John Denton's Knights Insider: An Important Matchup

Sept. 4, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In years past, a looming showdown against Boston College would have served as a landmark moment for the UCF program as it worked to improve its standing in the college football world.

While Saturday's nationally televised game at Bright House Networks Stadium still qualifies as a major moment for the Knights, head coach George O'Leary now merely sees Boston College as a UCF peer and a game that it fully expects to win.

Having established a culture of winning, a championship pedigree and being owners of a bowl win against SEC power Georgia last December, UCF knows that it can compete with BCS-affiliated schools. So rather than reading more into Saturday's showdown in terms of "a statement game," O'Leary sees it as a matchup of equals.

"It's a Division I foe against a Division I foe and I don't look at it as BCS against non-BCS," O'Leary said. "We're a Division I team and we should expect to go out and play Division I teams and win. They're a typical Boston College team, so we'll have our work cut out."

UCF (1-0) made short work of Charleston Southern, beating the Buccaneers in a 62-0 victory last Saturday that was significant in how flawlessly the Knights played on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, UCF ran for 316 yards and a school-record eight touchdowns on the ground, while also rolling up 560 total yards and 25 first downs. Defensively, the Knights gave up just 119 yards and six first downs and kept Charleston Southern's rushing total in negative numbers until midway through the third period. The shutout was the first one since 2009.

What pleased O'Leary even more was that the Knights were sharp with their focus and attention to detail. There were just four penalties and just one turnover and it came on a botched punt return. And O'Leary was impressed with how several players making their UCF debuts played in the white-hot glare of game situations.

Of the 68 UCF players who dressed for the game, 65 played with only three scout-team players expected to be redshirted being held out.

O'Leary was particularly pleased with the play of freshmen offensive tackle Torrian Wilson, sophomore guard Justin McCray and true freshman linebacker Leilon Willingham. Wilson started at right tackle in place of senior Nick Pieschel, who will be back against Boston College after suffering a minor injury. McCray held up well on the inside and helped four UCF backs run free most of the night. And Willingham, the star of the 2011 recruiting class, had three stops for the Knights.

"Torrian did a really good job and McCray played well too because he's a big body and he kept contact on them," O'Leary said. "We just have to learn to sustain our blocks longer and put hats on guys. But for the most part our guys went out and did what they were supposed to do."

The challenge dead ahead for UCF is against a significantly different caliber of opponent. Boston College lost 24-17 to Northwestern on Saturday, but is expected to be one of the better teams in the ACC this season.

UCF has faced Boston College one other time in school history, losing 34-7 in 2008. The Knights actually led that game 7-3 at the half, but suffered a major letdown in the second half. UCF's program has grown in leaps and bounds since then, and heads into Saturday night's game expecting more success.

But O'Leary knows UCF will have to play well to beat the Eagles. The Knights were able to do some preliminary scouting of Boston College with the Eagles playing a TV game during the day on Saturday. Questions persist as to whether BC standout tailback Montel Harris will play after having knee surgery two weeks ago.

"They're a typical BC team with a big offensive line and a good run defense and a good running back," O'Leary said. "They're a typical Boston College team that will make it a line of scrimmage game with a good defense. We'll have our work cut out for us."

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