Ronnie Weaver (Getty Images)
It was a tale of two halves for the Knights on Saturday, as they fell 34-7 to the host Boston College Eagles. UCF started the game off strong and was clearly the more physical team early on, but as the game progressed, missed opportunities prevented the Knights from pulling off the upset at Alumni Stadium.
“That’s why you play 60 minutes. Obviously we had opportunities today, and we sure didn’t take care of it,” said O’Leary after the lopsided defeat.
The Knights led 7-3 going into halftime, with the team clearly outplaying their ACC opponents, but even then UCF didn’t convert when they needed to.
“I think we put defense in some positions out there too often,” said O’Leary. “We didn’t tackle well in the second half. Offensively, I don’t know if you can get better field position than they were given and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
In the first half, UCF started with a short field (42 yard-line or better) four times, including starting at BC’s 35 and 26, but the team couldn’t convert on any of those occasions. Both of the times the Knights started in BC territory, they were blanked as Daren Daly missed a 25-yard field goal and Michael Greco threw an interception.
“I thought he did some good things, again you have to take care of the football with the picks thrown,” said O’Leary in regards to Greco, who finished with three interceptions.
O’Leary also said he would reassess the kicking game, after Daly missed two field goals under 26 yards.
“You can’t blow field goals, and not just field goals, but momentum.”
The defense was stellar in the first half, allowing just one bad drive, in which BC missed a field goal. The Knights were swarming to the ball on every occasion and consistently flustered the Eagles, but even then there were missed opportunities by the defense. In the first half alone, the Knights dropped three interceptions, one of which would have been a pick six by Joe Burnett if he had been able to get a handle on the ball.
Despite missing several golden opportunities, the Knights led at half, but then problems started to mount in the third quarter. The defense gave up a long drive for a touchdown and the offense became stagnant. UCF started one possession at BC’s 11-yard line, but again couldn’t convert and another missed field goal by Daly prevented a UCF score.
The Knights also became prone to three and outs on offense in the second half, and as a result the defense was left on the field for the majority of the half and they allowed some big plays.
“They got three(interceptions), but they gave up three big plays too, which I’m more concerned about,” said O’Leary. “Overall I thought defensively we played very well at times, I think we just put them on the field too much in that second half as far as our offense is concerned.”
The Knights finished the afternoon with four possessions started inside BC territory, and accumulated zero points from those opportunities.
In the first half, UCF had a stalwart defense and an offense that wasn’t dominating by any means, but certainly could move the ball when necessary. As the game progressed though, the offense became more translucent and BC’s defense consistently stopped UCF, causing for the Knights’ defense to be asked to make numerous stops. Fatigue set in and the Knights fell apart offensively and defensively in the second half.
While there were some bright spots for the Knights on Saturday’s game, missed opportunities on offense and defense stopped UCF from making a statement against a solid BC team.