John Denton's Knights Insider: News and Notes From Houston

Nov. 5, 2010

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By John Denton

HOUSTON, Texas (UCFathletics.com) - UCF freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey's first-ever college start came at Kansas State before 50,586 fans. His second and third starts were televised nationally by ESPN, as was Friday's showdown in Houston.

That Godfrey has played well before big crowds and on the national stage might come as a surprise to some, but not to the freshman phenom himself. Godfrey, you see, has been accustomed to playing before relatively large crowds his entire football life.

By the time Godfrey was 10 years old, crowds of 7,000 or so would attend Optimist and Little League football games to see him chuck the ball around. And in high school at Miami Central, Godfrey played before big crowds as he was becoming the all-time leading passer in Miami-Dade County with 7,251 yards.

Godfrey said the experience of playing before big crowds as a kid and teenager helped prepare him for what he is facing now as the leader of UCF's offense.

``When I was playing Optimist football there were a lot of people out there. That crowd used to really get me going,'' Godfrey said. ``I always loved hearing from the crowd, even when I was a little kid. I love going out there and putting on a show and making the fans happy. It's been that way since I was 7, 8 and 9 years old.''

Godfrey said he's been playing quarterback since he was 5 years old with his dad, Jeffrey Jr., serving as his long-time mentor. He said that he was confident that he could come to UCF and contribute right away and he isn't one bit surprised at the quick transition he's made from high school to college.

``I'm not really surprised at all. I came here to play football, and that's what I'm doing,'' he said. ``My team has helped me a lot, the O-line is doing a tremendous job of blocking and giving me time to throw and I'm not surprised at all that I have done well.''


SECONDARY CHANGES: Facing arguably its toughest test of the season through the air, UCF made some major changes to its secondary before Friday's game against Houston.

Senior Emery Allen moved ahead of Justin Boddie at one cornerback, making his second start of the season and the fifth start of his career. Boddie, also a senior, had started the previous eight games opposite fellow cornerback Josh Robinson.

And at safety, standout safety A.J. Bouye got the first start of his career, moving ahead of senior Reggie Weams on the depth chart. Weams, who had an interception last week against East Carolina and dropped a potential second one, had started seven of the eight games this season at strong safety.

Boddie and Weams entered Friday's game ranked eighth and ninth on the team in tackles with 28 and 26, respectively. Bouye, a rising star in the UCF secondary, had a 42-yard interception return earlier this season against UAB and is second on the team in pass breakups with five.


FEW PENALITIES: The Knights entered Friday night's game as one of the nation's least-penalized teams. And that's not by accident with UCF's coaching staff strictly enforcing penalties.

The Knights came into Friday averaging just 27.5 penalty yards a game, with only Penn State (23.88 yards) being better. The Knights are also fourth in the country in fewest penalties a game (4.0). Last year, UCF ranked third in the nation in penalties per game (4.0) and fifth in penalty yards (37.62).

``It goes back to practice. We get after them pretty hard about penalties and how they cost you. The coaches are on them and I am on them all the time in practice about holding and interference and out of bounds stuff,'' UCF coach George O'Leary said. ``You have to make sure it is important. Knowing what is important to the head coach is important to the assistants and it feeds its way down. Penalties drive me nuts, especially offsides because most penalties are concentration problems. We don't have a lot of discipline penalties like late hits.''

O'Leary said the key to keeping penalties down is making sure he holds players accountable for mistakes. ``You have to react to it, not just talk about it,'' he said. ``Players understand that some penalties you cannot avoid, but sloppy, lack of concentration, discipline penalties you have to get after them real quick about that stuff because it is contagious. If you do not correct them you are going to see more and more of them each week.''


ETC: Redshirt junior Zac Norris made his first career start on Friday in place of injured center Jordan Rae. Rae, a redshirt sophomore from Weston, has been one of UCF's biggest surprises this season, but missed his first game of the season because of a badly sprained ankle. Rae, one of the strongest Knights on the team with a 500-plus-pound bench press, emerged as the starter in the spring and has shown a capability of making the blocks and calls necessary to start at center. ... Facing a pass-happy, up-tempo Houston team, UCF knew that playing keep away with its running game was a big emphasis. The Knights entered the game ranked 22nd in the nation in rushing offense and 13th in rushing defense. Only three other teams in the nation rank in the top 15 in rushing defense and top 25 in rushing offense: Boise State, Ohio State and TCU. ... O'Leary admitted that UCF's struggles kicking field goals this season has started to affect the Knights' play-calling and strategy during games. Nick Cattoi entered the game 4-of-9 on field goals, while Jamie Boyle missed his only kick. Facing a fourth-and-three from the 15-yard line on the game's first possession, UCF passed on the field goal attempt and went for it. Godfrey's pass to tight end Adam Nissley fell incomplete. Said O'Leary: ``You have to play the percentages, you really do. The problem is it has already cost us a ball game earlier with a couple missed field goals (against Kansas State). I am talking about chip shots you have to make. All you can do is to keep staying with him and I told (Cattoi) that, `I'm going to continue to be with you but it is getting very difficult to support you if you don't start making these field goals that we need to make.' With kicking, if you don't have any confidence, you are going to be lost.'' ... UCF hosts Southern Miss on Saturday at noon in the final regular-season home game. The Knights could still host the Conference USA title game at Bright House Networks Stadium on Dec. 4.


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