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Grant Traylor: UCF defense creates offensive opportunities

Oct. 25, 2012 @ 12:38 AM

The mark of a great team is when every facet of the game is working consistently as one unit.

UCF is a great football team.

The Knights' offensive numbers aren't gaudy, but much of that has to do with the UCF defense, which has one of the top turnover margins in Conference USA at plus-6 -- a figure that also ranks No. 25 in the nation.

That defense has produced 15 turnovers this season -- eight fumble recoveries and seven interceptions -- with eight different players providing a momentum-changing play by gathering a turnover.

The ability of the UCF defense to create turnovers has allowed the Knights to be in favorable offensive positions to start drives.

"They are one of the top teams in the conference in turnover margin," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "That's why they are where they are. That's why they are 5-2. They're playing great defense, they're not turning it over and they make you earn everything you get. They're a very physical team that takes care of the ball and plays great defense."

The Knights are well-versed in the principles of their head coach, veteran George O'Leary.

O'Leary's style is to feature a punishing, physical attack on both sides of the ball.

The defense creates opportunities with its physical, athletic play that forces the opposition into mistakes while the offense stays close to the vest and capitalizes off those opportunities.

UCF also only commits 4.4 penalties per contest.

It's somewhat like a classic car -- a well-tuned machine that is always reliable. It might not get the Knights to the end zone as fast, but they consistently get there.

The defense is complemented by an offense that is averaging 400 yards per game and 33.4 points per outing.

Against Memphis last week, the Knights turned three Tiger turnovers into 21 points, which proved to be the difference in the game.

It proved to be the great equalizer after UCF gave up 280 yards rushing to Memphis.

Marshall has struggled with turnovers instantly turning into points, so the Thundering Herd is going to have to do a solid job of not allowing the big defensive play to UCF in order to have a chance at the win on Saturday.

QB CLUB: Marshall's Quarterback Club of Huntington will meet at noon on Thursday at Pullman Plaza Hotel.

Cost is $15 for non-members and $12 for members. Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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