Charles Trainor Jr., Mct
PROVO — They've been exposed. They're frustrated. They're looking to bounce back after their dismal performance last week.
No, not just the BYU Cougars. That describes the Central Florida Knights, too.
It's said that misery loves company, and when the Cougars and Knights square off Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN) in their first-ever meeting at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it will be a matchup between two teams seeking redemption.
Last Saturday, BYU fell at home to its archrival Utah, 54-10, in embarrassing fashion, and Central Florida dropped a 17-10 decision at Florida International. The Cougars scored only 10 points and lost by a huge margin to an in-state foe, while the Knights scored only 10 points and lost a heartbreaker to an in-state foe.
Simply put, both teams self-destructed last week. Against the Utes, the Cougars (1-2) surrendered seven turnovers — including six fumbles — rushed for just 11 yards, and were outscored 40-0 in the second half. The Knights (2-1) lost two fumbles, which led to two touchdowns for FIU, and they allowed six sacks.
BYU and Central Florida are eager to reverse their respective fortunes.
"We're just waiting to get that taste out of our mouths and get back on the winning path," said Cougar linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "We're hungry. We're hungry to get back out there on the field and prove that last week was a fluke. It's important for us, especially on a short week. I'm glad it's a short week."
"There is (some) frustration and anger in there, but I think our heads are in the right place," UCF tight end Adam Nissley told FloridaToday.com. "I think we're focused. A great team has to be able to take a loss just as well as it takes a win. This week, we came out more focused and more committed on getting back on the winning track."
Coming into the season the Cougars were looking to make a big splash in their first season as an independent. The Knights, meanwhile, are the defending Conference USA champions and were hoping to bust the BCS. Now, both teams are fighting for respectability.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't consider tonight's game a "must-win" situation. "I see this game as a chance to move forward," he said.
Central Florida coach George O'Leary was asked about his team's mood on Monday.
"I don't really care about their mood," O'Leary replied. "They'd better worry about my mood. I mean, that's the problem. One kid said (after Saturday's loss that) we need a wake-up call. He needs a wake-up call."
That's the kind of week it's been for both programs.
Through three contests, the Cougars have failed to put together a complete game. They've shown flashes of brilliance, and they've shown stretches of ineptitude.
Against Ole Miss, BYU had to rally from a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit before pulling out a 14-13 win. Against Texas, the Cougars led 13-0 in the second quarter before being outscored 17-3 the rest of the way. Against Utah, BYU was up 10-7 in the second quarter before allowing 47 unanswered points.
"We just need to execute all four quarters," said cornerback Corby Eason. "You can't slack off on anything and you have to keep working hard. We have to push ourselves even more to improve playing good defense and good offense for a whole four quarters."
Ogletree said there's been a change in the collective mindset of the team after losing two consecutive games.
"It might have taken a loss or two for us to realize that nobody's going to lie down for us and nobody's going to let us beat them just because we're BYU," he said. "After last week's loss, we kind of reverted back to our underdog mentality that we had toward the end of last year. That's what I've seen this week in practice. I'm excited about the identity this team has taken on. It's a good thing."
Central Florida, meanwhile, is highly motivated for this contest in front of a national television audience.
"Personally, I love playing in games like this," said UCF defensive tackle Victor Gray. "All eyes on me, all eyes on us. We're going to get out there and play and prove to the nation that we are the team we were talking about at the beginning of the season."
Cougars on the air
Central Florida (2-1) at BYU (1-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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