UCF Knights season recap

Expectations were high going into the season thanks to a stout defense returning, but the big question is whether UCF would follow its maddening trend: down year following a good year. Well, the Knights broke that trend in a big way, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time under coach George O’Leary while winning their second Conference USA championship game. The defense was as good as advertised with defensive end Bruce Miller leading the way. UCF ranked No. 1 in the league in total defense and run defense. True freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey emerged as a star after taking over starting duties from veteran Rob Calabrese early in the season. He ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency, and can use his legs to scramble out of trouble as well. Depth at running back was a pleasant surprise, considering incumbent Brynn Harvey missed the entire season with a knee injury. Latavius Murray and Ronnie Weaver combined for over 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns. Now UCF has to keep building on the success it has had over the last two seasons to begin putting itself on the radar.

Offensive MVP: QB Jeff Godfrey. As outlined above, he has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country this season, and went 9-2 as a starter. O’Leary has been reluctant to play true freshmen at quarterbacks in the past, but there was no hesitation this time around because Godfrey is so good.

Defensive MVP: DE Bruce Miller. The leader of the defense, Miller led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hurries and was second with seven sacks. He and Darius Nall were big forces on the line. Nall had 8.5 sacks and 14 hurries.

Turning point: UCF earned the first ranking in school history in November, then promptly lost to Southern Miss 31-21. But the Knights used that loss as motivation, especially the defense. In three wins after that loss, they gave up an average of 12.6 points a game and won the league title.

What’s next: UCF plays Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, looking for its first bowl win in four tries.