Special teams bedevil UCF Knights again in awful defeat at BYU

Cougars running back Bryan Kariya scores on a 6-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter Friday night as Knights A.J. Bouye, top, and Clayton Geathers (26) defend at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Kirby Lee, Image of Sport/US Presswire)

PROVO, Utah – A string of botched special teams play cost UCF (2-2) another win.

The Knights, who traditionally have been a strong special teams group during coach George O'Leary's tenure, made key mistakes that contributed to a 24-17 loss at BYU (2-2) Friday night.

"We get out there and turn the ball over," O'Leary said. "We had our opportunities and we just didn't take advantage of it."

The game drew an announced crowd of 59,874 at LaVell Edwards Stadium and was broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The teams were trading offensive blows and tied 17-17 early in the fourth quarter when redshirt freshman J.J. Worton muffed a punt. BYU recovered, ran it into the end zone and celebrated.

Muffed punts cannot be advanced, so the Cougars were hit with a penalty and started their drive at the UCF 23-yard line. The penalty didn't matter and within a minute the Cougars were celebrating a 24-17 lead over the Knights.

Worton was supposed to help solve the Knights' problem fielding punts. Junior Josh Robinson botched three punt returns in the first three games this season, including one that set up FIU's win over the Knights last week.

"We can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot on punt return," O'Leary said. "It's ridiculous. That's 14 points in two weeks we've given up. It's the difference in the game, seven point. You know just guys trying to make plays instead of trying to do what they're coached to do, really."

The Knights racked up troubling statistics for the second consecutive week. UCF racked up three turnovers, all of them in the second half. The Knights vowed all week to avoid those mistakes after two turnovers led to a humbling loss at FIU, but trend continued in Utah.

"The mistakes, they keep catching up to us," UCF sophomore defensive tackle Victor Gray said. "We made them last week and we're making this week. We have to get back in that film and correct them because we will not be a championship-caliber team if we keep making these same mistakes."

The Cougars and Knights were locked in a 17-17 tie with 13:29 left in the fourth quarter.

BYU leveled a big blow, knocking sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey out of the game with an apparent elbow injury.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Bortles took over leading the offense. He showed off his strong arm, swiftly moving the Knights to the BYU 26-yard line. UCF's drive stalled and senior kicker Nick Cattoi missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.

"I thought Bortles did really a good job, you know as far as completing some passes and getting some things done," O'Leary said. "I was pleased with him and probably, hindsight, should have left him in."

Instead, Godfrey returned late in the fourth quarter.

"I knew Blake could handle it, but I wanted to show my teammates I wouldn't give up on them," Godfrey said.

His comeback was marred by two big turnovers.

Sophomore H-back Dontravius Floyd fumbled an 18-yard catch and BYU recovered the ball with 8:46 left in the fourth quarter.

The UCF defense forced BYU to punt the ball. The Knights took over on their own 13-yard line with 6:05 left in the game.