paid for something you love doing,'' O'Leary said. ``It is not always a great day. I think there has never been more than two days in a row where I sit down and go what am I doing here? There has been a lot of one days where you question. You are working a job you love to do and working with people that have a great passion for what they want to do, and you see kids really mature. Guys like (Bruce) Miller, (Brian) Watters and (Derrick) Hallman, they have been with us now for some four, some five years and it is just great to see them mature and become men.''
ETC: UCF standout defensive end Bruce Miller became UCF's all-time sacks leader on Saturday when he dropped Memphis quarterback Ryan Williams twice in the first half. Miller now has 32 sacks in his career, a half-sack more than Darrell Rudd from 1981-84. Miller's 32 career sacks rank sixth all-time by an FBS player in the history of Florida football. ... Saturday was UCF's fifth road win of the season, breaking the previous record of four road wins set in 1998 and 2007. ... UCF scored first on Saturday for the 11th time in 12 games this season. The only game where the Knights didn't score first was the 28-21 loss to NC State. ... Jeff Godfrey's nine-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter was his 10th of the season, the most ever by a freshman quarterback at UCF. Godfrey is just two touchdowns shy of tying Daunte Culpepper's touchdown record for quarterbacks at UCF, running for 12 in 1995. ... It was somewhat shocking on Saturday that the two teams were tied at seven-all after one quarter of play. Coming into the game, UCF had outscored foes 117-20 in the first quarter of games. Meanwhile, Memphis had been outscored 117-35 in the first quarter.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.