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 2005.
UCF Football’s Best Game of 2005: 49-48 overtime loss to Nevada (Hawaii Bowl)
UCF came into the 2005 season on a 15-game losing streak. The Knights lost their final four games of the 2003 season and went 0-11 in 2004, which was their first year under George O’Leary. Two straight losses to start 2005 extended that losing streak to 17 games, but from there, things turned around. UCF went on to win eight of its next nine games to finish the regular season with an overall record of 8-3, including an impressive 7-1 mark in its first year competing in Conference USA.
O’Leary’s team earned its way into the C-USA Championship Game with that 7-1 conference record, hosting Tulsa on Dec. 3 in front of an announced crowd of 51,978 at the Citrus Bowl. The Knights fell short of winning their first conference crown, but still earned an invite to the Hawaii Bowl. In what would be the program’s first-ever bowl game, UCF matched up with Nevada at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The game was a thriller, but ultimately a heartbreaker for the Knights as they fell 49-48 in overtime.
It was all UCF early in the game. Steven Moffett hit Brandon Marshall for a 51-yard touchdown just 1:40 into the game, then Kevin Smith broke through for a 78-yard touchdown run. But the 14-0 lead didn’t last long, as the Wolf Pack went 80 yards in four plays to cut into the deficit. Matt Prater later booted a 47-yard field goal to extend the Knights’ lead to 17-7 by the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to Nevada. Two short touchdown runs by B.J. Mitchell and a 24-yard score by Robert Hubbard had UCF trailing 28-17 late in the first half before Prater hit on a 38-yarder with less than a minute left to cut the Pack’s lead to eight.
Unsurprisingly, momentum shifted again in the third quarter. The Knights controlled those 15 minutes, with Moffett and Marshall connecting from 29 yards out for another touchdown. Smith added another touchdown on the ground to put UCF on top 32-28 at the end of the third. The Knights were unsuccessful on two-point conversion attempts after both touchdowns, something that would later come back to haunt them in a tight game.
The game shifted once again in the fourth. Nevada put up 14 straight points and held a 42-32 lead with less than two minutes to go. A 46-yard field goal by Prater brought UCF within 42-35 with 1:32 to go, then a successful onside kick attempt set the Knights up with a chance to tie it. Moffett and Marshall made sure they didn’t waste the opportunity, teaming up again for a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Pack struck first in overtime to go up 49-42, but Smith answered with a 19-yard touchdown run on the second play of UCF’s drive. That left the Knights just an extra point away from overtime No. 2, but Prater’s kick went wide right. The late fourth-quarter heroics were fun, but the program’s first bowl appearance ended with a thud.
Despite the ending, the 2005 Hawaii Bowl was a big day for UCF. Moffett threw for 301 yards and three scores. His top target was Marshall, who caught 11 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Smith was huge in the run game as well, ending his impressive freshman season with 202-yard, three-touchdown performance. Unfortunately, the day ended on a sour note with the missed extra point. That was Prater’s final collegiate kick after four strong years in the black and gold, but he has since gone on to play the last 11 seasons in the NFL.
The Knights were unsuccessful in their first-ever bowl game, but the appearance alone was a big milestone for the program. That, combined with the game itself being a thriller, makes this close loss to Nevada our pick for UCF’s best game of 2005. The full game can be seen below:
For previous Throwback Thursdays from Knight Sports Now, click here.