Each Thursday until the 2018 UCF Football season gets underway, Knight Sports Now will have a little fun with Throwback Thursdays. Every week, we’ll take a look at the Knights’ best game in each of their years competing at the FBS level. This week, we continue with 1998.
UCF Football’s Best Game of 1998: 48-0 win vs. Eastern Illinois
After back-to-back 5-6 seasons in 1996 and 1997, UCF came back with its strongest FBS record to date in 1998. The Knights finished the year 9-2, with their only losses coming at Purdue (35-7) and at Auburn (10-6). The rest of the team’s schedule didn’t necessarily feature any marquee opponents, but one of the best individual performances in program history makes a 48-0 win over Eastern Illinois stick out as UCF’s best game of the 1998 season.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, entering his final season in Orlando, was getting some Heisman Trophy hype after putting the Knights on the nation’s radar with his play in previous seasons. That campaign only grew after a 439-yard, six-touchdown performance in a season-opening 64-30 win at Louisiana Tech. When UCF coach Mike Kruczek was asked about how long he would keep Culpepper in the game when the team hosted Eastern Illinois in week two, he only furthered the Heisman hype.
“Do you keep him in to compete with the others [other Heisman candidates]? My answer is yes,” Kruczek said, per the Orlando Sentinel. “My objective always has been to keep Daunte in the hunt.”
In the 48-0 blowout against the Panthers, he finished with 479 total yards— one shy of his own school record— and seven total touchdowns, which is still a UCF Division I record.
“[Culpepper] can just hurt you in so many ways,” Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo said, per Daily Eastern News. “Our athletes just got wore down.”
The performance earned the UCF quarterback a nod for USA Today National Player of the Week honors. In that game, he cemented himself as the program’s all-time leader in total offense. He still holds that top spot to this day, with current Knights signal-caller McKenzie Milton sitting 5,641 yards behind him.
Interestingly enough, Eastern Illinois kept UCF in check during the first quarter. The game was scoreless after that quarter, but the Knights rolled from there. They scored 29 points in the second quarter on their way to a 2-0 record. According to Daily Eastern News, UCF didn’t punt the ball once and took an average of 1:30 to score each of its seven touchdowns.
Although the team finished 9-2, it was once again left out of a bowl game. Culpepper finished sixth in Heisman voting, with Texas’ Ricky Williams winning. The end of a fun era for UCF had come, as Culpepper went on to be taken 11th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Draft.
To check out previous Throwback Thursdays from Knight Sports Now, click here.