For the first time this season, the Knights are edging their way into the Associated Press’ Top-25 polling, after a strong 6-2 start to the football season. Effectively ranked No. 33 in the nation, the Knights’ rising star came courtesy of a wild 49-35 victory over East Carolina Saturday.
The win, which put the Knights on top of Conference USA with a 4-0 conference record, was a seminal moment for the team according to some players, and one of their biggest in team history, according to others. The Knights had never defeated the Pirates before this season, having lost in four straight match-ups.
“It’s probably our biggest win,” UCF senior wide receiver Brian Watters said. “It’s the biggest game of my career and probably of everyone’s career on the team now.”
The Knights dominated from the outset, scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter on two passes from quarterback Jeff Godfrey.
The freshman passer would command the ball the entire game, throwing for 159 yards and rushing for another 43.
On the ground is where a pair of Knights shined, with running back Ronnie Weaver posting yet another career high with 180 yards, averaging six yards per carry en route to two rushing TDs. Latavius Murray added another 47 yards on the ground, picking up three rushing TDs of his own.
The Knights’ defense held ECU’s running game to only 111 yards, but allowed a pass-happy Pirates offense to pick up 310 yards in the air. Defensive end Darius Nall had a sack for 12 negative yards, plus three quarterback hurries.
The end result was a Pirates offense that fell only three yards short of equaling UCF’s total yardage, but that was forced to punt three times after key stops when the Knights never punted once.
Avoiding the punt became the Knights’ specialty on the day, as they converted nine of 11 third downs, and converted their only fourth down attempt. The Knights’ only missed scoring opportunity came when Nick Cattoi missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. Cattoi was flawless in his seven extra point attempts.
Good field position also helped the Knights, courtesy of key returns from Quincy McDuffie, Jamar Newsome and Josh Robinson, who combined for 151 return yards on just six plays.
This weekend the Knights play the team with the second best record in the conference, Houston. The Cougars (5-3, 4-1) are coming off a 56-17 rout of Memphis. They kick off at 8 p.m. Saturday in Houston.