UCF preparing for conference-opener vs. Memphis
Sep. 30, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — UCF players are focusing on correcting the mistakes they made in their tough loss to No. 13 South Carolina and not dwelling on the setback.
They don't have time. The Knights (3-1) open their American Athletic Conference schedule Saturday at Memphis with their sights set on a possible conference title, and maybe their first BCS bowl bid in school history.
"Our goal is to win a conference championship, and now that it's conference play, our goal is to win every game," junior strong safety Clayton Geathers said Monday. "It's a big opportunity, and we're ready to step up for the challenge."
The Knights had a big chance to make a splash last Saturday and actually led South Carolina 10-0 at halftime before eventually falling 28-25 in front of a national TV audience.
A number of players met with head coach George O'Leary on Sunday, including junior quarterback Blake Bortles, who asked his coach what his thoughts were on the game. O'Leary told Bortles he simply needed to focus on doing his job, including being a team leader.
"He's not a senior, but he is the leader of the offense," O'Leary said. "When things aren't going well he can't worry about (if it's) because he's making bad plays. He's got to basically be the leader on that sideline and get everybody else ready to go.
"He took that and he understood it. We move on."
UCF (3-1) will head to Memphis (1-2) riding an eight-game winning streak against the Tigers and must avoid thinking ahead to the following week when the Knights will travel to play No. 7 Louisville.
The Knights say that should not be a problem because with an experienced defense and a rushing offense that is averaging 199.3 yards per game, this will be the best Memphis team they have played in a long time.
"Their backs run very hard," Geathers said. "We're just going to have to hit them in the mouth. They've got good receivers. Their quarterback (Paxton Lynch) is pretty good. He's pretty tall and he's mobile. We've just got to be prepared."
After going 3-1 during their non-conference schedule, including a win at Penn State, the Knights feel like they have prepared themselves well to start conference play.
"I hate to say we're satisfied, because we won't be satisfied until the end of the season when we're conference champions," senior guard Justin McCray said. "I think we had a decent start to the season. There are a lot of things to work on. We did some things well. We just need to learn how to sustain and keep finishing."
Despite their strong showings against Penn State and South Carolina, the Knights feel like they're still being underrated as they head into conference play. They're using that for motivation.
"I like being the underdogs," Geathers said. "When a dog has his back against the wall, what he do? He fight. That's what we're going to do."