Ground control (cont.)
Posted: Thursday November 1, 2007 2:10PM; Updated: Friday November 2, 2007 8:44PM
As productive as Forte has been, it hasn't produced wins for the Green Wave. Tulane is 2-6, losing its first three games by 21, 24 and 25 points, but since Forte has heated up, its last three losses have come by a total of six points.
"We've lost some close ones," Davis said. "But it's a lot of fun to have a guy that's special like him and see the types of things that he's able to do on the football field."
Forte, who entered the season with 2,138 career yards, is in the midst of his first monster season. But Smith is picking up where he left off.
After running for 1,178 yards in '05, Smith missed one game last season for violating a team rule, then missed the final two games of the year with a shoulder injury, finishing with 934 yards. The 6-1, 211-pounder kicked off his junior season with the career-day against N.C. State, and then followed it by putting a major scare into Texas with 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-32 loss. He's put up at least 124 yards in every game except against South Florida, which held him to 55 yards.
"Kevin Smith has a lot of what Matt has," Davis said. "He's got speed enough to run away from you but he's got enough strength to make tough yards when he needs to."
Smith has thrived in a workhorse role, carrying the ball more than any back in the country with 240 attempts, including a school-record 43 tries against Southern Miss.
"[It felt] like a job," Smith said. "You don't really know how many carries you got until somebody tells you after the game. [I would have guessed] about 30, what I usually get every game."
When Smith was being recruited, plenty of schools wanted him in the backfield -- the defensive backfield. He switched from running back to safety his senior season at Miami's Southridge High and the likes of Akron and Colorado State were more interested in keeping him there. But UCF coach George O'Leary didn't forget Smith's ability to run the ball.
With 3,372 yards, Smith has already become the Golden Knights' career leading rusher just three years into his career, passing Alex Haynes' previous mark of 3,359 last week against Southern Miss. Smith ran 43 times for 175 yards and two TDs in the 34-17 win and set five school records, including carries in a game, rushing and total touchdowns in a season (16) and career 100-yard games (16).
"He's making cuts that are hard to teach," O'Leary said. "You either have it or you don't have it, and like most good backs he cuts into the hole, not before. He just has the knack of seeing things and making the cut."
Most importantly, Smith has also helped keep UCF in contention for the C-USA title. The 5-3 Golden Knights are tied for second-place in the East division with Memphis, but UCF holds the tiebreaker, having beaten the Tigers 56-20.
Forte holds a 279-yard edge on Smith and leads third-place Eugene Jarvis of Kent State by 280 yards (even though Jarvis has played one more game). The duel of Forte and Smith, whether they admit they're paying attention or not, will have to be strictly on paper: Tulane and UCF don't meet this season.
2 of 2