The UCF Knights and Marshall Thundering Herd will have to make this one memorable Saturday night. The longtime rivals may not meet again.
It’s been 10 games since the Knights first met the Herd in 2002, and in that time they’ve traded winning streaks, with the Knights winning the last seven. In the meantime they had an uneasy relationship as the Knights pursued bigger teams as their official rival, namely the nearby USF Bulls, who own a 4-0 record against the Knights.
The Knights will have their shot at the Bulls in 2013, but as they play out their final season in Conference USA, they’re taking a final swipe at Marshall (3-4, 2-1).
UCF (5-2, 3-0) is coming off a 35-17 thrashing of Memphis (1-6, 1-2) on the road, with a resurgent Latavius Murray carrying the ball the majority of UCF’s total yardage himself, with 192 yards on the ground.
At the same time quarterback Blake Bortles was stymied by Memphis’ defense, throwing for only 122 yards in the game. UCF’s defense helped out in the offensive department, with A.J. Bouye snagging a third quarter interception and returning it 32 yards. In the fourth, Bouye did it again, picking up a Memphis fumble and racing 79 yards for the touchdown that would be the deciding score of the game.
They’ll need that defense against Marshall. Despite the Herd’s seemingly middling record, they boast the season’s most prolific quarterback in the nation in Rakeem Cato, who averages more than 375 yards per game in the air.
Couple that with Marshall’s 59-24 blowout over Southern Miss on Oct. 20 and the Herd is on a roll this season.
UCF also has one of the top ranked defenses in the conference, adept at stopping opponents near the red zone. What could be crucial is stopping big plays by Marshall. In this game the best team at stopping scoring in the air, UCF, will be playing the best at making it happen, Marshall.
If they can pull off the win, the Knights will have an automatic bowl bid to take away the sting of last season’s many narrow losses. With a record and on-field stats that seem déjà vu for the 2010 season, the Knights are on pace for one of their greatest seasons of all time.
They kick off in Huntington, W.Va., at 8 p.m. Saturday night, televised on the CBS Sports Network.