UCF Notebook: Knights Confident, Hungry Heading to Columbus
By Brandon Castel
With the reality of a postseason ban awaiting Ohio State at the end of the 2012 regular season, Urban Meyer is hoping he won’t have to conjure up any motivational tactics to get his team ready to play in November.
He’s had to do that before, but never under these circumstances.
The Buckeyes are ineligible for a bowl game, regardless of how successful they are during the regular season, but Meyer is hoping he has a self-motivated group.
The same goes for Central Florida coach George O’Leary, who likely won’t have to perform any magic tricks to get his team fired up to play in Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
“I like playing games like this against tradition schools like Ohio State,” said O’Leary, whose team also faces an NCAA-imposed postseason ban this season.
“Teams who have a great, long history of winning.”
O’Leary has developed his own little history of winning at UCF over the last eight seasons. The Knights were an 0-11 football team during O’Leary’s first season in Orlando. That was back in 2004, but he turned them into an 8-win football team the next season.
They won the Conference USA East title that year, and have also won it the last two seasons. The Knights won their first bowl game in 2010, a 10-6 win over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl, and they have had one of the top-ranked defenses in the country over the last few seasons.
UCF has had the top-ranked defense in Conference USA in each of the last three seasons – they were second in the conference the year before that – and the Knights were a top-10 defense nationally a year ago (8th in scoring defense, 9th in total defense).
So don’t look for O’Leary to play the underdog angle with this group as they come to Columbus off a 56-14 win over Akron in their season-opener.
“I definitely don't believe in any of it,” starting left guard Theo Goins said of the underdog talk.
“It's just a regular game for us. We're a good football team. We put on our pads just like they do. We want to win too.”
Somewhere, Francis Schmidt is smiling about that one.
Murray won't play at Ohio State
One thing that could make a victory a little more difficult on Saturday is the injury suffered by tailback Latavius Murray. The 6-3, 220-pound senior was having a monster day against the Zips when injured his shoulder in the first half.
“He didn't practice today. In fact he was just in helmet, didn't even have shoulder pads on,” O’Leary said Tuesday.
“If they don't practice Tuesday or Wednesday, I don't include them in the game plan.”
Murray rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries before the injury. He is also coming off a 233-yard performance against UTEP in UCF’s season-finale a year ago, but O’Leary said he plans to start Storm Johnson at tailback on Saturday.
“You're an ankle away, that's how I look at it,” O'Leary said of his other guys needing to be ready.
Johnson is an athletic back who came to UCF as a transfer from Miami. He will get the start, but O’Leary also plans to play senior Brynn Harvey and freshman Cedric Thompson against the Buckeyes.
Harvey rushed for more than 1,000 yards during the 2009 season and earned first team All-Conference USA honors before tearing his ACL prior to the 2010 football season.
Knights preparing for Braxton Miller
On the other side of the ball, O’Leary and the Knights are focusing most of their attention on Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. They are well-aware of what Miller did in Meyer’s offense against Miami (Ohio) this past weekend.
“He's an exceptional quarterback,” O'Leary said.
“He's everything they talk about at Ohio State. He's a very good player that has a great surrounding cast around him.”
Miller is coming off a record-setting performance in Ohio State’s opener. He ran for more yards (161) than any quarterback in school history, but also passed for 207 and a pair of touchdowns.
His 65-yard scamper down the left sideline will be hard to simulate in practice, but O’Leary has turned to freshman Drico Johnson as the player who will simulate Miller in practice.
Johnson is a 6-2, 200-pound freshman wideout from Orlando. He was a 3-star prospect in the class of 2012 who also ran track in high school.
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