Knights Ready, Excited For Thursday Night Season Opener



Aug 26, 2013

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By Chip Fontanazza

After a full summer of lifting weights and a month practicing against each other, UCF is excited to finally hit the field on Thursday night to kick off its season against the Akron Zips.

Last year, the Knights opened the season at Akron and came away with a dominating 56-14 win. Quarterback Blake Bortles, in his first collegiate start, completed 13-of-16 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. The Oviedo native will again lead this year's offense with the majority of his play makers from last season returning.

"We expect to be a very good offense with a lot more experience than we had last year," said senior offensive lineman Jordan McCray. "The offensive line as an experienced group is just looking to lead and really open up the offense for the rest of the guys because it starts with us."

This game will also be the first of UCF's 12 one-game seasons in 2013. That's what head coach George O'Leary tells his players every year and he is very happy that the team is focused on the same thing.

"I've always preached that and you never hear one of my players talk about another game. I think even if you bring it up to them they're going to say Akron," said O'Leary. "Once that game is over with then you move on to the next one. I think the players understand."

The Knights have had a lot of success in season openers, having won their last seven. UCF is 22-12 all-time in its opening contest. O'Leary says if the Knights want to come away with a victory, the team will have to defend the pass against a Zips team that finished fourth in the nation in passing attempts last season.

"I think Terry [Bowden] does a great job with their offense. They play a lot of wide receivers. We'll be well tested," said O'Leary. "They're going to make some catches, you just have to make sure they don't get any yardage on the plays. That's the big thing and that's what we've been working on with the players."

Many of the players who will be defending the Zips' offense will be first time starters on a Knights' defense that has only four players with starting experience. Senior defensive lineman E.J. Dunston says he likes what he's seen from the young players who are stepping up.

"All of the young guys are stepping up and I try to do my best to encourage them as much as I can because I need the young guys, just like the young guys need me," said Dunston.

Although Akron finished last season with a 1-11 overall record, the Knights know this is the first of their 12 one-game seasons.

"I expect a tough game Thursday night and we have to go out and execute," stated coach O'Leary. "That's what has to get done."



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