Monday, September 16, 2013

When TV gives you a noon kickoff, fry eggs. And chicken.

By now you've heard the kickoff time for the UCF-South Carolina game at Bright House Networks Stadium as finally been set.

And you've groaned that, as dictated by the TV networks, it's going to be a noon kickoff. In September. In Orlando, Florida. (I'm groaning again.)

Take it as it comes, Knights fans. C'mon, would you trade a 3:30 or 4:30 or 7 p.m. start for the win Saturday at Penn State? Thought not.

This wasn't going to be the 3:30 or 7 o'clock SEC game anyway. We might have been pegged for 8 p.m. -- and would you want to wait around all day for this?

Next week's game comes almost a year to the date of the Missouri game a year ago. It went lousy on the field. In the stands it was warm, really warm, but not terrible. We survived. And we can on the 28th, too. Just be smart, hydrate that morning and make sure to drink something during the game. Water is best. For students who can't afford concession bottled water, take an empty bottle and shove it in a back pocket, then pull your shirt over it and fill it up inside. I do it all the time. (Or shove it down your pants. I won't judge. My wife might, though. And as I write this, I'm realizing this advice is guy-centric. Ladies, get creative. You're smarter than us anyway.)

The big networks, either ABC or ESPN, will be here. And that could hurt the attendance figure, actually. People on the fence about coming will stay home and watch on TV on their air-conditioned couch instead of dealing with the heat and some traffic. They're useless to the cause anyway; they wouldn't be loud enough in the stadium to matter. People nationwide will be watching, so this needs to be special.

For those of us in the stands, it will be special. With the exception of that Missouri game, all of the 12 p.m. starts at BHNS have been special. How about the two Conference USA games UCF hosted (2007, 2010). Two-and-oh, baby. And how about the last time the No. 13-ranked team in the country came to Bright House to play in a noontime kickoff; how'd that work out for you, Houston?

I'm going to say it again: it will be special. Arrive early, tailgate in the morning. Make omelets (you'll need the protein). Drink orange juice. (Hell, make mimosas, but sip them.) But be smart. Bring shade (an umbrella works). Think sunscreen. Do what you can in order to arrive to your seat refreshed, in good spirits and ready to exude positive thoughts and energy.

UCF will need all of that next Saturday at noon in order to take out the Gamecocks, which is defined as a rooster, which ain't too far from a chicken. Mmm, fried chicken.

UCF 34, Penn State 31, redux. There were two games played on Saturday in Happy Valley -- or it felt like it to the people in my house.

There was the first 55 minutes, in which UCF took the lead, never gave it up, and made a Knight fan feel, "We got this."

Then there was the final 5 minutes, when a awful punt snap sent freshman punter Caleb Houston scrambling for the ball headed toward our own end zone that made "We got this" turn quickly into, "@^$%#!!!!!"

Houston managed to get a kick off and make Penn State spend almost two of those minutes getting to the end zone to make it a one-score game. UCF got the ball and ran out the clock thanks to J.J. Worton taking a screen pass 13 yards and getting an all-important first down. Rewind that play in your head and watch Worton cover those yards in a short burst and you'll understand the major reason why UCF won: Florida speed. Penn State had never seen that, and in practice couldn't recreate it. Think of the big first-half plays: Storm Johnson goes 58 yards around the end for a TD; Jeff Godfrey goes 49 yards on a Wildcat play; Josh Reese goes 25 yards on another bubble screen.

"Yo, I got this."
Where was the Nittany Lions' defense on those plays? Chasing the speed. PSU defensive coordinator John Butler admitted it. "We tried everything ... we emptied the game plan."

Other nuggets: Will we see another catch as pretty as Worton's 9-yard diving touchdown catch,
surrounded by the teeth of that Penn State whiteout student section in the end zone? ... I wasn't going to harp on it at the risk of sounding like sour grapes, but the officiating was horrible -- both ways. UCF got away with a false start on a first-down pass from Blake Bortles to Godfrey in the third quarter. But the Knights got shafted plenty: a pass interference call on freshman CB Jacoby Glenn when PSU WR Allen Robinson was shoving him all the way down the field; another pass interference call on Glenn when he wasn't even defending the pass ... final numbers on Storm: 17 carries, 117 yards against a Big 10 defense. I believe he has just been upgraded to a hurricane.

San Diego Chargers 33, Philadelphia 30, redux. For my Philly homies, who didn't want to believe me after last week's dismantling of Washington that the flip around from being a 4-12 team wouldn't happen overnight. Yes, this might be a 12-4 offense, but it's still a spineless, gutless 4-12 defense that let the Chargers got 11-for-14 on 3rd down Sunday and almost pissed away a 33-7 lead over the final 18 minutes the Monday night win last week. You expect it to get any better, with Andy Reid coming in Thursday with the K.C. Chiefs, knowing where that defense is weakest? Whatever. This is still a 6-10 or 7-9 team at very, very best.

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