Using a smothering defense that not only doesn’t allow touchdowns but gives up few first downs as well, UCF flexed its muscles Saturday night and pushed around another BCS-automatically qualifying school.
Now, after UCF’s 30-3 thumping of Boston College at noisy Bright House Networks Stadium, the surging Knights could be in line for another national ranking in the polls.
UCF used another stellar effort from its swarming defense and magnificent efforts from quarterback Jeff Godfrey and tailback Latavius Murray to dominate Boston College on both sides of the ball. A nationally televised audience and a crowd of 45,671 at Bright House Networks Stadium saw the Knights roll up a 422-141 advantage in total yards in the game and limit BC to one of 12 on third-down conversions.
“This shows the nation that we can compete with anybody as long as we do our assignments on both sides of the ball,” said Godfrey, who ran for two more TDs and already has five rushing scores on the season. “We feel like we can compete with anybody and we showed that tonight.”
The UCF victory was arguably the biggest win in the five-year history of Bright House Networks Stadium. The raucous crowd was a factor throughout and ranked as the fourth-largest in stadium history.
UCF’s defense has yet to allow a touchdown in eight quarters this season. And dating back to last season, UCF (2-0) has not yielded a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Conference USA title game – a stretch of 12 quarters that includes the Liberty Bowl whipping of Georgia.
“I think (BCS teams) should take us seriously,” said middle linebacker Josh Linam, who had six tackles and an interception. “This just goes to show that we can play with anybody. We’re not afraid of anybody. We welcome the challenges.”
UCF shockingly was left out of the preseason polls despite climbing to as high as No. 20 last year during an 11-win season. With a 62-0 rout of Charleston Southern and a thorough thumping of Boston College, the Knights have seemingly put themselves in position for the national ranking they felt they deserved all along.
UCF entered the game 1-12 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, but clearly those are numbers from a bygone era. These Knights looked like the more dominant team from start to finish, moving the ball at will and stuffing a Boston College offense that was without tailback Montel Harris (knee surgery).
“When we see certain teams, especially Georgia that we beat in the Liberty Bowl ranked and we’re not even in the Top 30, yeah we come back with a little fire in our belly,” said sophomore tackle Victor Gray, who played a big role in Boston College running for just 57 yards and getting only seven first downs.
UCF coach George O’Leary downplayed the whole BCS/non-BCS storyline of the game all week, stressing that UCF had everything in place to beat Boston College. Then, his team went out and proved him to be dead on.
“I spoke to the team before the game and said that in games like this you usually have to win two out of three areas – defense, offense or special teams. We wanted to get all three done and I congratulated them because I think we got all three,” O’Leary said. “I think we played very well as a team and complemented each other very well. It was a great team win and a great win for UCF.”
Up just 9-3 at the half, UCF’s overall speed and superior conditioning proved itself in the fourth quarter when the Knights outscored BC 21-0.
Exactly a year from the night last season when he took over the UCF offense for good, Godfrey confounded Boston College’s defense all night with his throwing and running. He threw for 187 yards and ran for another 62 yards, and his sneak from one yard out gave UCF a commanding 16-3 lead just seconds into the fourth quarter.
Godfrey’s 28-yard strike to redshirt freshman receiver J.J. Worton was his best highlight of the night, but he was most proud of flattening BC All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly for the four-yard score that turned the game into a rout.
Said Godfrey: “We look all of the time at these other schools being ranked and we won a conference championship and a bowl game, so that’s pretty disrespectful. We use that to motivate us every day and every time we go out there on that field.”
When junior cornerback A.J. Bouye picked a Chase Rettig pass in the fourth quarter it extended UCF’s streak to nine consecutive games with an interception. Linam added his second career interception late in the game on a tip set up by cornerback Josh Robinson’s pass defense.
“We take a lot of pride in (not giving up a touchdown yet). We always say, `Don’t let anyone get in our end zone,”’ Robinson said. “And when they get into the red zone all we’re thinking is, `Deny points, deny points.’ That’s what we did.”
Murray finished off Boston College in the fourth quarter, ripping off runs of eight, 19 and seven yards to set up his one-yard TD plunge. Beat out in training camp for the starting tailback job by Ronnie Weaver, Murray just might have wrestled the job back with some of his hardest running of the season.
The Knights now hit the road for their first road game of the season, travelling to Miami next Saturday to face Florida International. FIU shockingly upset Louisville 24-17 Friday night to improve to 2-0 overall. It will be the first-ever meeting between UCF and FIU.
UCF led 9-3 at halftime, but the first 30 minutes of play left a little to be desired because of the Knights’ missed opportunities. UCF drove to the 20, 18 and 15-yard line on three first-half possessions, but had to settle for Cattoi field goals each time.
The clutch kicking from Cattoi, a senior from Tampa, was encouraging considering his many struggles last season. It was his first three field goal game since October of 2009 against Memphis.
UCF dominated both sides of the ball early in the game, outgaining the Eagles 183-68 in the first half. UCF’s attacking defense smothered BC to just 68 yards in the first half. And in arguably one of the most important statistical departments, the Knights did not allow BC to convert a third down attempt in five tries in the first two quarters.
“We wanted to shut them out. We like shutouts, who doesn’t?” Gray said. “They were supposedly a power team, but we came out and did what we needed to do. For some reason people like to talk every week about how they’re going to do this and do that. We just sit back and listen and then take a lot of pride in proving them wrong. We’re trying to show everybody that we’re a defense capable of being at the top of the nation.”