John Denton's Knights Insider Insights

Oct. 29, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. - As was the case in the previous two games, Blake Bortles came on in relief of UCF starter Jeff Godfrey and finished the night at quarterback. The only difference was that this time Bortles was mopping up in a UCF blowout victory.

UCF's 41-0 throttling of Memphis on Saturday night at Bright House Networks Stadium came primarily because Godfrey played with the aggression and assertiveness that he had last season while guiding the Knights to an 11-3 season. Godfrey worried less about staying in the pocket and more about making decisive plays down the field.

``Coach told me to stop trying to force things and do the things that I did last year,'' Godfrey admitted after he threw for 200 yards, ran for another 97 yards and accounted for two TDs. ``I was just trying to play and have fun again.''

Godfrey's status as UCF's starting quarterback has been up for debate of late after Bortles played well in relief in losses against SMU and UAB. UCF coach George O'Leary stuck by Godfrey as his starter, and he rewarded him with a 14 of 17 passing effort and a dazzling 29-yard touchdown run that proved to be the longest of his college career.

``It felt great that the coaches still believed in me,'' Godfrey said. ``The past few games I've been having some dumb mistakes and I put it past me and tried to be a better teammate for my team.''

  • SCARY MOMENT: A scary moment occurred early in the second quarter when Memphis wide receiver Tannar Rehrer was popped by hard-hitting UCF safety Kemal Ishmael on a pass play.

Ishmael's hit was so violent that it jarred the ball free and left Reher laying motionless for several minutes. Reher, who was pinned between Ishmael and linebacker Terrance Plummer, was momentarily unconscious, but eventually moved his arms and legs.

Both teams convened along their sidelines and held a prayer while Reher was still down on the field. A stretcher was brought out to field, but the senior receiver eventually left the field under his own power, much to the delight of the cheering crowd.

``I enjoy the big hits, but when I saw that the kid didn't get up I sat down and prayed for him,'' Ishmael said. ``I saw him after the game and told him, `Good game.' It was a good, clean hit and I just wished him the best.''

It was the second time this season that Ishmael has knocked a receiver out of a game with a hard hit. BYU's Ross Apo suffered a concussion following a hit at the goal line by UCF's junior safety.

  • UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY: Brandon Alexander started this season as a walk-on player stuck on the scout team and not expected to see the playing field this season for the Knights. But because of a rash of injuries and Alexander's stellar play in practice, the Orlando native found himself in the starting lineup Saturday against Memphis.

UCF lost starter A.J. Bouye last week against UAB when he injured a knee while returning an interception out of the end zone. And Jordan Ozerities, who was expected to see significant playing time following a solid freshman season, has yet to play because of a back injury.

Enter Alexander, who caught the eye of UCF head coach George O'Leary early in training camp.

``Brandon is a walk-on who I saw on the practice field and I kept watching the kid and watching him and he was a putting a glove on a lot of our (first-string) guys and I said to get him over to the defense,'' O'Leary recalled. ``Lo and behold, he's starting now because we've lost three corners since the beginning of the year. Alexander is going to see plenty of time and he won't be unknown after Saturday. The first time I had to put him in and he was just staring, but it's just that kind of deal because he's a freshman. He got his baptism last week and he'll see a lot more time.''

Alexander finished second on the team in tackles on Saturday, registering three solo stops and one assist.

``He didn't give up any big plays and I commend him for the way that he played,'' UCF junior cornerback Josh Robinson said of Alexander. ``I've been in his spot before having to play as a freshman and I just told him to play with confidence.''

  • ETC: Orlando Magic all-star center Dwight Howard attended Saturday's game and was honored by the public address announcer and an adoring crowd during a timeout. Howard, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year each of the past three seasons, is slated to host a charity all-star basketball game at UCF Arena on Nov. 13. Current and former NBA stars Shaquille O'Neal, Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Vince Carter, Jason Richardson and others are scheduled to play in the game that will benefit Howard's D12 Foundation, a charitable group that has provided support to citizens in earthquake ravaged Haiti and for tornado victims in Alabama. ... Former UCF great Kevin Smith also attended the game and spoke at the students' Spirit Splash event earlier in the week. Smith still holds 17 school records, including carries (905), rushing yardage (4.679), touchdowns (45) and 100-yard rush games (22). He ran for 2,567 yards in 2007, the second best season ever in FBS history behind Barry Sanders. Smith addressed the Knights at their team hotel on Friday, giving the team a fiery pep talk. ... Showing his tremendous burst of speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Latavius Murray had a 38-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty. ... Troy Davis, the star of the Black and Gold Game last spring with five sacks, recorded his first sack of the season in the third quarter. Troy Gray, a freshman linebacker, also recorded the first sack of his college career early in the game. ... Plummer made his first career start at middle linebacker in place of senior captain Josh Linam, who was out with an unspecified injury.

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