Run and Shoot: Goodnight Knights

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Goodnight Knights

ORLANDO - The only things that dampened UCF's opening game at the Bright House was the weather and Kyle Israel.

UCF, hold your head up high.

UCF fans, you're team will be one to reckon with.

And Texas QB Colt McCoy sang music to the fans' ears when he said after the game, "It was a tough environment for us to play."

The UCF Knights gave No. 6 Texas all that it could handle and more Saturday in the inaugural game held in UCF's Bright House Networks Stadium.

In the end, however, Texas was too tough and UCF's Kyle Israel made one two many mistakes, and Texas won the game, 35-32 in front of a sold-out Bright House.

"Give Texas credit," UCF coach George O'Leary said after the game, "they made more plays than we did. I was proud of our players, they hung in there. They came back."

Israel threw an interception early in the game that Texas took to the house for a touchdown and later, at the end of the game with UCF desperately needing a score, ran right and fumbled the ball, and the game, away for the Knights.

Israel finished 9-of-26 for 149 yards and an interception. He did throw a TD pass on the Knights' final drive and also completed a two-point conversion pass, but that was too little, way too late for Israel, who also fumbled away the ball earlier in the game.

Israel did have 11 rushes for 40 yards and a TD.

If not for Israel's two monstrous mistakes, one could surmise the Knights deserved to win. And they looked good doing it.

Offensively, this was a battle of running backs as UCF's Kevin Smith and Texas' Jamaal Charles matched big run for big run. Smith finished the game with 26 carries for 144 yards and two scores, while Charles ran 21 times for 155 and only one TD.

"Their back is a really good player," Texas coach Mack Brown said of Smith. "Our guys were in the right place, we felt like we were playing good defense, he was making really good runs."

Neither team showed much resistance on the ground as the Knights ran for 192 yards and Texas amassed 229.

Texas had the better stats - 25 first downs to 17, 448 yards of offense to 326, etc. - but UCF was in this game until the bitter end.

And they proved they don't give up on numerous occassions.

"Our football team is a solid team and they have good chemistry," O'Leary said when asked about his team's refusal to give up. "Tough loss, but we start conference play next week so hopefully we'll regroup."

In the first half, after the Israel pick that Brandon Foster took to the house, the Knights could have folded. Instead, they opened the second half on fire, scoring consecutive touchdowns, once in the middle of the 3rd quarter, and once at the beginning of the fourth that actually gave them the lead, 24-23.

Texas would come right back down the field on their next drive, and two Ryan Bailey field goals later, led 29-24 with 5:17 to go in the game.

That next UCF drive, the most critical of the game for the Knights, was when Israel fumbled away their hopes of upsetting one of the best teams in the country.

And after Israel fumbled, things fell apart, and Jamaal Charles took the ball down the left sideline on the next play for a 46-yard TD run to seal the deal for the 'Horns.

But as I said before, the Knights still didn't give up, and they drove the ball six plays and 38 yards culminating in Israel's one and only TD pass to Kamar Aiken with 35 seconds left to play.

The Knights then went for two and made it on another hook up between Israel and Aiken to make it the final score of 35-32. The Knights tried the onside, but Texas recovered to end the game.

Texas' QB, sophomore Colt McCoy played good enough to beat the Knights, but wasn't spectacular by any means. He finished 32-for-47 for 259 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed 10 times for 43 yards.

The stat of the game for UCF was third-down conversions. The Knights could only convert on 3-of-15 3rd downs and that hurt dearly.

As I mentioned before the game, win or lose, UCF is going in the right direction. And after this game, to open their new stadium, the fans, players and coaches have to feel a little good about themselves, even if they did let a huge opportunity slip away.

For Texas, the news isn't great. You won, but you looked ugly and needed five field goals and two big UCF mistakes to do it.

Their secondary looked shaky at times and their rush defense that was so good until today looked sloppy at best.

Coach Mack Brown called this a great football game, but make no mistake, he won't be all rainbows and butterflies in the lockerroom, that is a guarantee you can take home from the Bright House.

Player of the Game: Ryan Bailey, K, Texas

Bailey had five field goals, the most for any Texas kicker in history tied with Kris Stockton at Texas Tech in 2000 and Jeff Ward at Arkansas in 1985.

More than that, Texas won by a three-point margin and needed every one of Bailey's kicks to win.

"Ryan Bailey was unbelievable," said Mack Brown. "He was like Colt last week."

And Bailey missed his second field goal try of the game, a 31-yarder. He certainly made up for that, hitting his next four, including a 37, 40 and 42-yarder.

Play of the Game:

Today's play of the game was a two-play sequence that made the game's momentum do a complete 180-degree turn.

With 3:46 to play and UCF driving down 29-24, Kyle Israel rushed to his right side and picked up a first down. Except he didn't just slide or go down, he went for some extra yards and ended up losing the football.

The ball squirted out from his arms and was picked up near the sideline by Marcus Griffin of Texas, who also had a forced fumble on the game. After the refs looked at it to make sure it was a fumble, it was Texas' ball again, 1st and 10 at the 46 of UCF.

On the very next play, Texas RB Jamaal Charles took the ball 46 yards up the left side of the field for a touchdown to make the score 35-24 and put the Knights to bed for good.

Next Up:

For UCF:
The Knights, now 1-1 on the year after the loss, will look for their first-ever win at the Bright House and their first C-USA win of the year when they welcome Memphis into town on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

UCF leads that series 2-1.

Memphis plays tonight at 8 p.m., but after they lost their first game of the season against Ole Miss, UCF should be able to pick up the win.

For Texas:
The now 3-0, No. 6 Texas Longhorns should probably do better than they did this week when they return home to Austin and welcome in-state rival Rice.

Since this is probably one of the worst Rice teams in recent history, the Longhorns should have no problem disposing of the Owls.

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