You know what's amazing about star running back Latavius Murray as his college playing days near an end?
He's only started 11 games at UCF.
That's right, he's endured a million miles of adversity, depression, injury and self-doubt and has started just 11 games.
And do you want to know something even more amazing?
If he'd started just two more games, the Knights might unbeaten right now and ranked among the top 10 teams in the country.
"That's hard to say," Murray says with a humble smile, "but I'd sure like to have those games back."
The Knights (8-2, 6-0 in C-USA) have won six straight times since Murray returned from a shoulder injury suffered in the season-opener against Akron. Without that injury, it's not far-fetched to think the Knights would have beaten undefeated Ohio State from the Big Ten and Missouri from the SEC and be rolling toward a potential BCS bowl game right now.
Think about it: The Knights played Ohio State in Columbus and lost 31-16, mainly because young quarterback Blake Bortles threw three key interceptions that either led to OSU scores or stymied potential UCF scores. If Murray, who is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry this season, had been playing, there would have been no need for Bortles to throw the ball nearly as much as he did. Murray, who has run the ball 205 straight times without fumbling, would have unerringly carried the load.
As for Missouri, UCF lost that game 21-16 and dominated the statistics. You figure if Murray had been in the lineup, he would have been good for at least one extra touchdown. After all, he's averaging 168 yards and three TDs per game in his last three outings.
"It was hard missing those games because that's the type of competition you dream of playing against," Murray say.
Then again, Murray, after what he has endured, is just glad to be playing in any games against any competition. This is a kid who wrecked his knee playing pickup basketball after his freshman season in an injury that was Marcus Lattimore-like in its severity. Murray tore all of the major ligaments, had to have the knee totally reconstructed and rehabbed for more than a year before he was back on the field.
There was some concern his football career was over, and he was understandably depressed in the aftermath of the injury. He was homesick for his native New York and even told coach George O'Leary he was leaving the team to go back home. O'Leary told him quitting would be a mistake he would end up regretting. Murray returned home, contemplated his coach's advice and ended up returning to UCF.
"That time in my life played a big part in helping me grow up," Murray says. "I can't tell you how glad I am and how blessed I feel that I listened to Coach O'Leary and made the decision to stay at UCF."
Now a senior captain, Murray and his teammates are getting ready for one of the biggest games in UCF history Saturday at Tulsa. A victory would earn UCF the right to host the Conference USA Championship Game and probably get the Knights ranked in the top 25.
"This is a huge game for us," Murray says. "We know what's at stake and how much it would mean to win."
No doubt, it's a big game.
But it could have been even bigger.
Murray, in only his 12th start, has helped lead UCF to the brink of a memorable season.
If it were his 14th start, the Knights might well be on the brink of a mythical season.
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