The Knights made a much-needed statement in their first conference game of the season, blasting East Carolina 40-20 on Oct. 4. Now they look toward a final game of a four-game homestand against Southern Miss on Saturday, Oct. 13.
That could be a nice rest for the Knights (3-2) after playing two games in six days in the last week and a half. The Golden Eagles are 0-5 on the season and already have a Conference USA loss under their belts.
But that record could be deceptive, as the Eagles have taken on some tougher-than-average opponents early on in the season. They started against perennial NCAA Top 25 contender Nebraska, which ended in a 49-20 blowout. They’ve since gone on to lose to Louisville and Boise State.
The Knights in the meantime have had likewise struggles against nationally prominent teams, though only a misstep stopped the Knights from defeating Missouri.
Thankfully for UCF, the team is coming off a convincing win over East Carolina that looked in doubt early on. But redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles led the Knights to the comeback win.
“I saw today what I wish I saw last week,” head coach George O’Leary said on Oct. 4. “It was a good effort and a good conference win.”
Though the Knights had little trouble keeping pace with the Pirates after a scary first quarter in which they went down 14-0, they had trouble breaking away until after the second half began.
Enter Quincy McDuffie, who on two occasions gave the Knights the offensive spark to rally to catch the Pirates, and then to pull away from them.
“It was [Bortles’] spark and the team,” McDuffie said of the Knights’ sudden momentum shift. “Everybody did a great job.”
McDuffie ran for a 99-yard kickoff return to send the Pirates’ momentum to a screeching halt in the first quarter. Then late in the third quarter he took a pass from Bortles and found a lane down the left sideline that ended 64 yards later in the end zone.
In the meantime, kicker Shawn Moffitt drilled four field goals as the Knights improvised on the Pirates’ side of the field to continue to ratchet up the score.
Moffitt’s foot was responsible for 16 of the Knights’ 40 points, including a 49-yard field goal that punctuated the big win. The long-distance shot was Moffitt’s longest in his career.
“When coach asked me if I could do it, I was nervous but I said, ‘yes sir,’” Moffitt said. With newfound confidence, he said he hopes to keep his consistency up for the rest of the season.
In the end the Knights ran away with the score late, with the Pirates unable to answer after a third quarter field goal.
The Knights will have a few days rest before taking on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. That game kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, in the Bright House.