In our fourth episode of UCF Throwback Classics, the UCF Knights, in their final game as members of Conference USA, took down the Mid-American Conference’s Ball State Cardinals at the 2012 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field 38-17. This game served as a foreshadowing of things to come and helped introduce the world to sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles.
Earlier in the month, UCF played their final conference game, losing to Tulsa in the Conference USA championship game after locking up the East division title. UCF, coming into the game at 9-4, had a lot of missed opportunities, losing to Missouri by five and twice to Tulsa within a single score. The first one by two points and the second by six in overtime. A two-score loss to a would end up undefeated, but ineligible, Ohio State was the only outmatched loss the Knights suffered. Ball State finished tied for second in the MAC west, which included wins against a ranked Toledo squad and the Big East’s South Florida. On of the interesting stories was Ball State defensive back Jarett Swaby, which previously played at UCF the season before. Playing inside Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the crowd was decisively in favor of the Knights.
This game almost didn’t happen. UCF got in trouble with the NCAA due to athletic director Keith Tribble being involved with Ken Caldwell, who provided illegal benefits and tried to steer recruits to UCF in not-so-kosher ways. Originally, the NCAA committee on infractions gave UCF football a postseason ban for 2012, but the administration appealed. UCF’s stance was that the punishment was excessive since the football program did not ultimately bring in any players through Caldwell. While the appeal was proceeding, the team was able to play in the postseason. The appeal worked and the ban was taken back. Had the appeal failed, UCF would have been banned from the 2013 postseason, which would have been catastrophic for the program.
The Blake Bortles Show started early as he converted a third and long with a 19 yard run up the left side. The team would go three for three on third down, finishing the drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Latavius Murray to open a 7-0 lead. Bortles managed to evade the sack and Murray took a hard hit getting into the endzone. Ball State would go three-and-out before punting back to the Knights. The Knights responded with another scoring drive as Murray ran it in from four yards out. A blocked kick kept it 13-0 in favor of the Knights. Ball State and UCF would trade punts to end the first quarter.
Ball State would finally put together some offense to get the second quarter underway, scoring on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Keith Wenning to Willie Snead IV to make it 13-7 in favor of the Knights. UCF responded with a 75-yard drive as Blake Bortles ran it in from six yards out, running over two Cardinal defenders trying to reach into the endzone. Bortles would convert a two-point conversion with a pass to Dontravius Floyd to make it 21-7. At 6ft5in, Bortles dwarfed many players on the field. Ball State would continue with the offense, driving the ball inside the UCF redzone. The effort was for naught as kicker Steven Schott missed a 35-yard field goal to give the ball back to the Knights. UCF would get the ball back with 55 seconds left at their own 20 with all of their timeouts. They would need all three as the Knight marched 80 yards down the field, highlighted by a Bortles to Breshad Perriman strike for 45 yards, and would score with five seconds left on the second Bortles to Murray touchdown pass of the day. It would be 28-7 UCF at the half. The Knights were flat-out dominant in the first half, outgaining Ball State 299-149 and going 6/7 on third down.
The second half would start with a bang as Ball State would fumble on the first play. UCF would respond by turning it over on downs. Ball State kicker Steven Schott got another chance for points as he hit a 45-yard field goal to make it 28-10. This was as close as the Cardinals would get. The Knights would score a touchdown on the ensuing drive with a seven-yard pass from Bortles to J.J. Worton. They’d get the ball back and drive into the redzone before settling for a 25-yard Shawn Moffitt field goal to make it 38-10. The Cardinals would score a touchdown on their final offensive drive as Wenning found Snead for their second touchdown of the game. UCF would get the ball with around five and a half minutes left and would never give the ball back to win the game.
UCF would end the game outgaining Ball State 494-288 with a 222-71 advantage on the ground. UCF also outshined Ball State on third down, converting 9/12 vs 3/9 for the Cardinals. Blake Bortles finished 22/33 for 272 yards and three touchdowns He also led all UCF rushers with 80 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Ladarius Perkins- I mean Latavius Murray ran for 71 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown, but he caught six passes for 33 yards and two touchdowns. For the Cardinals, Keith Wenning had a pretty good game himself, going 22/34 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He did get sacked four times though. The Knights defense had nine tackles for loss.
Aside from Bortles and Murray, there were a number of future multi-season NFL players playing, including wide receiver Breshad Perriman, offensive lineman Justin McCray, defensive backs Clayton Geathers, Kemal Ishmael, A.J. Bouye, and Ball State wide receiver Willie Snead IV,
With the win, UCF set a class record with the seniors amassing 34 wins, a record that would be broken the next year. This was also the final game in the first generation of Nike Jerseys. They would move to a new template for 2013.
No, there is nothing wrong with the video. Yes, the field looked like someone moved kelp from Tampa Bay and laid them on the field.
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