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September 28, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. - For UCF head coach George O'Leary, his team's 28-25 loss to No. 12 South Carolina came down to one deciding factor. In a game where both teams played well at times and poorly at others, the Knights made too many mistakes to win.
"If you turn the ball over like we did, it's going to be even harder to stay in games," said O'Leary after the game. "I thought we sort of shot ourselves in the foot in the second half. We had some penalties that you can't have."
One instance O'Leary mentioned where the Knights cost themselves the game came in the second quarter, when they drove down to South Carolina's 8-yard line. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles fumbled on a third-and-two play, and, after recovering, the Knights had to settle for a field goal to go up 10-0.
"When you get down to the 5-yard line (sic), you have to put the ball in the end zone," O'Leary said. "It's so hard to get down there and you walk away with three points instead of seven points, which is the difference in ball games. You can't give up points like that, and we did."
O'Leary called it "a game of two halves." UCF took a 10-0 lead, had five more first downs, outgained the Gamecocks 196-164 and out-possessed them 18:50 to 11:10 in the first half. But the Gamecocks came back firing in the second half, scoring 28 unanswered points and racking up 490 yards to down the Knights 28-25 on their home turf.
"When you have a chance to make plays, you have to make them, and we didn't make enough plays in the second half," O'Leary said. "We waited too long to make them, in my opinion, on the two long pass plays. It was a tough game, and it's a loss. That's what it is."
O'Leary said UCF did a good job making plays on both sides of the ball in the first half. But, "In the second half...again, if you can't stop the run, which I thought we did a very poor job of, you're going to have a tough time staying in games," O'Leary said.
O'Leary credited South Carolina for their turnaround at halftime and praised Mike Davis for carrying the Gamecocks to victory. The sophomore tailback tallied 173 yards on the ground and scored three of South Carolina's four touchdowns.
"Give their running back credit," O'Leary said. "I think he's a great running back and he made a lot of people miss tackles."
"We had him secured a couple times and he still broke for five or six yards," O'Leary said later.
But O'Leary was unhappy with his team's inability to stop South Carolina's running game. UCF was prepared for what South Carolina showed them in the second half, but made too many defensive mistakes to stop them, O'Leary said.
"We were up 10-0 and we give up a 53-yard run in the first series," said O'Leary of Davis' touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage in the second half. "It was just poor angles of pursuit, they didn't do anything special. We covered the play at least a dozen or 15 times in practice. They blocked us well and we didn't get off blocks on that play."
But O'Leary did take solace with his team's effort and attitude. It look the Knights just over 11 minutes of game clock to lose the 10-point lead they built in the first half, and just eight more minutes to fall behind 28-10, but O'Leary said the Knights were never deflated on the sidelines.
"There's no quit in us. I knew they weren't going to quit," O'Leary said. "They wouldn't be in the program if that was the kind of kids they were. But they came back and we just ran out of time.
"Tough game, tough loss. I thought we may have played with good effort, but we didn't play with smart effort."
O'Leary said his team will be down on themselves for a little while because they are competitive, but that they can learn from the game to get better.
"After every competition you feel one of two emotions: either one of great joy or one of great sadness," O'Leary said. "After a win obviously it's joy; after a loss, it's sadness. How much could you have done that you didn't do, as a coach, as a player? I always look at it after the game to see what else I could have done to help the kids out. That's what you do. And I'm sure the kids are doing that now."
O'Leary said his team will break down the film from today's game, but that they will quickly transition to begin preparing for next week, when the Knights travel to the Liberty Bowl to face a 1-2 Memphis team.
"The kids are very resilient as far as games are concerned," O'Leary said. "They'll have a headache about the game, but they know tomorrow's another day. We've got to get ready for a game next Saturday. The fourth season's over; we're on to the fifth season. They've got 24 hours to reflect over this game, then we're into the next season."
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