Sept. 29, 2012
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By Eric DeSalvo
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In search of its third non-conference win of the season, the UCF football team came up short against Missouri, 21-16, despite a fourth-quarter rally Saturday afternoon at Bright House Networks Stadium.
The Knights (2-2) will have a short turnaround as they welcome East Carolina in their Conference USA opener Thursday at 8 p.m. The contest will be played in front of a national audience once again as it will air on CBS Sports Network.
Even though UCF outgained the Tigers (3-2) in total yardage (395-346) and snapped 21 more plays on offense, Missouri scored two second-half touchdowns on Marcus Murphy's third punt return for a TD in 2012 and Kendi Lawrence's 10-yard scamper with 9:31 left in the game to take the lead for good.
"I think it's a game of consistency and tackling," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "I thought we gave them some yards that we shouldn't have given up and lacked consistency in blocking in the second half.
"It seemed that every (offensive) down was second and nine, second and eight. It's hard to operate that way against a good defense. Again, I think it was a game that we had opportunities in and didn't take advantage of."
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles, who finished the afternoon 29-of-43 for 267 yards and two touchdowns, was on the money during the first half. At one point, he threw a streak of 12-straight completions for 108 yards and a TD. It tied for the second-longest mark in school history with Daunte Culpepper, Ryan Schneider and Brett Hodges.
Trailing 21-10 in the fourth quarter, Bortles and the Knights were able to cut into the Mizzou lead when the quarterback found junior wideout Jeff Godfrey for his first-career touchdown reception. Despite the ensuing two-point conversion being knocked out of Quincy McDuffie's hands, UCF got a timely defensive stop and took over at its own 35-yard line after a punt with 2:44 remaining.
On the second play of the final drive, Bortles hit Godfrey on a quick slant. The Miami native slipped out of one tackle, but was stripped from behind by Missouri's E.J. Gaines. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson plopped on the ball and gave the Tigers their ninth fumble recovery of the season to ice the game.
"Personally, I'm not looking back," linebacker Ray Shipman said after the loss. "That's one thing that is preached to the team. If we want to get to where we plan to finish, we have to forget this loss because at 12 a.m. this game is over. We're focused on looking forward and never looking back at a loss."
UCF got on the board first after Shawn Moffitt converted a career-long 42-yard field goal. The scoring play capped off a 10-play drive that started at the UCF 18 and shed 5:07 off the clock.
Missouri's quick-strike offense would come to life on its third drive of the game early in the second quarter after Franklin hooked up with freshman Dorial Green-Beckham for an 80-yard TD. The highly touted 6-foot-6 rookie slipped past a UCF tackle at the 40 and took it the rest of the way.
Starting on its 15-yard line, UCF showed some quick-strike ability of its own when it took just seven plays to drive 85 yards and regain a 10-7 lead. Bortles went 3-for-3 for 72 yards on the drive, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to McDuffie. The key play on the drive came in the "Wild Knight" formation when redshirt senior Rob Calabrese took the snap and handed off to Godfrey, who in turn pitched it to Bortles. The Oviedo native then found a wide-open Calabrese, who took off for 41 yards down the far sideline for the longest reception of his career.
UCF was looking to extend its lead to a two-possession game as it marched all the way to the 2-yard line of Missouri on 18 plays but failed to notch any points as Bortles was sacked by Michael Sam with no timeouts remaining and the clocking ticking down to zero.
Missouri received the ball after the second-half kickoff trailing 10-7 and marched right down the field to the UCF 15-yard line. On the first-down play for the Tigers, UCF's ball-hawking safety, Kemal Ishmael, stepped in front of James Franklin's intended target at the 6-yard line for his fourth-career interception and first since 2010.
After the Tigers held UCF to its second three-and-out of the half, Murphy's game-changing ability took over when he caught a 54-yard punt by Jamie Boyle and took it 66 yards to the house.
Overall, the Knights outgained the Tigers on the ground, 128-89, behind redshirt sophomore Storm Johnson's career-high 93 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, the Knights were led by Troy Davis who notched 1.5 sacks and now has nine sacks in his last nine games. Redshirt freshman Thomas Niles earned his first-career start and delivered an impressive two-sack performance on the afternoon.