Posted by Jerry Hinnen
You wouldn't expect a game featuring June Jones on one sideline and a UCF offense on the other that's scored 35 or more points six of the last seven weeks -- a game played to decide the Conference USA championship , the most defense-optional conference in the country -- to beocme a defensive slugfest.
But at halftime, that's exactly what the C-USA title game (held on the Knights' home field in Orlando) has become. UCF leads 10-0 on a Jeffrey Godfrey touchdown pass and a Nick Cattoi field goal to end the half, but the story of the game has been the Knight defense. They entered this game the conference's best D by nearly 50 yards a game allowed , and have so far held the Mustangs to just 7 first downs and fewer than 150 total yards, and dangerous QB Kyle Padron to a quiet 7-of-13 half.
The other story is how little football there's been; several long, clock-churning drives by the Knights (the touchdown came at the end of a 13-play march that ate nearly seven-and-a-half minutes of gametime) and a pair of long SMU drives that came up empty, the Knights got only four possessions in the half, the Mustangs only three .
Assuming the Mustangs can see more of the ball and Padron can get untracked, the game has a long way to go before being decided.
Update, 2 p.m. EST: Unfortunately for SMU, the UCF secondary -- which must have hit double-digits in deep passes batted away by game's end -- never did let Padron get in any kind of rhythm, as the Mustang QB finished a rocky 18-of-34 with two interceptions and several crushing coverage sacks taken. The final two of those came on SMU's last-gasp drive, down 17-7, which reached the UCF 25 but no further as the sacks ran the clock out.
The result is justice for UCF, which finished with the conference's best record both in league play (7-1) and overall (9-3). With their defense and the freshman star-in-the-making Godfrey playing far beyond his years, they'll be more than a match for whatever SEC team they face in the Liberty Bowl.