- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Close finishes and narrow victories were UCF’s best friend a year ago.

None perhaps was more memorable than the Knights three-point win at Temple that featured a late-game, one-handed touchdown grab by UCF receiver J.J. Worton that kept the Knights’ eventual BCS berth intact.

“The only thing I remember of the game is the catch,” coach George O’Leary said this week.

Temple is again the opponent on Saturday, though this time O’Leary is more concerned about his team showing consistency than heroics after wobbling through a turnover-laden win over Tulane last week.

“I think the biggest thing is that we go out and execute, that’s what we have to get done in all three phases,” O’Leary said. “You’re at the midpoint in the season. Are we playing like I think we probably should be playing right now? Probably not. I think in some phases we are, and others we’re not.

“You have to get better if you want to reach that end of the year and do the things you want to do as a football team. And I’ve addressed that to the players. They understand that.”

Temple coach Matt Rhule quickly dismissed the notion this week that last year’s late-game collapse against the Knights (4-2, 2-0 American Athletic Conference)will be a factor this time around.

But the Owls (4-2, 2-1) do come into Orlando trying to erase another humbling loss, via a 31-10 loss at Houston last week that ended a three-game win streak.

Unlike the near upset against UCF last season, which was just a blip on a 2-10 finish, Rhule said that the matchup against the Cougars was the first time in recent memory in which the Owls played “with something on the line” in a game in which both teams were playing with expectations.

“That was the challenge for us and we stumbled a little bit, we didn’t handle that moment the way that we all thought we would,” Rhule said. “There’s nothing else to do, but to grow from it and keep building on that process of building the program, and taking advantage of the opportunity this week - because we get the same challenge again.”


Here are some things to watch for this week in the matchup between the Temple and UCF:

STINGY DEFENSE: Temple has the American’s stingiest defense, giving up just 17.2 points per game so far in 2014. The Owls also rank in the top half of league in scoring offense, scoring 33.5 points per game.

CAUSING TURNOVERS: A big reason for Temple’s defensive success has been its ability to create turnovers. Temple is plus-4 in turnover margin, led by Tavon Young who has three interceptions.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES: UCF’s defense - allowing opponents just 20 points per game this season - has saved UCF on more than one occasion this season. But O’Leary said he is looking for overall improved production from an offense that is producing just 291 yards of offense and 23.8 points per game. By comparison, the 2013 Knights averaged 441.5 yards and 34.6 points per game.

KNIGHTS LOSE LINEMAN: The Knights offensive line has issues at times this season, and will play the rest of the year down a man. O’Leary announced that sophomore RG Colby Watson is out for the season after having back surgery. Watson was injured Sept. 20 against Bethune-Cookman. He had made three starts.

BANGED UP OWLS: Temple could be without as many as three key contributors on Saturday. LT Dion Dawkins, who has started all six games this season, didn’t practice this week and is likely out with an ankle injury, Rhule said. LB Avery Williams has made five starts in 2014 and may be out as many as six weeks, also with an ankle injury. Rhule also said LB Nate Smith is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury.


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/khightower



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