Rutgers-UCF Preview

The Associated Press

While he's certainly pleased with his team's results, UCF coach George O'Leary would like to see a more complete performance. He probably would also like to endure a little less stress.

After their latest thrilling comeback, the 17th-ranked Knights will try to remain atop the American Athletic Conference and keep their BCS bowl hopes alive when they host Rutgers on Thursday night.

UCF appeared that it might suffer a damaging loss at the AAC's last-place team, Temple, on Saturday until pulling out a 39-36 victory.

With the Knights trailing by seven, J.J. Worton made a diving, one-handed catch in the end zone with 1:06 to go. On the ensuing possession, Rannell Hall's 64-yard reception in the final seconds set up Shawn Moffitt's 23-yard field goal as time expired.

"It was a good win in a tough situation. When we had the opportunity to make plays, we made them. That was the difference in the game," O'Leary said.

UCF's fourth second-half comeback of the season boosted it to 8-1 for the first time in school history. It also moved the Knights to 5-0 in the conference with Louisville and Cincinnati still on their tail at 5-1.

UCF had its only 6-0 league start last season when it was a member of Conference USA.

"We've got to play better than that if we're going to continue to win," O'Leary said. "We've just got to play a team game. Offense and defense have to complement each other. That didn't happen.

"We were very fortunate to come out with a win. We looked like we were out of sync on defense. We weren't making plays, and you can't do that. We've got to get that fixed before Thursday."

The offense doesn't appear to need too much fixing after gaining a season-high 657 yards against Temple. Blake Bortles passed for a career-best 404 and four touchdowns.

Worton caught three of those TDs while finishing with 179 yards on 10 receptions, and Hall had nine catches for 159 yards. Storm Johnson has back-to-back games of 100 or more rushing yards for the first time after gaining 122 on 14 carries.

UCF is hoping to get one of its other top receivers back for this game. Breshad Perriman, who has 567 yards, was forced to sit out Saturday after getting injured in a 19-14 win over Houston on Nov. 9 on a hit that drew a targeting penalty.

The Knights, who gave up a season-high 518 yards to Temple, might also get defensive back Jacoby Glenn (ankle) and defensive end Miles Pace (appendectomy) on the field again.

"Hopefully we get a couple of the starters back that didn't play against Temple," O'Leary said. "We've got to put a lot of work in two days of practice. We've got to be resilient and move on."

Rutgers (5-4, 2-3) will try to wreck UCF's dreams of a conference title while winning for just the second time in five games. The Scarlet Knights earned their most recent victory Nov. 2 against Temple with Gary Nova's 33-yard pass to Leonte Carroo with 35 seconds left providing the 23-20 margin.

Rutgers, though, was little match for Cincinnati in a 52-17 loss Saturday. The Scarlet Knights were outgained 619-357 and Nova had 170 yards after passing for a season-high 371 against Temple.

Rutgers has given up more than 600 yards in two of its last three games but still has a chance to become bowl eligible for the eighth time in nine seasons. The Scarlet Knights, however, are also dealing with some turmoil.

Freshman defensive back Jevon Tyree left the team last week after accusing defensive coordinator Dave Cohen of verbal abuse and a physical threat during a study hall session in the spring. The school said in a statement that Cohen was reprimanded by coach Kyle Flood and has apologized.

Rutgers, though, denied there was a physical threat from Cohen, who remains on staff. The school fired men's basketball coach Mike Rice in April after a video surfaced of him abusing players, and athletic director Julie Hermann faced allegations after she was hired in May that she also abused players when she was a women's volleyball coach at Tennessee.

Flood said he didn't think the current allegations are affecting his team.

"I have seen nothing but a spirited football team with a lot of energy that's getting ready to play an excellent football team in UCF," he said. "I think the players and the coaches are focused."

Rutgers won 45-24 in its only other matchup with UCF at the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl.

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