All season long, the Knights have ranked towards the top of Conference USA in every major defensive category. Saturday's first conference road game against the Memphis Tigers continued to show how dominate UCF's defense is.
UCF head coach George O'Leary said after the game the defense made the difference the Knights' 35-17 victory over Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.
UCF forced three turnovers in the contest. Two fumble recoveries and one interception by senior defensive back A.J. Bouye.
Senior safety Kemal Ishmael made many key tackles in the game and said after the contest focusing in on UM quarterback Jacob Karam made a big difference for UCF.
"Just getting the pass rush and containing that quarterback," Ishmael said. "They were getting us with the run game and we just have to stop that early in the game."
The Knights held the Texas native to only 121 passing yards in the game. UCF also held its opponent to 4-of-16 on third downs.
UCF didn't allow a touchdown on defense for the first 59 minutes of the match up, before the Tigers scored on a quarterback keeper by Karam with 39 seconds left.
Many of the seniors on the squad were upset they let Memphis score that late in the contest, even though that play didn't have any effect on the outcome. The Knights plan to use that as motivation to improve an already stellar defense.
"We're Coach O'Leary players," senior linebacker Ray Shipman said. "We have to play perfect for the full 60 minutes. We feel we're a team that is capable of playing 60 minutes of football. That's what makes us mad. There is still a lot of room for improvement."
"We're a good defense, but we can be much better," Ishmael said.
The Knights are currently ranked first in Conference USA in total defense giving up an average of only 352.9 yards per game.