July 18, 2012
The following is the eighth installment of a 12-part series, previewing each of Marshall's opponents for the upcoming football season.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -
Marshall will look for its first win in its last seven tries against UCF when the Knights visit Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Oct. 27.
It might be the Thundering Herd's last chance at a win against the Orlando, Fla., school. UCF, which leads the series 7-3, is set to leave Conference USA for the Big East in 2013.
UCF started last season with a 3-2 record, including a 30-3 win over Boston College. After defeating Marshall 16-6 in a Florida downpour, the Knights lost five of their last seven and finished with a disappointing 5-7 (3-5 C-USA) record.
It came as a surprise, considering UCF outscored its opponents, 325-220, as its offense averaged 406.8 yards per game compared to the defense surrendering just 303.3 yards per outing -- best in Conference USA. Of its seven losses, six came by seven of fewer points.
The Knights will have much of that offense back in 2012. A total of 82.3 percent of UCF's rushing yards and 73.2 percent of its receptions came from freshmen, sophomores or juniors last season.
The starting quarterback the past two seasons, Jeff Godfrey, will return after requesting and being granted his release from the school at the end of the 2011 season. Ninth year Coach George O'Leary, who named sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles as the starting quarterback in 2012, has stated that Godfrey is allowed back on the team, but as a wide receiver with the opportunity to help the team out at quarterback in the "Wild Knight" package, UCF's version of the "Wild Cat."
The Knights ranked third in C-USA in rushing thanks in large part to Latavius Murray, who returns for his senior season. The running back rushed for eight of UCF's 27 touchdowns on the ground last season, the fourth-most in school history. In the UCF Spring Game, Murray split time on the first-string offense with talented newcomer Storm Johnson. The Miami transfer hasn't played since 2010 as a freshman with the Hurricanes. Johnson and Murray, along with senior Brynn Harvey, make for a dangerous trio in the backfield.
In addition to leading the conference in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense, UCF also led in kickoff returns. The statistic was a big improvement, as the Knights ranked No. 104 in the nation through five games until Rannell Hall took over return duties. UCF ended the season ranked in the top five in the country as Hall racked up 31.0 yards per return.
Offensive Player to Watch
Wide receiver J.J. Worton recorded a freshman-school record 41 catches and a team-high 531 yards with four touchdowns. He was named to Freshman All-America honorable mention by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Defensive Player to Watch
Lineman Troy Davis recorded 29 tackles (16 solo,) with 8.5 tackles for loss and a team-high 5.0 sacks last season. He was named to Phil Steele's All-Conference USA third team. He will spend his senior season learning under new defensive coordinator Jim Fleming, one of seven new assistant coaches.
Can Godfrey accept working at receiver after spending the last two seasons as a starting quarterback?
Who will replace cornerback Josh Robinson, C-USA's leader in passes defended last season? A.J. Bouye is recovering from a torn ligament in his left knee and will look to take the starting spot of the third-round NFL Draft pick.
UCF and Marshall were the only Conference USA schools last season to make every extra point attempt. The Knights were 38-of-38 while the Thundering Herd was 33-of-33.
Quote to Note
"That chip on our shoulders is still there and it will be there until we win a conference championship. With the season we had last year, we've got to go out and get that bad taste out of our mouths.''
-- Jonathan Davis, senior outside linebacker
Aug. 30 at Akron
Sept. 8 at Ohio State
Sept. 15 FIU
Sept. 29 Missouri
Oct. 4 East Carolina*
Oct. 13 Southern Miss*
Oct. 20 at Memphis*
Oct. 27 at Marshall*
Nov. 3 SMU*
Nov. 10 at UTEP*
Nov. 17 at Tulsa*
Nov. 24 UAB*
* Conference USA games