John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF Ready for Challenge at Southern Miss

Nov. 11, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF sophomore defensive tackle Victor Gray vividly remembers a year back when the Knights were riding high following their first-ever ascension into college football's Top 25.

And UCF seemed poised to better their first-ever national ranking (No. 23 at the time) by racing to a seemingly commanding 14-0 lead on Southern Miss. But what followed - a massive rally by the Golden Eagles that resulted in a 31-21 UCF defeat - still hasn't been forgotten by Gray. And in some ways, he still hasn't gotten over the pain that Southern Miss inflicted on UCF on that sunny afternoon last November.

``I'm really excited about this game and I hope the rest of the team is too,'' Gray said. ``A lot of people might not remember, but when we got ranked last season this (Southern Miss game) was the first game after and they knocked us out. So it's a little bit of a regret. Well, not regret but a little remorse that you still have for the game that you played last season."

Now, the roles are reversed in that Southern Miss is nationally ranked and riding high. The Golden Eagles have climbed to No. 22 in the BCS rankings, No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches' poll. Also, Southern Miss is 8-1 overall and atop the East Division of Conference USA at 4-1.

UCF, however, comes into the game at 4-5 overall and 2-3 in C-USA play. Following a heartbreaking 24-17 home loss against Tulsa last week, the Knights no longer control their destiny as it relates to getting back to the C-USA title game. UCF needs to win Saturday in Hattiesburg, Miss., and also hope that Southern Miss slips up against either UAB or Memphis.

Winning in Hattiesburg is a big issue for the Knights for a couple of reasons. First, UCF hasn't won at Southern Miss since 2007, meaning this decorated senior class threatens to leave without beating the Eagles in Mississippi if it can't pull out a victory on Saturday. Overall, Southern Miss has beaten UCF three consecutive times. And UCF is still looking for its first road win of the season after losing on the road against FIU, BYU, SMU and UAB.

``For me as playing for us since my redshirt freshman year, I've never gotten a chance to beat these guys,'' senior tight end Adam Nissley said. ``You know, I redshirted in 2007 when we beat them down in Hattiesburg. And it's just something I want to be able to do before I leave here. So that's more of a personal standpoint, you know the seniors. We've been kind of thinking about that too.''

To move forward in the standings the Knights will have to figure out a way to slow down Southern Miss senior quarterback Austin Davis. He burned UCF for 264 yards and four passing touchdowns last November, paving the way for Southern Miss' rally. This season, he's completing 64.1 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,147 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Gray, one of the defensive linemen charged with getting after Davis, said this will be UCF's biggest game of the season. One, because the Knights must win; and secondly, because they want revenge for what happened last season.

``The guys who were here last year understand what this game means to us,'' Gray said.

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