Heading into its final regular-season game this weekend, the 2013 UCF Football team is 10-1 and is going to its first-ever BCS bowl game. Re-read that, and give it a moment to sink in.
UCF has finally hit the big time, and that is why I feel compelled to write my first Weis Words Writing blog in a very long time. It’s a good time to be a Knight fan, especially when you’ve been a fan for over 20 years.
For years, UCF was the proverbial “sleeping giant.” Football experts everywhere would say, “It’s just a matter of time. They’re in the middle of a recruiting hotbed in Florida, they have great facilities and a great campus.”
Dating way back to the days when Daunte Culpepper quarterbacked the then-Golden Knights (we’re now known simply as the Knights) from 1995-1998, UCF would be winning a game against a nationally ranked team – only to find new and creative ways to lose a close game every time – and I mean EVERY time. I won’t go back that far, but let’s just review the last four years.
UCF FOOTBALL 2009
While the Knights finished 8-5, they could not get the job done against teams like Miami and Texas, and were throttled by Rutgers in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
UCF FOOTBALL 2010
The Knights finished the season as Conference USA champions and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl, yet UCF fans were left to wonder what might have been due to close losses to NC State and Kansas State.
UCF FOOTBALL 2011
This was a season UCF fans would rather forget, finishing 5-7 and losing to “juggernauts” UAB and Florida International.
UCF FOOTBALL 2012
Wrapping up their final season in Conference USA, the Knights finished 10-4. While they won every game in which they were heavy favorites (including their bowl game against Ball State), they could not win a big one. They were beaten by Ohio State and somehow managed to lose to Missouri despite thoroughly outplaying them. Oh, and they lost two very close games to Tulsa, including the conference championship.
So when 2013 rolled around and UCF joined a new conference (the American Athletic Conference) arguably more difficult than C-USA, most experts and fans figured the Knights would finish above .500, somewhere in the middle of the pack. They’d lost most of their defense, RB Latavius Murray graduated and went to the Oakland Raiders, and the schedule was the most daunting they’d ever faced. There was an away game at Penn State; a home game against South Carolina; an away game against Louisville; and home games against Houston and rival USF.
But something has happened this year. The 2013 UCF Football team is finding new and creative ways to win! The two TDs in the final minutes to beat Memphis; the comeback from a 28-7 deficit to beat Louisville; the best TD catch I’ve ever seen (by JJ Worton) to beat Temple; the last-minute goal-line stand against Houston; and the fourth-quarter Blake Bortles to Breshad Perriman bomb versus USF. Only a three-point loss to South Carolina has kept UCF from an undefeated season. Led by junior quarterback Bortles, a mother lode of talented wide receivers, a young and talented defense, and some timely special teams plays, they’ve been the “cardiac kids” on many an occasion this year.
Next year, the automatic BCS berth goes away for their conference, so they may need to actually run the table to go back to a bowl game of this year’s stature. But the sleeping giant has unquestionably awakened in 2013, and all the credit in the world goes out to coach George O’Leary, his staff, and the players.
There’s plenty of room on the UCF bandwagon. Jump aboard!