- October 1, 2015
For fifty-three minutes Saturday night, the Knights did something unexpected on the home field of Kansas State University: They led against a Big 12 team. But for the Knights, the final few seconds may well have been all that mattered.
A dramatic late score put the Kansas State Wildcats over the top, handing UCF its second loss of the season after an almost continuously dominant performance.
Four quarters after bamboozling odds makers who’d pegged them as statistical underdogs, the Knights (2-2) watched as a heavily favored Kansas State team (4-0) came back to beat them in the final minute of the game. In the entire game, the Knights would only trail the Wildcats for the final 24 seconds.
The Knights had entered last Saturday’s game knowing full well that it may be the toughest they’d play. Kansas State had bowled over three straight opponents heading into the game.
Much of those victories came thanks to Daniel Thomas, a rushing tailback who had 552 yards on the ground in just three games this season.
But that didn’t seem to affect the Knights, who jumped out to an early lead and held onto it until the final minute of the game.
The Knights defense punished a physically much larger Wildcats’ offensive line, holding an otherwise prolific Thomas to only 76 yards — more than 100 yards short of his average per game.
But big plays would come back to bite the Knights. On two pass plays — one for 73 yards and another for 58, the Wildcats picked up much of their yards in the game. In 52 other plays, the Wildcats only picked up 144 yards combined.
UCF had to deal with some defensive pressure as well. Quarterback Jeff Godfrey, in his fourth appearance in a Knights uniform, had never thrown an interception. Against Kansas State, he threw two, including a game-ending interception in UCF’s final chance to score.
Godfrey did have some bright spots, passing for 92 yards and rushing for 99 — the third highest all time for a UCF quarterback in a single game.
Tailback Ronnie Weaver also shined, picking up 130 yards on the ground, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
During the game, the Knights had more first downs, more rushing yards, more total yards, possessed the ball longer, converted more third downs and collected more sacks. But in the only offensive category that counts for a win, in the last minute of the game, they were behind by 4 points.
After using place kicker Nick Cattoi just three total times in the first three games of the season, the Knights called upon him four times in just one game after promising drives repeatedly fell apart in the red zone.
And in an uncharacteristic performance that ultimately added up to the difference between a win and a loss, Cattoi missed two of his chances, including a very short attempt after the Knights’ offense stalled six yards from the goal line.
A doubly unusual moment came on the same play, when the Knights, who had scored in 15 straight red zone possessions, had that streak snap with the missed field goal.
But the final drive for the Wildcats would change the course of the entire game within seconds. Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman led a long drive deep within Knights territory as the clock ticked down.
With 24 seconds left, he strode across the line on a seven-yard carry, putting Kansas State up 17-13, and cementing a comeback victory for the Wildcats. It would be the last score in a frustrating game for the Knights.
Looking toward UAB
Now the Knights turn their sights toward a University of Alabama at Birmingham team (1-3) that is dealing with an even tougher loss.
The Blazers took the Tennessee Volunteers into double overtime before falling 32-29.
The Knights will have to hold their own in the fourth quarter to prevent a recurrence of the nightmare they suffered at Kansas State. UAB has two straight comebacks under its belt. Against Tennessee, they were down 23-7 at the half before coming back with two touchdowns and two successful 2-point conversions in the second half.
In the loss, the Blazers outgained the Volunteers 544 yards to 287.
The Knights will return home for that game after a week off, kicking off at The Bright House at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6.