Like I’ve said before, UCF Knights Football has a truly unique history among all of the 130 FBS schools. It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when UCF was the “Sleeping Giant” of college football, and the reason for it was they went toe-to-toe with some of the greatest traditional powers in the game, but always seemed snakebit.
In the seven years from when UCF joined FBS (then Division I-A) in 1996 to its first season in the Mid-American Conference in 2002, UCF played 24 non-conference games against teams in what were then considered the Power Six (#P6 BABY!) conferences.
Of those 24 games, 12 of them were decided by one possession, and UCF lost all but one of them (2000 at Alabama). In 11 of them, UCF was either leading, tied, or had the ball down one possession in the second half, but couldn’t close the deal.
Maybe it was an ill-fated 4th quarter decision, or a critical turnover, or yes, even a horrendous call in a clutch moment on the road, but the result was always the same. Hence the old cliche among grizzled Knight fans: “Same old UCF.”
For the teams that won these games, none of them meant 0.000001% of what they would have meant to UCF to win them. That’s when another corrosive term - “moral victory” - started following around UCF Football whenever it traveled to an SEC/ACC/Big East venue in the late 90s or early 2000s.
And that’s also how you get stuck with annoying monikers from those on the outside looking in, like “The Best 0-3 Team in the Nation” or “College Football’s Sleeping Giant.” Or “UCiF.”
But the other thing that does is harden your fan base for at least a generation or two. UCF’s Napoleonic Complex is not some newfangled marketing strategy cooked up by Athletic Director, Mad Genius and Breaker of Chains Danny White. It’s a mindset forged by watching your school come thisclose to showing the world it belongs, but coming up short time after time, and then getting damned with faint praise for it.
Posted by Vic Penn on Wednesday, 13 May 2020
And even after George O’Leary took the helm, the same things happened, albeit with slightly less frequency. Still, fans were treated to the same empty feeling more than a few times, but now it was in conference championships, bowl games, or (gulp) against USF.
Recent successes have helped even some of those old scores, but the scars remain. And the pain resurfaces every time fans of those schools punch down at UCF for whatever reason. It’s because those guys know damn well the gap between them and UCF is a lot smaller than they think on the field, and it has been for years - even those seasons when UCF’s football program was held together by butcher’s twine and duct tape.
So forgive us, Big Time College Football, for being so salty. It’s just because we’re sick and tired of your crap and have been for almost a quarter of a century now. And we have the scars to prove it.
As promised, here’s that list of UCF’s most agonizing, heart-breaking, spleen-rupturing FBS losses. Relive them if you dare:
UCF’s Most Agonizing FBS Losses
|Season||Opponent||Conference||Score||How It Happened|
|Season||Opponent||Conference||Score||How It Happened|
|1996||at Georgia Tech||ACC||27-20||UCF commits 5 turnovers with Daunte Culpepper injured. Knights failed onside kick after late TD.|
|1997||at Ole Miss||SEC||24-23 (OT)||UCF goes for two and the win in OT, but Culpepper is stopped short of the end zone.|
|1997||at South Carolina||SEC||33-31||UCF led 24-14 late Q3. SC scores 19 points in final 20 minutes.|
|1997||at #6 Nebraska||Big 12||38-24||UCF led 17-14 at halftime. Nebraska (and QB Scott Frost) went on to win a share of the national title.|
|1997||at Mississippi State||SEC||35-28||UCF led 28-21 with 9:00 left. Culpepper throws two INTs in 4th quarter.|
|1998||at Auburn||SEC||10-6||UCF led for 59:03 but commits 5 turnovers, including Culpepper fumble on Auburn 20 with 2:00 left. Auburn wins on 58-yard TD pass with :57 left. Loss keeps UCF out of first-ever bowl game.|
|1999||at #11 Georgia||SEC||24-23||The Burglary Between the Hedges. UCF called for phantom OPI inside UGA 10 while driving with under :30 left.|
|1999||at Auburn||SEC||28-10||UCF led 10-7 with 10 minutes left. Dropped TD pass and missed FG led to 3 Auburn TDs in 97 seconds.|
|2000||at Georgia Tech||ACC||21-17||UCF led 17-7 with 4:00 left. George Godsey throws two late TDs, including game-winer with :38 left.|
|2000||#8 Virginia Tech||Big East||44-21||Largest regular season crowd in UCF history. First-ever national TV home game in school history. Michael Vick DNP (injured). Lee Suggs runs for 5 TDs.|
|2001||at #19 Clemson||ACC||21-13||UCF had 1st & 10 on Clemson 30 with 5:47 left down 8, can't close the deal.|
|2001||at Syracuse||Big East||21-10||UCF led 10-7 at half. James Mungro 2 TDs in final 21 minutes. 3 2nd-half possessions in SU territory yield 0 points.|
|2001||at Arkansas||SEC||27-20||UCF gets to Arkansas 15 with under 1:00 left. 4th down Schneider-to-McGriff throwback play results in game-ending fumble.|
|2002||at #23 Penn State||Big Ten||27-24||UCF down 10-9 at half, scored two late TDs to get within 3. Onside kick failed with :24 left.|
|2002||at Marshall*||MAC||26-21||First conference game in school history, first-ever appearance on national primetime TV. UCF gets 0 points on final four possessions inside Marshall territory. Win would have given UCF MAC East title.|
|2002||Syracuse||Big East||38-35||UCF led 21-3 in Q2. Syracuse blocked potential game-tying 47-yard FG with 2:55 left.|
|2003||at Syracuse||Big East||38-14||UCF fights back to tie it at 14 mid-Q3. UCF turns over on downs on SU 32 late Q3 down 7. 2 Q4 turnovers. Walter Reyes runs for 241 yards and 4 TDs.|
|2003||at Virginia Tech||Big East||49-28||UCF fights back from down 28-0 in Q2 to 28-21 early Q4. VT scores 21 unanswered Q4 points to put it out of reach.|
|2005||Tulsa*||C-USA||44-27||First C-USA Championship Game. Largest UCF crowd in CW Stadium History. UCF led 24-21 Q2, got shut out in second half.|
|2005||Nevada*||WAC||49-48 (OT)||First bowl game in school history. UCF forces OT with two late TDs and successful onside kick. Game ended on missed extra point.|
|2007||Texas||Big 12||35-32||Inaugural game at Spectrum Stadium. UCF led 24-23 in Q4. Onside kick failed in final minute.|
|2007||Mississippi State||SEC||10-3||First bowl game as conference champion vs. power opponent. MSU wins on TD with under 2:00 left.|
|2007||South Florida||Big East||64-12||USF runs up the score on UCF in Tampa. Bulls ranked #2 in first BCS poll the next day.|
|2008||at Miami||ACC||20-14||UCF trailed just 12-7 with 6:00 left. Offense puts up 78 total yards, zero points in first meeting with UM.|
|2008||South Florida||Big East||31-24 (OT)||UCF scored two TDs in final 2:46 to force OT. Knights halted on downs in OT.|
|2009||#9 Miami||ACC||27-7||Biggest crowd in Spectrum Stadium history. UCF had 1st & goal on UM 2 trailing 17-7 with 6:30 left in Q3, and turned it over. Ran 9 more plays rest of the night.|
|2010||NC State||ACC||28-21||Jeff Godfrey leads comeback from down 28-7 at Q4 start, but fumbled at NC St. 11-yard line with :51 left.|
|2010||at Kansas State||Big 12||17-13||K-State scored two Q4 TDs, including GW TD with :24 left. Nick Cattoi missed 2 FGs (42, 23).|
I’d ask you which one hurt the most but why? That’s just mean, and I’m not that kind of a guy.
But if some Feinbaum caller on Twitter asks you why UCF and its fans are so angry toward power conference teams, now you have a list that’s 25 reasons long.