UCF Football Summer Preview - Marshall

June 6, 2011

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By Josh Molino

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The reigning 2010 Conference USA champion UCF Knights begin their title defense from the comfort of home on Oct. 8 at Bright House Networks Stadium against Marshall. The Knights have not lost to the Thundering Herd since joining C-USA in 2005, reeling off six-consecutive victories.

Marshall finished the 2010 season 5-7 and 4-4 in the conference. In his first season as the head coach, John "Doc" Holliday struggled to start the season with losses at No. 2 Ohio State and at home against in-state rival No. 23 West Virginia. In the third game of the season the defense allowed 44 points in a loss at Bowling Green, which raised concern among the Marshall faithful. A one-point victory over Ohio relieved the pressure for the moment, but the high was followed by a low as the Thundering Herd suffered three-consecutive conference losses that left Marshall with a 1-6 record. The defense stepped up and rallied behind their coach, holding the next three opponents (UTEP, UAB and Memphis) to a combined 42 points en route to three victories. Marshall finished the season winning four out of five games, giving the Thundering Herd momentum heading into 2011.

UCF is 6-3 all-time against Marshall, defeating the Thundering Herd, 35-14, last season in an ESPN primetime televised game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Tailback Ronnie Weaver carried the ball 30 times for a career-high 150 yards and quarterback Jeff Godfrey found the end zone twice to lead the Knights offense. Defensive back A.J. Bouye intercepted Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson early in the third quarter and took it back 42 yards for the score putting UCF ahead for good.

Offensive Player to Watch
Running back Martin Ward was the top rusher for Marshall last season, totaling 345 yards and one touchdown. Against UCF, the defensive line stymied Ward, as he gained just 31 yards on 11 carries. Appearing in 11 games for the Thundering Herd, Ward caught 13 passes for 56 yards. The junior running back had his big-play ability on display in the spring game, racking up 72 yards on 11 carries including a 39-yard touchdown run.

Defensive Player to Watch
Considered to be one of the top returning defensive players in the country, senior defensive end Vinny Curry will be a handful for the UCF offensive line. Last season Curry earned All-Conference USA First Team honors finishing with 18 tackles for loss and leading all defensive linemen in the nation with 94 tackles. He ranked fifth in the country in sacks totaling 12.0 in 12 games, although he did not record one against UCF.

Marshall has found a spot in the hotbed of football recruiting, with 21 players on the 2011 roster hailing from Florida. UCF head coach George O'Leary replaced Marshall secondary coach Mike Cassity as the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 1994. Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon and O'Leary also have a common denominator as both coached at Syracuse. O'Leary coached linebackers from 1980-84 and Rippon coached linebackers, defensive line and was the defensive coordinator from 1993-2004.

In 2006, Kevin Smith and Jason Peters both ran for over 100 yards against the Thundering Herd. Smith rushed for 166 yards on 26 carries and Peters ran for 108 yards on 13 carries. The longest rush from scrimmage in UCF history came against Marshall on Nov. 3, 2007, as Smith ran for an 87-yard touchdown

2011 UCF football season ticket packages can be purchased or renewed online at UCFAthletics.com or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) 823-1000. Home games include Charleston Southern [Champions UKNIGHT (Sept. 3)], Boston College [Hall of Fame Weekend (Sept. 10)], Marshall (Oct. 8), Memphis [Alumni UKNIGHT - Homecoming 2011 (Oct. 29)], Tulsa (Nov. 5) and UTEP [Senior Day (Nov. 26)]. Should UCF host the C-USA Championship Game for the fourth time in seven years, it would be played on Saturday, Dec. 3 and season ticket holders will receive the first shot at the best seats.