ORLANDO - Central Florida scored the first 17 points of the game and then thwarted SMU's comeback bid in the Conference-USA title game this afternoon. The Knights (10-3) had the hot hand early, converting on their first five third-down situations.
True freshman quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey was often on target, completing 15-of-19 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. The Mustangs (7-6), however, were able to keep Godfrey -- UCF's second-leading rusher this year -- bottled up on the ground (15 carries, 17 yards.)
Two of SMU's best defenders, linebacker Youri Yenga and cornerback Sterling Moore, were both sidelined with first-half injuries. With Yenga out, Justin Smart stepped in and played extremely well, making several big stops.
UCF took the opening kickoff and methodically drove down the field for a touchdown, as Godfrey capped off the march with a five-yard scoring toss to RB Latavius Murray.
Godfrey and Murray, a bruising 230-pounder, combined to do most of the damage on the Knights' initial drive. Godfrey may be undersized for a quarterback at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, but he showed off a rifle arm this afternoon.
Murray led the Knights in rushing with 20 carries for 94 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put the Knights up, 17-0.
SMU got on the board in the fourth quarter when Kyle Padron connected with Aldrick Robinson on a 22-yard pass. The Mustangs were unable to come any closer, though. Defensive back Reginald Weams ended a potential SMU scoring drive by picking off a pass in UCF territory, and a subsequent drive by the 'Stangs stalled out in the last minute of the fourth quarter.
Padron completed 18-of-34 passes for 220 yards with a TD and two interceptions. WR Darius Johnson (9 receptions, 105 yards) enjoyed a brilliant effort against the Knights, who were able to limit Robinson and Cole Beasley to a collective eight catches and 103 yards. Darius Johnson (69) & Cole Beasley (84) have combined for 153 receptions this season, which sets the record by a tandem at SMU.
Sophomore running back Zach Line gained 94 yards on 18 carries. Line now has 1391 yards for the season, which is 3rd at SMU.
On defense, linebacker Taylor Reed recorded a number of bone-crushing tackles and DT Marquis Frazier registered a huge sack in the second half.
The efforts of Smart, Reed, and Frazier helped keep the elusive and shifty Godfrey from running amok. SMU had four sacks, which marks the fourth time this season SMU had at least four sacks.
SMU will be in a bowl for the second straight year after winning the 2009 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl 45-10 over Nevada. This marks the first consecutive bowl trips for the program since 1983 (Sun Bowl) and 1984 (Aloha Bowl).