It was a methodical, efficient effort for UCF Friday night at FIU’s Alfonso Field. The Knights slowly, surely picked apart the Panthers en route to a 38-0 victory that moved UCF to 2-0 on the young season.
It was the first shutout for UCF since defeating Memphis 41-0 on October 29, 2011. It was also the first time the Knights had held an opponent under 200 yards of total offense since the 2011 season. UCF out-gained the Panthers 390-173, averaging 6.6 yards per play, compared to just 3.0 for FIU.
“I thought we started off a little bit slow,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “But we made some big plays on offense. We gave them some yards on defense, but got stingy when we had to get stingy. We’ve just got to keep getting better in certain facets of the game. I thought we played with good effort. We got a chance to play a lot of kids tonight.”
The victory was important for the Knights who were part of a 17-10 loss at FIU during 2011. It was also important for UCF student-athletes from the Miami area, such as senior wide receiver Jeff Godfrey, who hauled in four passes for 33 yards.
“It means a lot,” Godfrey said. “We know what happened to us last time we came down here. We didn’t want that to happen again. We came out and got the job done on both sides (of the ball).”
While the UCF offense started a bit slowly, the Knights’ defense stifled FIU through the first quarter. The Knights eventually grabbed a 7-0 edge with 7:02 left in the first quarter when Blake Bortles bull-dozed into the end zone on a quarterback sneak from one yard out. The drive was kept alive by a long scramble from Bortles on third-and-15 and a 34-yard connection between Bortles and Rannell Hall.
One play into the second quarter, the Knights increased their advantage to 14-0. Storm Johnson reached pay dirt from two yards out. UCF had two touchdowns on the board before FIU managed a first down. The Panthers’ first set of fresh downs came on their first possession of the second quarter.
UCF increased its lead to 17-0 on a 37-yard Shawn Moffitt field goal that came midway through the second quarter. The drive included a gorgeous tip-toe catch on the sideline from Hall for a 28-yard gain.
The Knights increased their advantage to 24-0 when Johnson scampered in from 15 yards out with less than 4 minutes remaining in the first half. The drive was set up by a 59-yard bomb from Bortles to Hall that put Hall over 100 yards receiving for the game. He finished with a career-best 127 yards on the night.
UCF held that 24-0 advantage at the intermission. FIU missed a 34-yard field goal on the last play of the half, the closest the Panthers came to scoring in the contest.
Following a bad FIU snap that ended up being recovered by UCF at the FIU 17-yard line, Johnson scored third TD of the night – a career-best – to put UCF up 31-0. Four minutes later, Bortles found J.J. Worton from 5 yards out to make it 38-0 after three quarters. That put a cap on Bortles’ night, as he finished 12-of-19 for 214 yards and the one score.
Johnson rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries to go with his three scores. William Stanback added 55 yards on the ground. Terrance Plummer led the Knights’ defense with seven solo stops. Jordan Ozerities tallied six tackles, including two for loss of yardage.
UCF is back on the road again next week. The Knights travel to State College, Pa. for a Saturday matchup with the Big Ten’s Penn State Nittany Lions.