Knights fans packed Bright House Networks stadium last night for UCF's season opener against the Samford Bulldogs of Alabama, but penalties, a bad kicking game, and an underestimated Samford offense soured fans of the black and gold, even though the night ended in a UCF victory, 28-24. What did last night's game tell us about the rest of the 2009 season?
The Knights need to up the intensity
The 12th man of the Knights' squad exhibited more intensity than any member of the team did. During pregame warm-ups, both UCF's offense and defense ran through the motions as if they were bored.
And instead of team members barreling through a tunnel constructed by cheerleaders during starter introductions, they stood at the sidelines as if they didn't even hear their name called.
While it's not necessarily a requirement for the football team to make a dramatic entrance, the Knights' energy was a bit lackluster. If UCF wants to intimidate teams like Miami, Buffalo, and East Carolina, they're going to have to appear a bit more ready to dominate.
Running the ball down the middle doesn't work for UCF this year, either
Last year, O'Leary's boys ran the ball down the middle countless times for pathetic gains of one to two yards each. As obvious in last night's game, it won't work this season, either.
Brett Hodges should start in upcoming games
Even though it was confirmed in last night's press conference that O'Leary planned to play both Calabrese and Hodges vs. Samford, it was obvious that senior transfer and hometown boy Brett Hodges reigned supreme.
Last week, Coach O'Leary said Calabrese would be this season's starter, leaving fans to assume that he had improved immensely since last year, when he was a true freshman. Not so much, Skipper. Calabrese looked rushed, panicked, and made many unwise throws.
In the middle of the second quarter, when Hodges was put in, the Knights received a breath of fresh air. Immediately, Hodges made a fantastic throw to No. 34 Brynn Harvey, and five and a half minutes later, led the Knights to their first touchdown. All in All, Hodges went 10-17 with 129 yards and one touchdown. Calabrese went 3-7 with 28 yards.
The kicking game needs help
If the Knights want to have a chance at a winning season, the kicking game needs a lot of help. Kicker Jamie Boyle missed an important field goal in the first quarter, followed by a blocked field goal in the fourth, voiding six much-needed points.
Furthermore, Boyle missed an extra point in the third quarter, successfully kicking Knights fans in the stomach. Missing 30-35 yard field goals is unacceptable.
If it's nerves that Boyle has, he needs to get over it quickly. Again, with a tough schedule at hand, and a sub-par offense and defense, every point counts.
The return game will be invaluable again this season
Last year, star CB Joe Burnett rocked UCF's special teams game, giving the Knights much-needed points. Last night, the return game was again invaluable. Led by senior Rocky Ross, who missed much of last season due to injury, special teams returned 99 yards vs. Samford.
The offensive line needs to improve blocks
The offensive line looked weak in blocking during the Samford-UCF game. If the Knights cannot block a 1-AA team, how are they going to block University of Miami, or East Carolina University? The Knights O-line definitely has a lot to work on this week.
Knights fans are hungry for dominance, and they're getting impatient
It seems that the negative attitude toward the Knights' failures has continued on from the last game of the 2008 season to the beginning of 2009. During last night's game, fans yelled “Fire O'Leary!” and “What kind of play calling is that?”.
UCF fans aren't taking too kindly to appearing feeble in 2008 and potentially again in 2009 after a dominant 2007 season that culminated in a C-USA championship.
The Knights' season opener was not sold out last night, signaling that UCF's football fans are wary of another disappointing season.
O'Leary's football team needs to re-group this week and make a great showing on the road against Southern Miss next week. Perhaps then fans will take their chances on paying to see UCF vs. Buffalo on September 19 at Bright House.
View Jessica's article at its original place at Examiner.com