In the week leading up to Saturday’s home opener, UCF head coach George O’Leary harped on the importance of putting pressure on Bethune-Cookman’s quarterback Quentin Williams.
The defensive line did just that, accounting for six sacks by night’s end. That defensive pressure, coupled with a season-high 351 total offensive yards, allowed the Knights to blow by Bethune-Cookman, 41-7, for their first win of the year.
“The first win of the season is always a big win, especially at home,” O’Leary said. “We are disappointed in the first couple of games, but today I thought was a good team victory. I thought the kids executed fairly well. There are still corrections to be made, but overall I thought they gave good effort. Against a team that is 2-0 and 13th in the nation in the FCS, so I’m happy for the kids.”
Four different Knights accounted for UCF’s five touchdowns and Breshad Perriman, Cedric Thompson and J.J. Worton each recorded their first touchdowns of 2014. Sophomore running back William Stanback led the offensive charge with a game- and career-high 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
UCF’s defense was just as solid, limiting the Wildcats to 3-of-13 in third down conversions and three quarters of scoreless play. Bethune-Cookman managed just 173 yards of offense.
“These last few games I think we’ve been giving up touchdowns on the first drive and letting people drive the ball down. We wanted to make a statement. Go out there and set the tone early,” UCF senior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. “When the offense gets the ball, they drive it down. When the defense goes out there, we stop them, three and out, and give it back to our offense. We’re spending too much time on the field. Today, we tried to get off and get the offense the ball.”
UCF struck first with senior kicker Rodrigo Quirarte’s first career field goal, a 37-yarder with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter.
B-CU responded on its next possession when Anthony Jordan punched in his first-career rushing touchdown that capped an eight-play, 76-yard drive for a 7-3 lead with 1:40 to go in the first quarter. But it was the last time the Wildcats would get near the end zone.
The Knights didn’t stay down for long, thanks to Worton. The receiver juked his way 12 yards on a punt return to set up UCF at its own 49-yard line. Four plays later, he broke free down the right sideline off a pass from sophomore quarterback Justin Holman for UCF’s first touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 11:57 remaining in the first half.
B-CU rocketed into UCF territory on Darien Baker’s 48-yard return and a horse collar penalty, but the Knights’ defense dug in and forced Haden Hoggarth to attempt a 44-yard field goal. He came up short with 10:14 to go in the second.
The Knights then saw some fireworks when Holman let it fly for a 61-yard scoring strike that found Perriman for a 17-7 lead.
UCF tacked on one more score before the halftime break as Quirarte came through with another 37-yard field goal to give UCF a 20-7 advantage. To complement its offensive counterparts, the defense closed out the half when Thomas Niles sacked Williams on third and 10.
Stanback set the tone as UCF’s workhorse early in the second half on a four-play, 39-yard drive that was punctuated with his 9-yard touchdown run for a 27-7 lead.
The Knights’ defense forced a three-and-out for the Wildcats, allowing the UCF offense to add once again to its ever-increasing edge. Running back Cedric Thompson recorded his first touchdown in two years with a 1-yard rush to make it 34-7.
UCF got one more look at the end zone before wrapping up the night. The Knights ate up 88 yards on 13 plays, including four-straight rushes by Stanback for his second touchdown of the night to treat the crowd to a 41-7 win.
The 44,510 in attendance was the largest crowd for a home opener since the stadium’s first game in 2007 vs. Texas (45,622).
UCF heads to Houston for its first conference game of the year Oct. 2 for a 7 p.m. matchup with the Cougars on ESPN.
“It’s a good win, but now we get into the conference season,” O’Leary said. “The one goal we have on the team is to win the conference championship each and every year.”
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