William Stanback

UCF dismisses 2014 leading rusher RB William Stanback

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There are a handful of teams having a dumpster fire start to the season around the country, including the UCF Knights. On Tuesday morning the program added some more gasoline to the blaze with the dismissal of running back William Stanback.

“William Stanback has been dismissed from the football team for continuous failure to comply with athletic policy and team rules,” a statement from the UCF Athletics office said. What rules were violated, as is usually the case under these situations, were not disclosed. There has been no comment from UCF head coach George O’Leary about the decision either, although he is scheduled to meet with the media following UCF’s practice later today.

Stanback, a junior, has not played for the Knights so far this season. In 2014 Stanback led the Knights in rushing with 697 yards and 10 touchdowns.

UCF is off to a rocky 0-3 start to the season that includes home losses to FIU and Furman. The defending co-AAC champions visit South Carolina this week.

BYU needs to build a new identity after 31-24 loss to UCF Knights

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BYU’s aspirations of sneaking into the College Football Playoff ended when quarterback Taysom Hill‘s knee exploded. The Cougars’ letdown against the Utah State Aggies Saturday carried over to Thursday night’s contest against the UCF Knights.

Hill’s replacement, Christian Stewart, wasn’t quite good enough to help BYU regain the momentum the team built during its 4-0 start to the season. Instead, the Knights (3-2) captured a 31-24 overtime victory.

Stewart, a senior, played well for stretches. After a sub-par first half, Stewart seemed to hit his stride. BYU scored all three of its touchdowns during the third frame. But the offense couldn’t manage to make key plays down the stretch or in overtime.

The Cougars sorely missed Hill’s ability to improvise and push the ball down field in the passing game. Stewart finished 22-of-37 passing for only 153 yards. While Stewart isn’t the same level of athlete as Hill, he still added 52 rushing yards. It was a solid effort during the senior’s first career start. But his play will be compared to Hill for the rest of the season. When BYU isn’t victorious, Stewart’s performance will come under scrutiny.

BYU’s disappointing stretch doesn’t fall predominantly on its new starting quarterback, though. The Cougars vaunted defense didn’t play to expectations.

The Cougars’ defense is built on toughness by winning at the line of scrimmage and aggressiveness with the ability to get to the opposing quarterbacks. Yet, the Knights gained 389 yards of total offense.

UCF quarterback Justin Holman entered Thursday’s game with 12 combined completions during the previous two contests. Holman threw the ball 51 times and completed 30 passes against the Cougars.

BYU’s defense is banged up and missing multiple starters at the moment, but Cougars defensive coordinator Nick Howell remained aggressive in his play-calling. It wasn’t enough as BYU fell short each time the defense was required to make a play at crucial points in the contest.

The cougars didn’t have answer for UCF in overtime. The Knights quickly marched 25 yards on five plays to score the game’s winning touchdown when Holman found William Stanback out of the backfield for a four-yard touchdown connection.

As Stewart leads BYU through the rest of the season, the quarterback’s goal is to make sure the program stays on track and becomes bowl eligible. Two more wins should come easily, and the program is already locked into an agreement with the newly minted Miami Beach Bowl. Although, games against the Nevada Wolf Pack, Boise State Broncos and Cal Golden Bears look far more difficult now than they did two weeks ago.

UCF, meanwhile, enters the heart of their conference schedule with a contest against the Tulane Green Wave Saturday, Oct. 18. The Knights should become bowl eligible by the first weekend of November with the Temple Owls and Connecticut Huskies on the docket after next weekend’s game.

UCF QB Bortles makes NFL decision official, RB Storm Johnson joins him

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As expected, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles is cashing in his NFL Draft stock at its peak. Bortles made his decision official on Monday afternoon, informing head coach George O’Leary he will enter the NFL Draft this spring. He will be joined by UCF running back Storm Johnson.

Bortles had been holding off on making his decision until receiving his evaluation from the NFL to get a better sense of where he may be expected to be drafted. After an impressive showing in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Big 12 champion Baylor, the input must have been promising for the Offensive Player of the Year in the American. Bortles has been moving up various draft boards over the last month and his performance in the Fiesta Bowl did nothing to take away from his momentum heading in to the draft season.

Bortles completed 67.8 percent of his pass attempts this season for 3,581 yards. Both were second in the league behind only Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who himself is considered a top draft pick candidate after leaving with one year of eligibility to spare. Johnson was the American’s leading rusher this past season as well. Johnson rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Where UCF goes from here now should be interesting. The Knights look to have a winning foundation set up for years of success within the American moving in to the new College Football Playoff era, but replacing the top two offensive players will leave for some interesting position battles heading in to the spring. Freshman William Stanback was second on the team in rushing this season with 443 rushing yards and six touchdowns, so he should be the leading candidate to lead the running game in 2014. Freshman quarterback Justin Holman played sparingly behind Bortles this season but could be a leading contender for the starting job in 2014.

UCF 31-7 run shatters Louisville’s BCS title hopes

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Everything was going Louisville’s way. After taking a 14-7 lead in to halftime, the Cardinals stormed out to a commanding 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter. But Central Florida put together a 31-7 run from that point on and snapped Louisville’s undefeated season with a thrilling, down-to-the-wire 38-35 victory.

Louisville took  28-7 lead when a James Quick picked up a botched snap on a Central Florida punt and returned it for a touchdown a couple of minutes after Dominique Brown‘s 20-yard touchdown run sparked a wild second half. Central Florida rallied to tie the game late in the third quarter, with Storm Johnson getting in from the one-yard line an scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles just minutes later. William Stanback added a 12-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the third quarter as the Knights seized momentum in the game and started to wear down Louisville.

Central Florida took their first lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Shawn Moffitt kicked a 34-yard field goal to cap a time-consuming 10-play drive spanning 52 yards in a little over five minutes of play. With the fate of the game, season and perhaps a shot at a national championship on the line, Teddy Bridgewater responded by driving the Cardinals 88 yards in nine plays for a touchdown an the lead. Brown’s 15-yard line down the left sideline showed great foot work and balance and seemed to give Louisville a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. But with three minutes still on the clock and timeouts to spare, it proved to be too much time left for George O’Leary‘s Knights.

Bortles was methodic in guiding Central Florida down field and showed great poise and composure. The Knights strung together a patient 11-play drive for 75 yards capped by a two-yard touchdown, and game-winning, pass to Jeff Godfrey for his third catch of the night. There would be no more important catch in the game, because Louisville’s final second desperation Hail Mary fell incomplete in the end zone.

As the pigskin fell to the ground in the end zone, the visions of a crystal ball may have shattered with it. The loss undoubtedly removes Louisville from the BCS championship picture, barring a most-bizarre sequence of events around the country moving forward. The scenario for Louisville to make a BCS title run left little with regard to margin of error. The Cardinals had to run the table in the regular season to even be in the conversation at the end of the season largely due to the national perception of the strength of The American. Louisville may still have a shot to reach a BCS bowl game of course, and they may still be the team to beat in the conference, but now they are chasing Central Florida.

Perhaps Central Florida has already taken on the role of the top program in The American as well. The Knights have scored road wins at Penn State and Louisville this season and they gave South Carolina a very respectable fight. There may not be a team in the conference that can boats the profile Central Florida has put together. This win should bring Central Florida back in to the top 25 rankings on Sunday. The focus can now officially transition to Central Florida’s path to their first BCS bowl berth, which is now coming in to focus.

The champion of The American will receive an automatic berth in the BCS bowl line-up, although there is no direct bowl tie-in. The remaining schedule does feature some tricky spots against Rutgers (4-2) and undefeated Houston (5-0), although Central Florida will get both of those conference foes at home in Orlando. The combined record of Central Florida’s remaining opponents is 12-21. UCF gets Rutgers and Houston at home.

But what about Bridgewater’s Heisman campaign? Had Louisville held on to win the game, Bridgewater would have had his finest Heisman moment of the year while driving Louisville down field in the fourth quarter for the win. Bridgewater ended his night with 341 yards and two touchdowns, but both touchdowns came in the first half. With the loss, Bridgewater will likely take a hit in the Heisman straw polls among voters, but we’ll leave that to our own Heisman pundit to worry about.