A day after the team had a traditional Thanksgiving feast at a hotel in Tampa, the Knights came back for seconds Friday — this time with beef on their minds.
Pitted against a struggling offense, the UCF defense stuffed the line of scrimmage and mashed the USF running game. The defensive effort left USF shut-out for the first time at home.
"I thought defensively every time they had to ring the bell, they rang it," said UCF head coach George O'Leary. "Our job is not done yet, and they understand it."
In front of a crowd of 36,963 fans — one that strongly favored the Knights — UCF toppled the Bulls 16-0 at Raymond James Stadium.
Across the board each defensive unit won its matchup with its respective counterpart. It was the UCF defensive line that kept consistent pressure on USF quarterback Mike White.
Linebackers Troy Gray and Terrance Plummer provided much of the run support, with Gray knifing into the backfield to halt Marlon Mack on a 4th and 1 stop. In the secondary, the Knights kept USF to just 195 passing yards.
UCF beat its rival, USF, 16-0 Jazmyne Hankerson, Central Florida Future
Early in the week the Bulls felt disrespected by UCF and even used the word "hate" to describe their feelings toward UCF.
"They did their talking and we just did our talking with our shoulder pads and our feet," Gray said. "You might see a couple of times me and [Terrance Plummer] running into each other just trying to hit somebody."
After allowing seven points in each of the last two games, the UCF defense was able to earn a shutout — its first since September 2013.
"Just us as a defense we pride ourselves on coming out and playing dominating defense," Gray said. "At the end of the game that showed."
Despite not scoring, the Bulls didn't go quietly. USF threatened to score in the second quarter when kicker Marvin Kloss had a field goal attempt hit the upright and fell harmlessly to the turf.
Late in the fourth quarter reserve quarterback Steven Bench threatened the UCF shut-out by driving the Bulls to the UCF goal line; but later, a personal foul penalty assisted UCF in halting the drive and leaving USF scoreless.
"A shutout is sweet regardless," said Plummer, whose defense surrendered just 200 yards. "It just came during a game where everyone happens to consider a rivalry."
While it was defense that shined, sophomore Justin Holman was efficient for the Knights under center. He completed 20-of-29 passes for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Rannell Hall was kept busy by catching five passes and running the ball 10 times for 65 yards and a 21-yard touchdown.
The win gives UCF a chance to win a share of the American Athletic Conference on Thursday if it is able to defeat East Carolina at 7:30 p.m.