With one play, George Selvie dashed the hopes of Central Florida and completely shifted the game in favor of the Bulls.
USF was leading the Knights 12-7 when Selvie anticipated a snap and raced up field, jarring the ball loose on an attempted handoff from quarterback Kyle Israel to Kevin Smith. The ensuing touchdown turned a closely-contested game into a rout.
The most shocking aspect of the play was it has become routine to his teammates.
“It’s more surprising when he doesn’t make plays like that,” defensive end Aaron Harris said. “He works so hard and he deserves everything he gets. That’s my best friend and I’m proud of him.”
Since the opening day of the season, Selvie has been the nation’s leader in sacks and tackles for a loss.
His sack of Israel was No. 11.5 on the season and one of four tackles for a loss Saturday.
Selvie’s staggering numbers haven’t gone unnoticed. His name has been included on several watch lists and he was named a Midseason All-American by SI.com and the Big East Midseason MVP by ESPN.com.
“George is relentless – he has a motor that just keeps going and going and going,” nose tackle Richard Clebert said. “All those plays he makes really isn’t a surprise to me. Even with that bull’s-eye on his back he keeps going. He really can’t be stopped.”
Plays like the one he made on Israel already have USF rewriting its record book. Halfway through the season, the defensive end surpassed Craig Kobel in tackles for a loss in a season (21.5). Also, in just 19 games, the sophomore is three sacks away from tying the career record held by Stephen Nicholas (20).
“When I got there (on Israel) I said, ‘Please don’t hand it off’ and he didn’t,” Selvie said. “I do it all the time in practice with that move, but I didn’t know I was going to be that free.”
All this coming from a player who joined the Bulls in hopes of being a center – the position he played for a majority of his career at Pensacola’s Pine Forest High School.
“When I was coming (to) college, all I wanted to do was play the offensive line. They moved me (to defense),” Selvie said. “Coach Leavitt knew what he was doing, and it has worked out for the best. On the defensive line you have to be relentless and try and disrupt the play.”
Selvie said his performance boils down to one word: relentlessness.
“I was just taught to always play hard. I was undersized as a center. Hard work always pays off,” the 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound Selvie said. “Terrence Royal taught me to watch the quarterback … they’ll give it away with their legs or the center will look up, stuff like that.”
Dating back to last season, no player has rushed for 100 yards on the Bulls’ defense – a streak that includes facing West Virginia’s Pat White and Steve Slaton twice.
Smith began the day averaging 172 rushing yards per game and crossed the goal line in each of UCF’s first five contests.
Against USF, Smith rushed for 55 yards on 18 attempts and was thwarted both times on attempts at the two-yard line. On a second and two, Smith tried to leap into the end zone but was met in midair by Selvie and dropped for a one-yard loss.
His explosive playmaking ability has the coaching staff glad he wears a green and gold jersey.
“You’re constantly wondering ‘Where is he, where is he?’, and for me that’s just in practice,” pass game coordinator and wide receiver coach Mike Canales said. “I wouldn’t want to face him in a game. I’m just glad he’s lining up for us.”