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Photo by: Isaac Babcock
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Sep. 11, 2013 5 years ago

Knights face biggest challenge yet

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Knights hope for upset
by: Isaac Babcock Managing Editor

Fresh off their biggest road blowout in school history, the Knights will be looking for an upset in Pennsylvania this Saturday.

After trouncing Florida International University 38-0 in Miami to take their season record to 2-0 and scoring differential to 76-7, the Knights are looking to keep the momentum going. And with a win against Penn State, the 2013 season would become only the fourth time in program history that the Knights started 3-0.

But that hypothetical would be against history. Though the Knights showcased a dominating performance against the Panthers on Sept. 6, in which they outgained FIU 390 yards to 173, they haven’t had much luck in college football’s second largest stadium.

The Knights seemed headed to an upset win in their first ever meeting with the Nittany Lions in 2002, leading by an improbable 24-10 at the half. But that’s when the Lions turned on the offense, scored 17 unanswered points and left the Knights behind. Two years later the Knights fell 37-13 to the Lions, in head coach George O’Leary’s only meeting against them.

Penn State hasn’t lost to the Knights. And, like the Knights, they haven’t lost this season either, going 2-0 to start. That includes a 45-7 blowout last week against Eastern Michigan that included a Penn State hallmark of nonstop, unanswered touchdowns. The Lions’ brick-wall defense didn’t allow Eastern Michigan into the end zone all game.

The Knights carry that same record into Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. Having only given up a touchdown so far this season, they’re rolling through one of their best season starts of all time. Last week the FIU Panthers rarely made it past the 50-yard line unless they were spotted a punt within a few yards of it.

And meanwhile the UCF offense proved relentless, punting only four times in the FIU game and giving up no turnovers. Blake Bortles, who threw a career-high 314 yards passing against Akron on Aug. 29, has the longest-running streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision for passes without an interception at 217, throwing 17 touchdown passes in the meantime.

A trio of supporting players from last year’s offense have emerged as breakout stars, with Storm Johnson already 188 yards-deep into his season at running back, and Rannell Hall catching 127 yards in receptions in just the FIU game alone. Breshad Perriman, who caught less than two passes per game last season, snagged 113 yards of receptions against Akron alone.

But with an offensive juggernaut like Penn State looming this weekend, it’ll be UCF’s defense that gets the big test. So far they’ve passed against Akron and FIU. They allowed just 31 yards on the ground against the Panthers, from a defensive squad packed with 17 Knights rookies. The biggest play the Knights have allowed all season was a 23-yard Akron rush.

They’ll find out whether they can break Penn State’s dominance with a 6 p.m. showdown Saturday, Sept. 14. The game will air live on the Big Ten Network, UCF Gameday, and 740-AM radio.

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