It has been nearly 36 hours since the Knights kicked off at UTEP and were embarrassed 58-13. I'm…
UCF now has a version of "the play" to call their own. Sure, it wasn't as exciting or as important as any of the three plays mentioned, but it certainly helped the Knights beat Memphis Saturday and potentially ruin the Tigers bid for a bowl appearance.
Since the game wasn't televised, I will set the stage. With the Knights leading 14-7, seldom used quarterback Joe Weatherford was inserted into the game. At that point he was one for five passing for 39 yards (the one completion stemming from a poorly underthrown pass which wide receiver Kamar Aiken leaped up and caught over two defenders), UCF faced a 4th and 17 from the Memphis 35-yard line with 1:58 remaining until halftime. Although the Knights tend to play things close to vest, especially with the lead, they were seemingly in "no man's land." Too close to punt, too long for a field goal, and with a team that struggles with regularity to convert the most pedestrian third downs, a 4th and 17 was pretty much a daunting task.
"The ball is on our 35-yard line and we're playing pretty good defense and normally we'd punt that ball but we would've punted it in the end zone," Knights head coach George O'Leary explained. "That's what we were going to do, really. I told them to give it a shot and worst case scenario we'd be giving them the ball on the 35-yard line with just 32 seconds left in the half."
Obviously there would be closer to two minutes rather than 32 seconds remaining before halftime, but that's neither here nor there. The coach decided to roll the dice and if you didn't find out by now, the result was a perfect 28-yard pitch and catch from Joe Weatherford to Brian Watters. The pass was easily the best throw of Weatherford's career, and with a group of receivers that have had an unbelievable amount of drops this season, Watters held on just as if it a route in practice.
"It was 4th and 17 I think and they just manned up so I let my receiver win and Brian made a great move and ran a great route and I threw a great pass and that's how we got it," Weatherford explained as he was smiling ear to ear following the game.
With a coaching staff that has been lambasted for being entirely too cautious with their play calling despite having a very inexperienced offense, it was have been very easy to second-guess the decision if it didn't go the Knights way. Especially if Memphis could've marched back down the field and put points on the scoreboard. This journalist was first-guessing the decision as the offense went on the field.
"That was real big," Brian Watters said of the play. "Great play call by the offensive coordinator and Joe Weatherford, he came in and he did some pretty good things. He threw some good balls out there and he just read the safeties and the middle of the field was open and I took the middle of the field and he put the ball where it needed to be."
Unlike most of the season, the Knights took the momentum all the way to the end zone as true freshman running back Latavius Murray scored three plays later on a one-yard touchdown plunge. In just four plays, UCF went from having another offensive drive go to waste to a commanding 21-7 lead. The 82 yards that the drive encompassed was the second-longest of the season for the Knights and it inexplicably came from a quarterback who hadn't played in well over a month.
"I have a lot more confidence as the season's progressed," Weatherford said. "I feel like I've done a lot better in practice and I believe the coaches have too. They're giving me an opportunity each week to prove myself and hopefully in this last game I'll get to play a little bit more and get to show what I can do."
As I stated earlier, this particular 4th and 17 play has no where near the significance of Cal-Stanford, the Vince Young scramble, or the Tyree Super Bowl catch, but it did help UCF win their second-consecutive road game and may have given a young team with high aspirations for next season a lot of positive experience to look back on.
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