Television viewers far and wide love comeback stories, so what better time and place for UCF to launch its revival from last week’s setback than Friday night on ESPN.
A week removed from a 17-10 defeat to FIU in Miami, UCF heads to the far west in hopes of reclaiming what it lost. A nationally televised audience provided by ESPN will give the Knights a chance to prove to the nation that they are an elite football team when they face BYU at 8 p.m. ET.
For UCF, there couldn’t possibly be a better way to bounce back than to do so against a nationally respected opponent in BYU with the rest of the college football world looking on. Much is at stake, and UCF has vowed all week that there will be no hangover from what happened just a week earlier.
“Anytime you play on national television and everyone is watching it gives us a chance to bounce back and get things back on track again,” UCF senior linebacker Josh Linam said. “We’re over (the FIU loss) because we had to move on. We came together as a team and decided that just because we played bad last week we had to take it and get ready to play this week.”
The dreams of an undefeated season are gone, but there’s still plenty to gain, and the Knights know that full well. A strong showing Friday on the road against BYU – similar to the one the Knights put forth against Boston College two weeks ago – could go a long way toward erasing some of the sting of the FIU loss and reestablish UCF as a contender for the Top 25.
UCF’s hopes of bouncing back will center primarily on it correcting its own mistakes from last week. The Knights uncharacteristically beat themselves, committing 10 penalties, giving up six sacks and turning the ball over twice to lead to 14 points for FIU.
The effort was so unlike a UCF team that has been near the tops in the nation in penalties and turnovers the past two years. But the bizarre struck last week when quarterback Jeff Godfrey fumbled just seconds before halftime and Josh Robinson bobbled a punt return inside the 10-yard line. UCF head coach George O’Leary talked this week about Godfrey playing better when blitzes are thrown his way.
“Last week was a disappointing loss. We have to worry more about what we’re doing and correcting our mistakes and not so much about what the other team is doing,” O’Leary said.
Heading into the season, O’Leary was concerned about the senior leadership of his team after the Knights lost the largest and most influential senior class in years. Leadership hasn’t been an issue so far, but that group was put to its greatest test this week following the loss to FIU. Some seniors, such as tight end Adam Nissley, made it a point to speak up more and shepherd the younger players that there is still plenty to play for this season.
“There is some frustration and anger still in our locker room, but I think our heads are in the right place and we’re focused. A great team has to be able to take a loss as well as taking a win,” said Nissley, who had a career-high four receptions in the loss. “This week we have to get back on track.”
And UCF knows that getting back on the winning track starts Friday night in Provo, Utah. This is their chance to prove to an ESPN audience that last week was the exception and not the rule, and that UCF is still on the climb.
“I love these types of games where all eyes are on me and all eyes are on us,” said redshirt sophomore Victor Gray, UCF’s most consistent defensive lineman so far this season. “This is our chance to show the nation that we’re the team that we thought we were heading into the season.”