Nov. 9, 2010
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By Claire Supplice
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) -With its best conference start at 5-0, UCF is ranked in the top-25 for the first time in school history at No. 23 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. UCF's current five-game winning streak ranks as the ninth-longest active streak in the nation.
This Saturday, a total of 19 Knights will be honored for Senior Day. Among these seniors is linebacker, Derrick Hallman. Hallman leads the Knights with three forced fumbles and is second on the team with 55 total tackles.
We spoke with Hallman Tuesday morning about how it felt for the Knights to be ranked.
Does the team feel any pressure now that it has a national ranking?
"Yes, it's a lot of pressure. It's pressure to get in because it's hard work, and even harder to stay in. The biggest thing is to stay in and stay focused."
Did you expect this national ranking to come sooner than later?
"I honestly thought it would be my freshman year, especially after we beat NC State. The main purpose of me coming here was because I saw that it was a program on the rise, and I saw all the talent that they had with Joe Burnett, and Kevin Smith and all the players that they did have; I really thought it would be my freshman year, but better late than never."
Do you think other teams, like Southern Miss, will be coming after UCF because the team is now ranked?
"Definitely, because I know if they were the ranked team we'd be talking about how we'd want to beat a ranked team. There's a lot of envy and jealousy that goes into that. They're our rival and I know they hate us so they'll definitely be coming after us."
How is it different to be the `hunted' instead of the `hunter?'
"We're still the hunter, no doubts about it, because we're chasing a ring. I mean we are indeed being hunted, but we're still hunters."
What was your reaction when you learned about the national rankings?
"My reaction was `finally, about time.' I still didn't even think we would receive that recognition, but I was just excited. All I could think was `finally.' It's like a weight off our shoulders because we've been trying to get there for so long. We finally made it."
So how does it feel to look at the national rankings and see that UCF is the highest ranked team in Florida?
"You look at it and you say `ha!' But, it's a lot of hard work and you just want to stay there because you don't want to get complacent at all. The team just has to continue to remain focused on the task at hand and stay in the rankings."
Southern Miss has a high-powered offense, how difficult will it be to slow them down Saturday?
"Well we've been playing the same offense for the past two weeks. They have a similar offense to Houston and East Carolina, so I mean, we're pretty used to it. We just need to clean up a few mistakes that we've been making in the last few weeks because we've been out of character."
Saturday is Senior Day, how emotional will it be for you before the game?
"I've been trying not to think about it too much. I don't want to think of it as my last regular season game at Bright House Networks Stadium so I've really just been trying not to think of it at all."
You guys have had some up and down seasons. What motivated you to continue two good seasons in a row and improve even more in this current season?
"Coach always says you're only as good as your senior class. A lot of us have been playing since our freshman year, so we have a lot of experience and talent on the team. We wanted to lead by example and set the tone for the underclassmen."
The Knights are searching for their second win over Southern Miss as they trail in the series 4-1. UCF's lone victory came in a 34-17 decision in Hattiesburg on Oct 28, 2007. Join the Knights this Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium to see if they can continue their quest to a Conference USA Championship title.