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 2002.
UCF Football’s Best Game of 2002: 31-27 win at Western Michigan
The 2002 season was the start of a new era for UCF, as it played in a conference for the first time since becoming an FBS program in 1996. The Knights joined the Mid-American Conference (MAC), a league they would spend three years with before heading to Conference USA in 2005. They dropped their first MAC matchup, 26-21, at Marshall on Sept. 20, but came away with conference win No. 1 on Oct. 12 with a 31-27 victory at Western Michigan.
It was a slow start for UCF in front of the announced crowd of 21,505 at Waldo Stadium. The Broncos jumped out to a 14-0 lead within the game’s first five minutes, but the Knights came back with a three-yard touchdown by Andreal Curry to cut the deficit to seven at the end of the first quarter. Western Michigan countered with a pick six, but two touchdown passes from Ryan Schneider allowed UCF to close the half on a 14-0 run that tied the game at 21.
The Knights didn’t score in the third quarter, but the defense hung tough and allowed just a field goal. Early in the fourth, UCF took its first lead of the afternoon on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Schneider to Doug Gabriel. Western Michigan cut the deficit to 28-27 shortly after, but Matt Prater delivered on a 26-yard field goal with 5:46 left to close out the Knights’ first-ever conference win.
Schneider was the player of the game, completing 31 of his 45 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. UCF went on to finish 6-2 in MAC play that year, with an overall record of 7-5. However, the Knights still failed to get a bowl invite.
Considering the program’s history of success since, a 31-27 win at Western Michigan might not seem all that significant. Even still, this marked its first conference victory at the FBS level, which makes it deserving of our pick for UCF’s best game of the 2002 season.
For previous Throwback Thursdays from Knight Sports Now, click here.