In front of a record crowd at the 2021 Union Home Mortage Gasparilla Bowl, points were a premium as the UCF Knights came back to defeat the Florida Gators and claim state supremacy 29-17. It’s time for some Knee-Jerk Reactions.
I hope you took the under
While many bowl games this season have been high scoring, this one was not. Points were a premium as the Gators nursed the smallest of leads at halftime 10-9. In the second half, the Knights started to find their footing. The running game exploded, and the Knights pulled away. The Knights got a rarity in the form of two 100-yard rushers. It first started with Gasparilla Bowl MVP Ryan O’Keefe, who ran for 110 yards on 4 carries, including a 74-yard reverse that led to a Bowser touchdown. Speaking of Isaiah Bowser, he ended up leading the team in rushing, carrying the ball 35 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither passing game found any consistent rhythm. UCF’s Mikey Keene was able to find the big play, hitting Ryan O’Keefe for a 54-yard touchdown. Florida’s Emory Jones had a lot of bad luck with multiple drops at key times. In the case of Jones, who has announced he plans on entering the transfer portal after the bowl, he needed to put on a strong showcase and struggled, going 14/36 for 171 yards. Both quarterbacks avoided the dreaded interception. In fact, there were no turnovers of any sort.
The defense bent but did not break
On paper, Florida is the more talented team, but this is why the game is played. Being more talented does not mean the team is better. UCF was able to take advantage of the continuity of the coaching staff while Florida has had to work with a skeleton crew led by Greg Knox. This made a material difference in the planning and executing of UCF’s strategy. While Florida did not make any catastrophic mistakes, the defense was able to hold the line when it mattered. Florida’s strength is in their running game and while they ran for 205 yards, UCF’s short-yardage defense was able to make Florida extremely ineffective on third down, going only 2/13 in their conversion attempts, along with being 0-2 on fourth down.
UCF is the top team in Florida in 2021
The best way to establish dominance has always been to do it on the field. For once, there is no debate about who the top team in the state of Florida. Florida had previously defeated South Florida, Florida State, and Florida Atlantic. They were looking for their fourth, which would be a program first, but it was not meant to be. With UCF firmly establishing themselves as a force within the state, along with the upcoming move to the Big 12, as Gus Malzahn said, “the best is yet to come.”
With the season over, it’s on to 2022. We know co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach GJ Kinne is off to become the head coach of Incarnate Word. Replacing him will be a priority. UCF will also be working on courting transfers in the portal as the bulk of their freshmen and JUCO signings are complete.
This win is big for the program and cannot be understated. In fact, this is Florida’s first loss against an in-state opponent not named Florida State or Miami since 1938 against Stetson. The team was brought together and given extra motivation to win in memory of Otis Anderson, who passed away last month. Those who knew Otis were heavily affected by his death and those who did not meet him quickly learned how important he was. His jersey resting on some shoulder pads was with the team on the sidelines and his spirit helped carry the team. Otis’ trademark deuces were also on every helmet as a sticker.
UCF went with a safe play of wearing a black helmet with gold UCF, white jersey, and black pants. As the away team, the Knights had to wear a light color and thankfully went with their white Pegasus. The non-chrome block logo was easily noticeable. It’s a safe uniform set that contrasted well against Florida’s orange/blue/white combo. As mentioned above, UCF added a helmet sticker in memory of Otis Anderson, which was a great gesture for a great individual. I had the chance to interview Otis at the Peach Bowl when he was a freshman, and I was very impressed with how he answered the questions and he carried himself. It also made me feel very good one of the answers he gave in a highlight video from his season was from a question I asked. Otis will be missed by everyone and winning the game is an incredible way to cap off honoring his memory.
UCF: Mikey Keene: 14/22 for 144 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int
FLA: Emory Jones: 14/36 for 171 yards, 0 TD, 0 Int
UCF: Isaiah Bowser: 35 carries for 155 yards, 2 TD
FLA: Malik Davis: 7 carries for 86 yards, 1 TD
UCF: Ryan O’Keefe: 7 catches for 85 yards, 1 TD
FLA: Justin Shorter: 3 catches for 54 yards, 0 TD
- Florida leads the series 2-1.
- MVP was WR Ryan O’Keefe, who had 251 all-purpose yards. 110 yards rushing, 85 yards receiving, 56 return yards, and 1 receiving touchdown.
- This is Ryan O’Keefe’s first 100-yard rushing game.
- Kicker Daniel Obarski’s three field goals tied the team bowl record for field goals in a game, tying Matt Prater in 2005.
- The announced crowd of 63,669 is a bowl record, breaking the old record of 29,763 in 2009 when UCF played Rutgers.
- UCF has played in a bowl leading five times in the game’s history.
- A slew of in-game records were set or tied in this game:
- Longest run from scrimmage: Ryan O’Keefe, 74 yards
- All-purpose yards: Ryan O’Keefe, 251 yards
- Most rushing attempts: Isaiah Bowser, 35 attempts
- Most field goals made(tie): Daniel Obarski, 3 field goals
- Most combined punts(tie): 11, UCF(5) and Florida(6)
- Worst third down conversion rate: Florida, 2/13(.154)
- First time teammates run for 100yds in game history: Bowser(155), O’Keefe(110)
- Sorry it’s not my best, but Paul Finebaum is claiming I wasn’t motivated.