Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, September 8, 2012

UCF Knights Fall to Ohio State

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 21:05


The UCF Knights (1-1; 0-0 C-USA) fell to the Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0; 0-0 Big-10) 31-16 Saturday in front of close to 105,000 fans at Ohio Stadium. Orlando Sentinel Knights beat writer Ilana Limon recounted the game:

COLUMBUS, Ohio As the 2011 season was slipping away and losses were piling up, defensive lineman Victor Gray was constantly shouting at his teammates. He was begging them to focus, prodding them to fight back, searching for any button he could push to avoid a losing season. It wasn’t enough, and the Knights were forced to accept a disappointing 5-7 final record.

Gray hated walking out of Ohio Stadium with the first loss of the 2012 season Saturday, but he was inspired by what he saw during the Knights’ (1-1) 31-16 loss at No. 14 Ohio State (2-0).

“I was proud of the way the team stayed out there and fought,” Gray said. “We stayed together. We didn’t get our heads down. We didn’t point fingers at anybody. I’m happy about that and that’s something you can grow and be a dangerous team from.”

The game was played at the Horseshoe before an announced crowd of 104,745. It was broadcast nationally on ESPN2, putting the Knights on an elevated stage.

They were expected to stumble big in the spotlight. The Buckeyes were favored to win by at least 18 points.

UCF ultimately made a lot of mistakes, helping Ohio State score the double digit win. UCF sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles had three critical interceptions. And the Knights’ defense struggled to contain Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller.

But 2012 could still be special because Gray wasn’t the only one on the sideline unhappy about the botched plays. He wasn’t the only one still chasing Miller after he made a string of highlight-worthy plays.

“There’s more people helping out,” Gray said. “I’m still going out there talking to guys, but people are doing it to themselves now. Everybody’s holding each other accountable.”

The Buckeyes tried to put the Knights away early in the third quarter and held a commanding 31-10 lead, but UCF scored off a Bortles pass to senior Billy Giovanetti with 1:37 left in the third quarter. Sophomore Shawn Moffit’s extra point attempt was blocked, making the score 31-16 in favor of the Buckeyes.

UCF senior cornerback A.J. Bouye then intercepted a Braxton Miller pass to give the Knights strong field position. UCF senior reserve running back Brynn Harvey used powerful downhill running to push the Knights into the red zone.

However, Ohio State’s Orhian Johnson picked off Bortles at the Buckeyes’ 7-yard line.

“I think basically we played sporadically,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “. . . You can’t turn the ball over, No. 1, against good football teams. Ohio State’s a good football team. And then I don’t think we tackled very well. Too many missed tackles.

“. . . I thought we fought back. And I thought we came back and were resilient in what we tried to get done.”

While the Ohio State defense made some key plays to keep UCF competitive, the Buckeyes’ success was largely tied to dual-threat star quarterback Miller. He stepped up and delivered crushing blows.

Miller finished with 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. He also was 18-of-24 passing for 155 yards, one touchdown and interception.

“He is a good player who can make you look bad,” O’Leary said of Miller.

Bortles said he was upset with the decisions he made under pressure and vows to learn from the mistakes, doing a better job of looking away from his targeted receivers to deceive the defense.

He went 25-of-41 passing for 249 yards, two touchdowns and three painful interceptions.

“It was very frustrating because we all expected to win this game,” Bortles said. “No one comes into a game just hoping to win.”

Gray said he will make sure Bortles and his teammates learn from the loss but don’t let the negative feelings trigger a losing streak. He is eager to see UCF bounce back next week during its home opener against FIU.

The Knights’ 17-10 road loss to the Panthers last season happened to trigger many of the headaches that haunted the team all season.

“The game’s over,” Gray said after the Ohio State loss. “That’s the best thing you can say. The game’s over and there’s another game. . . . We just get ready for the next one.”

Photo and Story courtesy Orlando Sentinel


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