John Denton's Knights Insider: A Test of Resiliency

Sept. 20, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - If ever there was a good time for a short week it's this one for a UCF football team that can't wait to play again and rid themselves of the lingering bitterness from last Saturday night.

With the showdown ahead against BYU coming on Friday night, necessitating a cross-country flight on Thursday, the Knights have even less time to pick up the pieces following the frustrating 17-10 loss to FIU.

Many of UCF's players were still in shock over how the Knights lost last Saturday night predominantly from self-inflicted wounds. There were the 10 penalties, the six sacks allowed and the two turnovers that led directly to 14 FIU points that spelled ruin for UCF. Stunning stuff, indeed, for a team that prided itself on not making mistakes and being fundamentally sound.

``There's definitely still a lot of frustration because our goal was to try and win every game on our schedule,'' UCF tailback Latavius Murray said. ``But we have to bounce back from that, find a way to win and not let this set us back anymore.''

UCF (2-1) is hoping that playing on a national stage provided by ESPN and against a nationally known BYU team will bring out their best Friday at 8 p.m. in Provo, Utah. The Knights had dreams of coming into this game with a spotless 3-0 record so that they could present their case to the football world as a rising powerhouse. But instead UCF is forced now to deal with a loss that was as shocking as it was frustrating.

``There is some frustration and anger still in our locker room, but I think our heads are in the right place and we're focused. A great team has to be able to take a loss as well as taking a win,'' said UCF tight end Adam Nissley, who had a career-high four receptions in the loss. ``This week we have to be more focused and more committed to getting back on the winning track.''

Preparation time for the game was sliced to a minimum because of a confluence of factors in the schedule. The Knights didn't arrive back in Orlando until 2 a.m. Sunday morning, and several players and coaches used the four-hour bus trip from Miami to review the game film. Instead of taking Sunday off, the Knights were forced to work out on Sunday and Monday's practice was treated like a Tuesday installation session. The Knights will have a walk-through on Thursday and then spend the rest of the afternoon traveling to Utah.

``It's a tiring week, but we have a lot of catching up to do because we're a day short,'' center Jordan Rae said. ``You just have to come in and do extra stuff on your own so that everybody is on the same page.''

Added sophomore defensive tackle Victor Gray: ``I think a lot of it has to do with your mental preparation. Your body is tired, but it can be pushed to its limits. But it's about getting mentally ready for a short week like this.''

UCF head coach George O'Leary said he was less concerned with his team's mood than he was worried about cleaning up the errors that hurt the Knights on Saturday in Miami. UCF never really established the run, failed miserably at picking up blitzes and made critical errors on special teams.

``When you come in second in a game some of your weaknesses are exposed a little bit and that's your resume and that's out now on film,'' O'Leary said. ``So you are careful about what you have to correct. I would (blitz vs. UCF), I would. The offensive line knew the answers on Sunday, but that was a day late.''

O'Leary said Saturday's game was a rough one for sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey as far as making throws down the field, seeing blitzes and taking care of the ball in the pocket. Godfrey's fumble just seconds before halftime was returned 51 yards for a touchdown that tied the game. O'Leary has always praised Godfrey in his ability to quickly learn from his mistakes, and he is confident that his quarterback will bounce back with a solid effort come Friday night.

``Jeff has to handle things better, but that was the youngness in him as a quarterback coming out,'' O'Leary said. ``He had a couple of times where receivers were waiting on the ball and he was looking elsewhere. But he's such a good football player and he's going to get better. It's just a matter of inexperience and handling some things better. And we need the offensive line to rally around him.''

BYU (1-2) has had a rocky, disjointed season and comes into Friday's game somewhat at a crossroads as well. The Cougars trailed Ole Miss 13-0 most of the opener, but rallied to win 14-3. In the second game, they led Texas 16-3, but lost 17-16. And after leading rival Utah 10-7 midway through the second quarter, BYU saw the Utes rip off 47 unanswered points. BYU lost six fumbles in the game and rushed for just 11 yards.

O'Leary said the short week of preparation and the big game against a respected opponent will test his team's resolve and resiliency. He said the week of practice will be more about UCF righting its wrongs from last Saturday night more than it will be about preparing for the schemes that BYU will throw at the Knights.

``It's a business to me and the third season is over and I'm onto the fourth season. You don't forget games like that, but you can't linger on them either,'' O'Leary said. ``It gnaws at your insides, but you have to move on. Those are games that you'd like to have again, but you can't do that. We didn't play like we should have and didn't execute. So now it's onto BYU.''

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