As UCF began to trot off the field at halftime with a 10-0 lead, the only thing crossing my mind was that the lead should have been bigger and hopefully it wouldn’t burn the Knights in the end.
Of course it did and as South Carolina salted away the final seconds of a hard-fought 28-25 victory all anyone could think is ‘what might have been’.
As a growing program with a shot to make a statement it was pertinent the Knights bring everything they had with them into Saturday’s game. With a national television audience watching and the nation’s top defensive player on the other side of the field, it was the right time for UCF Football.
And the Knights were so close. One play here, another play there…maybe a few missed tackles…maybe an underthrown ball or two. The difference between 4-0 and 3-1 never seemed so small but still so far away. UCF forced four turnovers and didn’t capitalize on them as well as it could have.
“We should have been up by more [at halftime],” said UCF quarterback Blake Bortles.
“It’s definitely a game where you look at it and you see your mistakes,” added linebacker Terrance Plummer.
South Carolina stormed out in the second half like a team with a second chance at life. They went all in on a bruising rushing attack as the difference between a very good SEC team and a very good American Athletic Conference began to show.
And although UCF fought until the end they can’t help but wonder what might have happen if they made one less mistake.
The good news is that a BCS Bowl is still in sight. There are seven conference games the Knights should win easily and one October 18 date against Louisville that will likely send the winner to Miami in early January.
If the Knights can run the American gauntlet they will have a second chance to make a statement. And they will bring with them the lessons learned from Saturday’s near-miss.