ORLANDO – Don’t let that 0-3 record mislead you about Central Florida, the Golden Knights insist. This is a quality team that ran headlong into the teeth of a bad schedule.
Close losses against traditional powers Penn State and Marshall by a combined eight points were moral victories – and nationally televised ones, at that. As for the 33-point blowout Arizona State delivered on a stormy desert night, many of the mistakes the Knights committed in that debacle were eliminated by the time they faced Marshall.
That’s not a lot for UCF to hang its hat on, but as the team prepares for Saturday’s home opener against Liberty (1-2), the team is trying to find the good in its first winless start since 1999.
“We have a very good football team, we just haven’t proved it yet,” UCF coach Mike Kruczek said Monday, “Our expectations were a lot higher than 0-3 at this point, but our goals and expectations can still be met.”
But that’s only if the Knights keep improving like they have in the season’s first month.
There were good signs in the loss to Marshall, which was the Knights’ debut in the Mid-American Conference. UCF rushed for 138 yards after collecting 98 in its first two games. Also, the Knights committed just three penalties after being flagged 17 times against Arizona State.
“We had the open week, which helped us,” wide receiver Jimmy Fryzel said. “And the offense had a meeting after the Arizona State game because we were disgusted with the way we played. We talked about a lot of things; without the coaches, we got a lot off our chests.”
Said Kruczek, “You talk about penalties – 17 down to a handful. We’ve talked about it on a daily basis about the reasons for penalties. In my opinion, it’s a total lack of focus to have penalties. They went out there with the right focus, and it showed.”
The 26-21 defeat to the Thundering Herd on Friday puts the Knights in a situation where they will need help if they’re to win the MAC title in their first season as a member. UCF will have to win its seven remaining conference games while hoping Marshall loses at least twice.
And all of that can happen, Kruczek insists.
“Our destiny really isn’t in our hands, but I’m going to tell you this right now, I do not think the Eastern (Division) representative will be undefeated in the MAC,” Kruczek said. “There’s a tremendous amount of parity in the MAC.”