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September 28, 2013

Knights rue what could have been

ORLANDO - For UCF junior quarterback Blake Bortles and several of his teammates, a failure to execute doomed the Knights in their 28-25 home loss to No. 12 South Carolina. Bortles said after the game that UCF had plenty of chances to put the Gamecocks away, but that they struggled to make the most of them.

Bortles said the Knights should have been up by "way more" than 10-0 at halftime, but that the offense made too many mistakes.

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"We didn't capitalize on the turnovers that our defense got, and that's why we didn't win the game," Bortles said.

Bortles said a variety of mental lapses, missed assignments and penalties stalled the Knights' offense all game long.

"We didn't play - I didn't play - good enough to win the game," Bortles said, adding that he takes full responsibility for both of his interceptions.

Bortles said Victor Hampton made a great read on his first interception of the day, but said, "The second one was just a bad ball. I didn't throw it far enough for Jeff (Godfrey) to go get it, and that just can't happen. Turnovers cost us the game."

Mike linebacker Terrance Plummer, who led the Knights with 14 tackles and forced Connor Shaw's fumble on South Carolina's opening drive, blamed the loss on the defenses' failure to execute.

Plummer said UCF's defense was mentally prepared for South Carolina to run the ball in the second half, but that they couldn't do anything to stop the Gamecocks nonetheless. Led by sophomore tailback Mike Davis, South Carolina buried the Knights in the second half with 180 rushing yards and 28 unanswered points.

"South Carolina made the plays in the second half when we didn't," Plummer said. "They came out and ran the ball right down our throat the first drive. We couldn't counter back and we had a three-and-out, and they came back and ran the ball again."

Plummer said the defense has no one else to blame for their inability to execute.

"That's on us; that's on me as a Mike linebacker," Plummer said. "That's on everybody on the defense."

Senior defensive lineman E.J. Dunston agreed. "We should have made plays," Dunston said. "We should have stopped them when it was time to stop them."

After scoring 15 unanswered fourth-quarter points to nearly stun the Gamecocks in a nationally televised game, UCF players had no complaints about their effort.

"We expected to win the game," Bortles said. "We thought we were good enough to play with them and deserved to win the game. But we didn't do it."

Bortles said the team never wavered when South Carolina hung 28 straight points on them in the second half.

"That's just the kind of team we have," Bortles said. "We're resilient."

Junior left tackle Torrian Wilson said the team as a whole could have been, but he was pleased with how hard the offensive line played.

"We played our hearts out today. We gave it everything we had," Wilson said. "We didn't leave anything on the field. They was (sic) a good defensive line, but overall as an offensive line, I thought we played pretty good."

Wilson faced the unenviable challenge of blocking All-American Jadeveon Clowney for most of the game. Wilson said he was impressed with Clowney, but that he was happy No. 7 didn't have a dominant performance.

"It was what I expected," Wilson said. "He was a big guy - strong, used his hands well, good moves. But overall, I felt like I did pretty good against him."

UCF will move forward and begin to prepare for their tilt with Memphis next weekend, but not before they take pains to learn from their mistakes against South Carolina.

Bortles said he was taking the loss especially hard, and that he would struggle to get over it quickly.

"It's going to be hard to let it go after 24 hours, but that's what you have to do," Bortles said. "You live and you learn. You learn from your mistakes and try not to make the same ones twice, so I know that's what I'll do."

Dunston echoed Bortles' sentiments.

"Any loss is hard; I take it very hard," Dunston said, noting that it's his job as a senior leader to get the rest of the team pumped about the next game.

For Plummer and Wilson, who said already he's trying to get the memory of today's game out of his head, getting back to work appears to be the best remedy after a close loss.

"We're just going to go back, put our heads down, watch the game film tomorrow and get ready for the AAC opener against Memphis," Plummer said.

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