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 2008.
UCF Football’s Best Game of 2008: 31-24 loss to No. 17 USF
The mid-2000s were marked with inconsistency for UCF, especially between 2005 and 2008. The Knights played for the Conference USA title in 2005, went 4-8 in 2006 and then won the conference for the first time in 2007. So, 2008 was bound to be a letdown. It was, as the team limped to another 4-8 finish. There weren’t many highlights along the way, as evidenced by our pick for UCF’s best game of the year.
If an overtime loss to a bitter rival stands out as the best game of any season, that can’t be good. But there was a deeper meaning behind that 2008 matchup between the Knights and Bulls. After USF had won the first three meetings between the two programs, it decided that it would no longer schedule UCF after the 2008 contest. The reasoning behind that? Coach Jim Leavitt wanted to schedule more competitive opponents, notably focusing on forming a rivalry with Miami.
Knowing that their I-4 rivals thought that little of them couldn’t have gone over well with the Knights. They surely wanted to earn a statement victory over in 2008, but fell just short. Even still, they took the No. 17-ranked Bulls to the limit. They proved that they could hang with the team from Tampa, falling 31-24 in overtime. The rivalry wasn’t truly over, even if USF wanted it to be.
Fast forward five years and the two programs would meet again regularly, with both schools becoming members of the newly-established American Athletic Conference. Since joining the AAC, UCF leads the series with USF 3-2. The Bulls hold the overall series lead, but when overall success is compared between the two programs since 2008, it’s clear that the Knights have the edge. They have won four conference championships and two major bowl games since, while the Bulls are still searching for their first conference title. Perhaps the overtime game in week two of that season wasn’t a major turning point for UCF as a program, but it can certainly be looked at as a step forward.
As for the game, the Knights were sloppy. A crisper offensive performance likely would have led to an upset victory, but the Michael Greco-led unit compiled just 226 total yards. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that UCF began to get going. Trailing 24-10, Greco found Corey Rabazinski for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:46 to go. About a minute later, Greco hit Rocky Ross for a 31-yard score to set up the game-tying extra point.
The UCF defense allowed 504 yards, but still kept things close enough to force overtime. Johnell Neal and Bruce Miller both picked off Matt Grothe once. Penalties were a killer for the Knights, as they were flagged 12 times for 148 yards.
Overall, Greco finished 17-of-32 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 51 yards on six carries too, finishing as the team’s leading rusher. Ross was Greco’s favorite target, catching eight passes for 90 yards and the game-tying touchdown. The run game was a disappointment for UCF, as Ronnie Weaver Jr. was held to 28 yards on 17 carries.
As a game, there was a lot of disappointment for UCF. But in the grander scheme of things, the Knights proved that they could hang with their ranked rival. And since that day, UCF has gotten the better of USF both face-to-face and in terms of overall success. The Bulls wanted to kill the War on I-4 rivalry, but that didn’t happen. Considering how lackluster the rest of the 2008 season was, this game appeared deserving of our pick for best (perhaps “most significant” is more fitting) game of the 2008 season.
If for some reason you want to re-watch any of that overtime loss to USF, the game can be found below:
For previous Throwback Thursdays from Knight Sports Now, click here.