A UCF team seemingly on a mission for more success this season following a historic 2010 opened the 2011 campaign Saturday night in flawless fashion.
Riding a wave of success from last year’s championship-filled season and a stellar summer, UCF got three rushing touchdowns from standout quarterback Jeff Godfrey, two from Latavius Murray, a triumphant return from Brynn Harvey and delivered a dominant defensive effort in a 62-0 rout of Charleston Southern at Bright House Networks Stadium.
A crowd of 39,752 saw the Knights (1-0) run for 316 yards, grind out 25 first downs and gain 560 total yards in the season-opener. UCF scored on its first five possessions and built a commanding 35-0 bulge by halftime. UCF’s eight rushing touchdowns is a new school record, breaking the previous record set in 2007 against Memphis.
“Everybody gave great effort, played with great enthusiasm and everybody did their job,” said senior defensive end Darius Nall, one of UCF’s captains for the game. “We played all four quarters and just dominated and made sure everybody did their job.”
The only intrigue was deciding which UCF unit – the offense or the defense – was more dominant on the muggy, 84-degree night? UCF’s defense entered with questions following the graduation of all-time sacks leader Bruce Miller, but passed its first test Saturday night. The Knights smothered Charleston Southern all night, giving up just 119 yards and six first downs.
“Obviously it was a good first game because everybody played and for a first game we kept the execution mistakes to a minimum,” UCF head coach George O’Leary said. “I thought there was consistency out there. There were a couple of plays we’d like to have back with formations and wrong coverages, but for the most part both quarterbacks did what they have to do to help us make plays.”
UCF’s defense pitched its first shutout since beating Tulane 49-0 during the 2009 season. In the first half, Charleston Southern had negative seven yards rushing, only one first down and just 21 yards of total offense. The Buccaneers didn’t drive across the 50-yard line in the first half. Charleston Southern’s lone scoring chance of the night failed in the fourth quarter when kicker Andy Brown missed from 28 yards.
“I guess you could say it was (a perfect game) in a sense, but we still have a lot of mistakes to correct,” said middle linebacker Josh Linam, who had five tackles. “(The shutout) is pretty big for us. That’s our goal every week – to shut teams out and keep them off the scoreboard. So it’s nice when you can hold a team to zero points.”
The rout was a fitting start for a UCF team that won 11 games last season, captured the Conference USA title and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. The Knights also cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history last season, ending the year ranked No. 20 and 21 in the two polls. Several Knights admitted being irked by being left out of the polls this preseason and vowed to use that as motivation all season long.
Said Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills: “We played obviously an outstanding football team that I really believe is a Top 20-caliber team.”
Dead ahead for UCF is a great chance to prove that they belong among the elite teams nationally. UCF’s showdown against Boston College is one of the marquee games of the season for the Knights. The Eagles were 24-17 losers to Northwestern on Saturday. Kickoff for next Saturday’s nationally televised game (CBS College Sports) at Bright House Networks Stadium is 8 p.m.
“It’s a nonconference game and we want to try to start winning those as well as the (C-USA) games,” Murray said. “We need to win these nonconference games to get the looks that we need as far as the nation is concerned. We need to try and win every game on the schedule.”
UCF junior cornerback Josh Robinson pushed UCF’s lead to 49-0 in the third quarter with a dazzling interception and 32-yard return for a touchdown. The All-American candidate moved into a tie for fifth place in school history in interceptions with nine in his career.
UCF’s only scare of the night came in the third period when speedy wide receiver Quincy McDuffie had a defender fall on his knee following a 32-yard run on a sweep play. McDuffie walked on the leg without a limp after the game and the injury didn’t seem to be serious.
Godfrey, C-USA’s Freshman of the Year last season, picked up where he left off last December with a magnificent night running the ball. Godfrey had scoring runs of seven, one and 16 yards in the first half. His three rushing TDs equaled the UCF record for rushing TDs by a quarterback in a game, a mark set by Daunte Culpepper in 1998 against Eastern Illinois.
Godfrey finished with 46 rushing yards and the three scores. He completed six of 10 passes for 100 more yards.
UCF’s three-headed monster at tailback proved effective all night as Weaver, Murray and junior Brynn Harvey split carries and regularly gashed Charleston Southern’s defense.
Weaver, a senior who won the battle for the starting job, went for 44 yards on the first offensive play of the game and finished with 107 yards and a score on just eight carries. Murray, the Most Valuable Player of the C-USA title game and Liberty Bowl last season, averaged six yards per carry and scored twice.
Harvey, who missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his left knee, played for the first time since 2009 and ran well. He had 62 yards on 14 carries and resembled the workhorse back that he was two seasons ago for the Knights.
“I think the coaches handled (the tailback rotation) really well and whenever we needed a substitution to keep fresh legs in there it was a welcomed sight,” Weaver said. “We’re always competitive with each other, taking every rep that we can. Every time that we’re in the game, we know that we have to produce.”
Redshirt freshman Blake Bortles made his collegiate debut in relief of Godfrey and had a couple of spectacular plays. He kept his cool after bobbling a pass and hit Josh Reese for 42 yards. He later hit Resse for another 42-yard gainer and found J.J. Worton for a 22-yard strike.
All in all, it was flawless night for a Knights team that proved themselves ready for the opener and ready to accomplish plenty more this season.
“That was a complete team effort,” Weaver said. “We did a lot of awesome things on both sides of the ball and on special teams. It’s something for us to take a look at improve up for next week.”