- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - In the earliest days of UCF’s football program matchups with nearby and fellow FCS member Bethune-Cookman were a yearly staple.

That ceased in 1996 when the Knights jumped to the FBS level. Both teams have grown up a lot as they prepare to rekindle the rivalry with their first meeting in more than 15 years on Saturday.

Just don’t expect the current players on either side to be filled with a lot of nostalgia.

“I was 2 years old at the time, so I can’t remember,” said Knights linebacker Troy Gray, when asked to recall what he was doing the last time the programs met in 1995. “I was probably watching ‘Barney.’”

It was a funny line, but at 0-2 following last week’s 20-point loss at Missouri there was a very serious vibe in UCF practices this week. The Knights enter their first home game of 2014 with hopes of finding a fluidity that’s been missing on both sides of the ball so far. They haven’t started 0-3 since 2004, when they went 0-11.

“Our defensive line has to start making more plays,” Knights coach George O’Leary said. “And offensively, we gotta bow up. At times we look very good, and at other times (youth) shows in some of the players. Some of our older and more experienced players have to start playing to their potential, too.”

Breaking out of that malaise isn’t a guarantee opposite a 2-0 Wildcats team that upset Florida International in their home opener, and is ranked 12th in this week in both FCS polls.

With a win over the Knights B-CU would become the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team to beat two FBS teams in the same year.

That opportunity aside, Bethune coach Brian Jenkins said he tried to ensure that his team’s approach to this week didn’t change.

“It means you’re going against a very quality opponent,” he said. “It feels good to be able to match wits against a guy like George O’Leary and his staff, and see where your program is at.”

Gray said he expected to encounter a team that is playing with something to prove.

“This is a big game for them also, they’re 2-0 coming into this game and people are overlooking them,” he said. “We’ve been overlooked in the past. We know that chip and that fight they that have.”


Here are some things to watch for in Saturday’s matchup between Bethune-Cookman and UCF:

FAMILIAR FOES: UCF has played Bethune-Cookman more than any other opponent in school history, having met the Wildcats 15 times. The schools met every year from 1981 to 1995 before the Knights moved up to FBS.

STREAKING KNIGHTS: The Knights enter Saturday’s matchup having won six straight against the Wildcats. UCF also holds a 10-5 all-time edge in the series. In addition, the Knights are riding a six-game win streak in home openers. Since moving up to FBS, UCF is 19-0 against FCS programs. This will be the Knights’ first FCS opponent since 2011.

TOUGH WILDCATS DEFENSE: B-CU’s defense is ranked in the Top 5 in four different categories among FCS teams, including second in rushing defense. So far through two games the Wildcats have given up just 45 yards per game on the ground. UCF has struggled rushing the ball in 2014, averaging just 57 yards. B-CU senior DE Quentin Williams has four sacks this season and seven tackles for a loss.

KNIGHTS OFFENSIVE LINE: After losing three starters on the offensive line to graduation in the offseason, UCF has used two different starting lineups to open the season. Only C Joey Grant, LT Torrian Wilson and RG Colby Watson have started both games. Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe said there was “a good possibility” 6-foot-5, 300-pound sophomore Chester Brown could join the mix this week.

HOLMAN’S TEAM: O’Leary said he thought sophomore QB Justin Holman “grew up” in the Knights’ loss to Missouri, in a game that saw him sacked six times. He threw two interceptions, but had his second outing with more than 200 yards.


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

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