After a devastating loss last week to Kansas State, the UCF Knights were hoping to take out some frustration on the visiting UAB Blazers in front of what they hoped to be the biggest student crowd in Brighthouse Networks Stadium history.
The UCF athletics department gave away free tickets to every student who had proper identification, and it boosted the crowd to over 40,000 people. The Golden Knights fans were then treated to a 42-7 win over UAB to stake their claim in the Conference USA standings.
“We played a good, well rounded ballgame,” said coach George O’Leary after the game. “Everything came together—offense, defense, and special teams.”
The coach’s demeanor could have signified a narrow victory, but behind the play of freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey and a stingy defense led by safety Kemal Ishmael, a rout began against one of the better offenses in the country, as UAB went into the game ranked 28th in the nation in offensive production.
This would be UCF's night of stifling defense, and they hammered the Blazers to get their first conference win in convincing fashion.
Godfrey left the game briefly after a big hit to give way to a Rob Calabrese touchdown pass just before the half, capping a quick start for the Knights to go up 28-0, a comfortable cushion against everyone except UAB, who came from behind to erase leads of 13, 23, and 16 in the second half over the past three weeks.
Godfrey would return and continue to dominate the Blazer defense, piling on 217 all-purpose yards and getting the work done with his feet as well as his passing, but it was the defense of UCF that defined the game.
Ishmael intercepted two passes on the night, and a errant fumble after a big hit on UAB quarterback David Isabelle led to a 56-yard fumble recovery touchdown scamper for sophomore cornerback Josh Robinson, effectively putting the game out of reach in the third quarter.
“We really got out after it today,” said senior linebacker Derrick Hallman. “56-0 was what we were aiming for, I’m just upset we couldn’t complete the shutout.
The loss dropped UAB to 1-4 on the season, and they have yet to defeat a Conference USA rival yet this season, which accounts for two of those losses. Meanwhile, the Knights broke even ground, rising to 3-2 on the season and 1-0 in the conference.
The Knights are currently tied for first in the division with ECU, who will come to town in just three weeks. Up next for the Knights are the Thundering Herd of Marshall in Virginia, where UCF has won the last five meetings. They return home next on Oct. 23, when they will meet division rival Rice in UCF’s Homecoming game.