In our seventh episode of UCF Throwback Classics, we go back to 2010, where the UCF Knights win their second Conference USA championship. The Knights hosted the SMU Mustangs and held them in check for a tough 17-7 win. This 2010 UCF squad was the most complete team the school had in Conference USA at the time.
UCF would open with the ball and the running of quarterback Jeff Godfrey and running back Latavius Murray made a strong statement early. The two would hook up on a 3rd and 16 and convert the first down. The Knights would score on a five-yard pass from Godfrey to Murray to take a 7-0 lead. The drive was long and slow and took up half of the first quarter. SMU’s first play from scrimmage was a 37-yard pitch and catch but went three-and-out after that and led to to a short Mustang punt, pinning the Knights inside their own 15. UCF’s second drive was slow and milked almost six minutes with a pair of third-down conversions, but the drive stalled. The quarter ended after SMU’s first play of the ensuing drive. UCF ended up with the ball for 13:21 in the quarter. As the second quarter started, the Mustangs were able to get down to the UCF 30 after overthrowing Aldrick Robinson for a would-be touchdown. Unfortunately, Matt Szymanski pushed the 47-yard field goal wide right. UCF would sub Murray out and let Ronnie Weaver carry the load on the next drive. For the second straight drive, UCF couldn’t move the ball once they crossed midfield and had to punt. SMU’s next drive wasn’t much different. Once they crossed midfield, the offense stalled and they too had to punt. With just under two minutes left in the half, the Knights entered the two-minute offense and they used all of that time. The Knights used their timeouts wisely and got down inside the SMU 3. On the next play, Godfrey ran with it before being pulled down around the neck by Marquis Frazier that fans believed was a facemask. It was at this point my wife jumped up and screamed at the refs. She was loud enough, a number of SMU players turned around to look at who was screaming so loudly at the refs. We were sitting about nine rows back on the then-student-side 40-yard line. This might have been the first and only time I felt like I was sitting through a Southwest Airlines commercial. “Wanna get away?” A personal foul forced UCF to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Nick Cattoi to make it 10-0 at the half.
SMU received the opening kick for the second half. The Mustangs went three-and-out and punted to UCF. The Knights made them pay. The Knights worked their way down to the SMU 36 on a free play pass from Godfrey to Kamar Aiken before Latavius Murray exploded up the middle for a 36-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0 UCF. The Mustangs got over midfield again before the UCF defense clamped down. This drive ended with Kyle Padron throwing his first interception to Josh Robinson after converting a fourth down. UCF would creep towards midfield before being forced to punt. SMU would finally break through the UCF defense on the ensuing drive. Padron would find Aldrick Robinson on a beautiful back-shoulder pass for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 17-7 in favor of the Knights. UCF would have a three-and-out before punting the ball back to SMU. Padron would throw his second interception of the day, this time to Reggie Weams and a desperation heave, who returns the ball inside the SMU 30. UCF would lose yards on their next drive and Cattoi missed a 52-yard field goal. While the Knights didn’t get any points, they did milk the clock a bit and left under four minutes for SMU to score twice. The Mustangs never showed much urgency but were able to move the ball down to the UCF 25. Troy Davis sacked Padron on fourth down and the Knights offense took a knee to secure the win and their second Conference USA championship.
Despite the score, SMU outgained UCF 317-311. SMU won the passing battle 220-167 while UCF won the rushing battle 144-97. The big difference was turnovers. SMU quarterback Kyle Padron threw two interceptions while Jeff Godfrey did not throw any. Both quarterbacks got sacked plenty of time with Padron five times and Godfrey four. Godfrey went a very efficient 15/19 for 167 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Padron finished 18/34 for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Latavius Murray was the only running back to break 100 yards on the day. He had 20 carries for 102 yards with a touchdown. Zach Line fell just short for SMU, running for 95 yards on 18 carries. SMU’s Darius Johnson was the receiving star of the day, catching 9 passes for 105 yards. On the defensive side of the field, SMU’s Chris Banjo led all players with 12 tackles with Taylor Reed just behind him with 11. Reed also had a pair of sacks and three total tackles for loss. For UCF, Kemal Ishmael led the team with 8 tackles and Bruce Miller had a pair of sacks.
There was a plethora of future NFL talent on the field. SMU had wide receivers Cole Beasley and Aldrick Robinson, running back Zach Line, defensive lineman Margus Hunt, and defensive back Chris Banjo and Sterling Moore. UCF had running back Latavius Murray, wide receiver Kamar Aiken, offensive linemen Jah Reid, Just McCray, snapper Charlie Hughlett, defensive lineman Bruce Miller(who played fullback in the NFL), and defensive backs Kemal Ismael, Josh Robinson, and AJ Bouye.
With the win, UCF would be ranked 25th in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings for the season, their highest finish at the time. They’d also be in the top 25 in both the coaches and Harris polls. Winning the conference championship landed UCF back in the Liberty Bowl against Georgia. UCF would win that game to secure their first bowl victory.
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