ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) – If fans learned anything at all from last year’s football season, it was that Bright House Networks Stadium quickly became one of the most intense and intimidating venues in the nation. Never was it more prevalent than the homecoming game against Marshall, when UCF won 47-13. Southern Miss takes on the tough task of traveling to Orlando to take on the Knights in this year’s homecoming game on Nov. 8.
Last year, UCF traveled to Southern Miss and won 34-17. UCF running back Kevin Smith broke five school records in the win. Smith set the school career rushing record with 3,372 yards, rushing and total touchdowns in a season (16), career 100-yard games (16) and had a school-record 43 carries. Although Smith got most of the attention for breaking the records, the defense played a vital part in the win by forcing four turnovers, with three of them coming in the first half.
The Golden Eagles are returning 41 letterwinners from last year’s 7-6 squad, including six from the offensive end. Running back Damion Fletcher returns from his 1,388 yards and 11 touchdown season to Southern Miss backfield. Fletcher excelled in the spring game, accumulating 108 rushing yards on just 13 carries to go along with six receptions for 78 yards.
Other key returners for the offense include the top four leading receivers. Sophmore wide receiver Torris Magee (44 receptions, 632 yards with three touchdowns), senior Chris Johnson (34 receptions, 318 yards with three touchdowns), junior Gerald Baotiste (28 receptions, 283 yards with one touchdown) and senior tight end Shawn Nelson (33 receptions, 451 yards with five touchdowns) bring depth and experience to the Golden Eagles’ offense.
However, the starting quarterback job is still up for competition and won’t be decided until training camp gets under way. Freshman Austin Davis completed 17 of 23 passes for 203 yards and also added 57 rushing yards and a touchdown during the spring game. His primary competitor, sophomore Martevious Young, threw for more yards (335) but also had three interceptions. Regardless, Southern Miss’ offense will inevitably be run by a quarterback with little to no experience. Young appeared in two games last season and completed his only pass attempt for two yards.