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 2003.
UCF Football’s Best Game of 2003: 33-29 win vs. FAU
UCF had instant success in the MAC when it joined in 2002, but things took a turn for the worse in 2003. The Knights started 3-7, which led to the firing of coach Mike Kruczek. They lost their final two games as well, finishing 3-9 overall and 2-6 in conference play. It’s no surprise that the team’s best game of the year came before the firing and the four-game losing streak to end the year. That game was an exciting 33-29 victory over FAU in week two of the season.
That meeting between the Knights and Owls in front of an announced crowd of 26,901 at the Citrus Bowl still stands as the only meeting between the two programs. Of course, the second meeting between the two is set for Sept. 21 of this year. Quarterback McKenzie Milton has a lot to live up to in that game if he wants to replicate the day that Ryan Schneider had against FAU on Sept. 13, 2003. Schneider’s 497 passing yards that day marked a new single-game record for the program, one that still stands today.
The Knights went down 7-0 early in the second quarter, but Schneider brought them back quickly with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. He then hit Luther Huggins a while later from 16 yards out to give UCF a 14-7 lead. After the Owls tied it at 14 at the end of the first half, Matt Prater gave the Knights some separation with field goals from 43 and 38 yards out. But that wouldn’t be enough, as a short touchdown run with 12:04 left in the fourth gave FAU a 21-20 lead.
From there, UCF went on a 13-0 run to put the game away. First, it was a one-yard pass from Schneider to Darcy Johnson. A failed two-point conversion kept the game at 26-21 with plenty of time left, but Alex Haynes ran for a 10-yard score with 2:26 left to ice the game. The Owls put up another touchdown and a two-point conversion with 39 seconds left, but the deficit was too big to erase.
Schneider was the game’s star, with his program-record 497 passing yards and three touchdowns. Haynes was productive on the ground, rushing for 74 yards and the game-clinching touchdown. Antoine Poe was a force to be reckoned with on the defense, racking up nine tackles and two sacks.
The rest of the season saw the Knights struggle on offense, as they scored more than 30 points just one more time (a 31-13 win over Central Michigan). With Kruczek gone, a new era was to be ushered in the following season. Overall, he finished his UCF coaching career with a record of 36-30. He didn’t see a lot of wins in his final season, which makes the week two victory over FAU an obvious choice for UCF’s best game of the year.
For previous Throwback Thursdays from Knight Sports Now, click here.