UAB, UCF set to play following tough losses

Sometimes, mid-week games cause some consternation for college football coaches, creatures of habit who are less than thrilled about tweaking their schedules.

But UAB and UCF are just fine with playing those games if they are on national television. The two Conference USA East Division rival square off in Orlando tonight in their first conference game.

"The big thing is we’ve got back-to-back Wednesday games, but I think any time you can get on national TV and the exposure the conference gets and the school gets, you can’t pay for that," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "It’s an odd night, but it’s a great opportunity for both schools to go out and show what they’re about."

It's also an opportunity for both schools to put disappointing losses behind them. The Knights lost in the closing minute to Kansas State after leading for the entire game. Carson Coffman scored with 36 seconds left to give the Wildcats the 17-13 win. As for UAB, three of its four games have come down to the final play.

The most recent came in its last game against Tennessee, a 32-29 double overtime loss that featured five missed field goals from Josh Zahn. Coach Neil Callaway opened up his kicking competition during the bye week, but Zahn has held on to his job.

"We tried to create a lot of distraction with teammates on the field, crowd noise and harassing them," Callaway said. "He won the battle."

As for how Zahn has responded since his tough outing against the Vols, Callaway said, "Obviously, he missed five, but he made two at the end of the game in overtime, which is good. He’s disappointed, but I don’t think he’s so rattled that he can’t perform still."

UCF will see a different UAB team than it is used to seeing thanks Bryan Ellis, who has taken over at quarterback. Ellis is more of a pocket passer and has thrown for 360 or more yards in his two starts. Meanwhile, the Knights will start true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, but O'Leary plans on playing veteran Rob Calabrese. Godfrey has started the last two games in place of Calabrese. But Calabrese didn't see any playing time against Kansas State, and O'Leary thought that was a mistake.

"Did you see the last game? Of course we need both," O'Leary said. "I think it's natural when we have a young, freshman quarterback that you give him a chance to get a little blow out there and see what's going on to get his head where it's at, if he is making some mistakes. If they are older kids, I think you can use a one quarterback team because they are used to the pressure and the sense of urgency at that position. When you have a young kid, you have to have two ready to play and get them both in the game plan."