For the Knights to be successful in their second C-USA matchup of the season against the East Carolina Pirates and in games to come, there are a few key players that need to step up and play their position day in and day out. Here are those key players and points and why they are so crucial:
Although he only made his first start last Saturday against the Buffalo Bulls, Hodges has proved himself to be the man for the quarterback job.
During his debut, Hodges completed 75 percent of his passes, and was responsible for 212 yards total offense. He was the epitome of calm, cool, and collected, and has appeared so even in his shared appearances with last year's starter Rob Calabrese.
However, Coach O'Leary has expressed his wish for some improvement in Hodges' game: “I think all quarterbacks have to improve in any aspect, but I think he's getting a feel for what the offense is about”, the Knights' skipper said in a media teleconference on Monday.
“He's a fifth year guy. He's poised and he's going to find the second or third guy out there. There are always things to improve on. Coming out of the huddle he needs to improve. We're taking too long.”
It's obvious that Hodges is finding his slot more comfortable with each appearance, but a fumbled snap during the matchup against Buffalo was a rookie mistake. Hodges needs to eliminate lapses of focus in his game and carry the confidence that he should as UCF's starter.
After the Buffalo game, Hodges told UCFAthletics.com's John Denton that he doesn't think he's “rescuing the team”. Bad outlook on things, Brett. Carry the confidence and intensity that comes with being a leading quarterback on a leading football team.
Fans have been looking for a definitive leader for the Knights for a long time, and Hodges could easily be that man.
If there's anyone that has been a key to the Knights' success, it's RB Brynn Harvey. In UCF's season opening victory over Samford, Harvey recorded 111 yards and two touchdowns, and against Buffalo, ran for 98 yards and two scores.
If he can keep the momentum going, this time against a same-conference team, UCF's offense will be unstoppable. Only alumnus RB Kevin Smith has run for more yards in a game—217 in 2007 against NC State.
Harvey's quick legs will be essential for the long term this season as the Knights try to make a bowl run.
DE Jarvis Geathers is making a name for himself among the highly skilled UCF defense, and will be a key player throughout the rest of the 2009 season. In the come-from-behind win against Buffalo, Geathers made three and a half sacks, forced two fumbles, and recorded his stats in clutch fashion.
One of his forced fumbles led to the game-tying field goal, and the other effectively ended the game with 0:26 left to play.
If Geathers steps up, he will be irreplaceable this year.
Junior Safety Derrick Hallman is another defensive key for the ECU game and beyond. He not only became tied for the team lead with eight tackles against UB, but forced a fumble and a quarterback hurry.
He additionally gained UCF's first interception of the season last week when the Bulls were trying to take the lead with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. His play sealed the victory, and his continued poise will be invaluable.
WR Jamar Newsome had six catches in the game against UB, two of them on third downs to keep the drive alive. Hodges and Newsome have created quite the bond this season, spending much time practicing reps with each other.
“We have a real good feel and I think it's starting to help us out,” Hodges said. This special relationship between quarterback and wide receiver will prove critical this season.
Arguably the most potent player on offense, WR Kamar Aiken caught three passes for 53 yards against UB, and those that have been following him know that all he needs is a one-on-one situation for him to make a big play. His use in the ECU game will be enormous, and he'll continue to be a star player for the entire 2009 season.
Hodges has said he has a lot of trust in Aiken, and told him before the UB game that if he got one-on-one, he was going to throw to him. That throw resulted in an over-the-shoulder 39-yard snag on a third down play, one of the biggest plays this season so far.
The Elusive First Half
The first half is an entity in this article, mainly because of its stark contrast with UCF's second quarter so far this season. Statistically, the Knights have been outscored 44-24 in the first 30 minutes of the game this year, but outscored opponents 46-23 after intermission.
Coach O'Leary noted to me that the team needs to “make quicker adjustments” and “play from when the whistle blows”.
He's worried that the team is not controlling the game tempo, and for the Knights to prevail in the first half as well as the second, this will be key.
All of the players above must come to play hard in their respective positions, but as a whole, as a team, the Knights need to play with increased rapidity and intensity.
Read Jessica's article at Examiner.com Orlando.