Contrary to popular belief, those seemingly "easy" games against 1-AA teams show a lot of teams just what they are made of.
Just ask the University of Central Florida. Their game against Samford Saturday night showed fans and coaches a lot about the make-up of this football team.
The Knights barely squeaked out a 28-24 victory over the Bulldogs. The general consensus is that this year’s squad has a lot to work on and a long way to go before even thinking about contending for a conference championship. They may be right. This game certainly highlighted the Knights' weaknesses. Instead of focusing on that, however, let’s take a glass-half-full approach and take a look at the positives.
34,000 Fans Attended the Game
This was not a rivalry game. The Knights had went 4-8 last year, no championship, not even a bowl game. Fans were angry with changes in tailgating policy.
Yet, they still came out to Bright House.
That may be a small number of fans to a football powerhouse, but UCF is not yet a top-tier football program. For students and alumni to come out to a game against Samford after a losing campaign in 2008 shows a lot about the make-up of the fan base.
They are passionate. They are dedicated. They love UCF football enough to donate their money and an entire Saturday to supporting the Knights. That, regardless of the score of the game, is a win for the university.
Two words: Quarterback Competition.
Rob Calabrese struggled big time on Saturday.
Let’s face it, going 3-7 in passing for 28 yards is unacceptable. And last year, he was the best option on the Knights’ roster, struggling or not.
With Brett Hodges thrown into the mix now, Calabrese’s job as a starter is nowhere near secure. Hodges came into the game and led the Knights to a victory. He won’t start this week against Southern Miss, the fact that he is on the sidelines and managed to step up against Samford is a huge plus for the Knights. A little healthy competition for the starting spot could do both quarterbacks a world of good.
Special Teams Put on a Show
Long returns were the theme on Saturday. There’s no denying that Quincy McDuffie’s touchdown return kept them in the game and UCF saw a couple of players make long returns. These performances should show Taaffe and O’Leary that other offensive players besides Brynn Harvey can be expected to share the offensive load.
McDuffie is only a freshman, but obviously proved on Saturday that he’s quick enough and confident enough to have an impact on the Knight’s offense and special teams early in his career. Hopefully, we see him used early and often during the Southern Miss game.
At the end of the day, a win is a win. The Knights certainly weren’t in top form during their home opener, but they offered some glimpse of the future. So fear not UCF faithful—the best is certainly still to come.