Dallas Colleges: CUSA Championship Game
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Central Florida scored a touchdown midway through the third quarter to take control and held on for the 17-7 victory to win the Conference USA championship game.
* SMU is likely headed to the Armed Forces Bowl, which will be played at Ford Stadium in Dallas because of the renovation work at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
* I can't remember a first half this season, especially in C-USA, being that short (about 75 minutes). The teams had seven combined drives and five of them went for more than 10 plays, helping to chew up the clock. The half ended on a UCF field goal to make it 10-0.
* Injuries have hurt SMU this season, and they hurt again Saturday. Sterling Moore's left knee, which has given him trouble for much of the year, was banged up again in the second quarter. Youri Yenga was also hurt in the first half on what appeared to be a leg injury as he missed a tackle on UCF QB Jeff Godfrey and then went down. With just over nine minutes left in the game, cornerback Bennie Thomas needed attention and was taken to the sidelines.
* Godfrey sure can run. He's only a freshman, but the quarterback can make things happen with his feet. There were numerous times when he made the first tackler miss, allowing for positive yardage. He's still raw and a few times ran when he had open receivers on secondary routes, but you can tell he's got a chance to really grow in the UCF offense.
* The UCF crowd was doing the wave while the Knights were on offense early in the third quarter. Just thought I'd mention it, because I don't get why you'd do the wave with your team on offense in a close game early in the second half. But they did seem to enjoy it.
* UCF RB Latavius Murray was the MVP of the game with 115 total yards, 94 on the ground. He had both touchdowns.
* SMU QB Kyle Padron had an up-and-down day, not unlike his sophomore season. The best example was late in the third quarter. Padron converted a fourth down with a laser on an out route to Keenan Holman for 12 yards. But on the next play, he threw the ball to the wrong shoulder (inside instead of outside) to Aldrick Robinson and it was intercepted. That basically ended SMU's hopes with the Mustangs down 17-0 at that point. Padron did have some passes dropped and he tried to make things happen with his feet when he was flushed out of the pocket. But the Mustangs couldn't make enough plays. He had a couple of overthrows on deep balls as well (one to Robinson, who was open in the end zone, in the first half). Padron was 18-of-34 passing for 220 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
* UCF cornerback Josh Robinson, who had the INT, also broke up several deep balls and had an excellent game in coverage.
* UCF WRs Kamar Aiken and Brian Watters (among others) took advantage of Moore's absence for big plays across the middle. The SMU secondary had trouble making tackles and the UCF wide receivers were physical and made some nice runs after catches.
* RB Zach Line got away for one long run, a 23-yard scamper in the first half. Line, who has averaged 108. 1 yards per game to lead C-USA, rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries.
* LB Taylor Reed played well on defense for the Mustangs. Before the fourth quarter was barely a minute old, he had 10 tackles, including eight solos, and two sacks.
* WR Darius Johnson, who did not play last week due to a knee injury, had nine catches for 105 yards to lead all Mustangs receivers.
* WR Cole Beasley had a few catches, and one was particularly impressive. He was turned around, reached up and snagged the ball and then kept control while he hit the ground as the Mustangs drove deep into UCF territory in the fourth quarter.
* WR Aldrick Robinson's touchdown marked the seventh straight game in which he's scored a TD.
* LB Justin Smart got his first sack of the 2010 season and did a nice job in place of Yenga. He got into the backfield several times and was in on a gaggle of tackles.
SMU is without linebacker Youri Yenga and cornerback Sterling Moore and it showed on that drive as UCF got some big plays and the Mustangs had trouble making tackles.
The game is past the midway point in the third quarter and SMU needs a scoring drive to try to stop UCF's momentum.
The combined 10 points for one half are the lowest in the history of the Conference USA Championship Game, easily beating out the 30 scored in the 2006 game.
UCF ended the half with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that took 1:58 to get the field goal. But it could have been worse for SMU. The Knights had the ball at the SMU 3-yard line, but a personal foul penalty on UCF WR Kamar Aiken pushed the ball back 15 yards and put UCF in a third-and-long situation. (On the same play that the flag was thrown, a pass from Jeff Godfrey hit SMU's Chris Banjo between the numbers as he stood in the end zone, but he wasn't expecting it and couldn't get the interception).
UCF scored on its first posession, a 73-yard, 13-play drive that took 7:28 to take a 7-0 lead. That score didn't change despite some long drives by both teams. SMU missed a 47-yard field goal as Matt Szymanski's kick was short (and wide).
SMU has had some chances, but Kyle Padron has overthrown a few deep passes and the Mustangs have been stopped just out of field goal range.
UCF controlled time of possession in the first quarter, but SMU controlled it in the second. We are certainly set up for an entertaining second half to decide which of these teams goes to the Liberty Bowl to likely face Georgia.
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