Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

UCF Knights Preparing for 12/28 Showdown with Duke in Military Bowl

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:08

The UCF Knights (9-4; 6-2 AAC) have begun preparations for their appearance in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, MD on December 28th. The Knights will square-up against the Blue Devils of Duke (8-4; 5-3 ACC) who placed 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division. Kickoff is set for 2pm and the game will be nationally-televised on ESPN.

Per the AAC:

UCF (9-4) will meet Atlantic Coast Conference representative Duke (8-4) at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, in the Military Bowl presented by Peraton, benefiting the USO. The game will be televised by ESPN.
It’s a program-record seventh consecutive postseason bowl appearance for the Knights, the 10th in 11 seasons and the 14th in 18 years. UCF also previously played in the NCAA Division II playoffs in 1987 and in the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 1990 and 1993.  
The Knights previously have played twice each in the Fiesta Bowl (following 2014 and 2018 seasons), Liberty Bowl (2007 and 2010), St. Petersburg Bowl (2009 and 2014) and Gasparilla Bowl (2019 and 2021) and once each in the Hawaii Bowl (2005), Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (2012), Cure Bowl (2016), Peach Bowl (2017) and Boca Raton Bowl (2020).
The Military Bowl has been played since 2008—the first two seasons as the EagleBank Bowl and then as the Military Bowl beginning with the 2010 campaign. The game benefits the USO and Patriot Point, the Military Bowl Foundation’s 294-acre retreat for wounded, ill and injured service members, their families and caregivers.
Previous American Athletic Conference participation has included Navy in 2008, 2015 and 2017, Temple in 2009, 2016 and 2019, East Carolina in 2010 and 2021 and Cincinnati in 2014 and 2018. The 2020 game was cancelled due to lack of available teams and the 2021 game also was cancelled due to Covid-related issues. The game originally was played at RFK Memorial Stadium through 2012, then moved to Annapolis. The game has featured an ACC-vs.-AAC matchup since 2014, and those leagues have contracted to continue that matchup through 2025. Previous AAC winners have been Navy in 2015 and 2017 and Cincinnati in 2018.
UCF head coach Gus Malzahn has seen his teams qualify for postseason bowl games in all 11 years he has been a head coach, including seven appearances in New Year’s Day games: 2013 in BCS National Championship Game vs. Florida State, 2014 in Outback Bowl vs. Wisconsin, 2015 in Birmingham Bowl win vs. Memphis, 2016 in Sugar Bowl vs. Oklahoma, 2017 in Peach Bowl vs. UCF, 2018 in Music City Bowl win vs. Purdue, 2019 Outback Bowl vs. Minnesota, 2021 Gasparilla Bowl vs. Florida and 2022 Military vs. Duke. Malzahn’s 2012 Arkansas State team qualified for a bowl game—but he already had accepted the head coaching job at Auburn and did not coach the bowl game. He also did not coach the Auburn bowl game after the 2020 season after leading the Tigers to the Citrus Bowl vs. Northwestern.
UCF and Duke will meet for the first time. This marks the second time UCF has faced a current ACC member in a bowl game—following NC State’s win over the Knights in the 2014 St. Petersburg Bowl.

The Sons of UCF Live interviewed Josh Barr, the Executive Director for the 2022 Military Bowl, on Monday. The interview is below:

Monday, November 28, 2022

#22 UCF Knights Defeat S. Florida, Advance to Conference Championship Game

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:57

The UCF Knights (9-3; 6-2 AAC) fought off a second half comeback bid by the S. Florida Bulls (1-11; 0-8 AAC) on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Their 46-39 win cements UCF as the victor for the War on I-4 rivalry, giving the Knights 7 wins to S. Florida’s 6 wins for the series. UCF’s move to the Big XII next season effectively kills S. Florida’s rivalry with UCF until at least 2028 due to scheduling conflicts. The win also brings the Knights back to New Orleans to face the Green Wave of Tulane (10-2; 7-1 AAC) for the AAC Championship Game on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4pm and the game will be broadcasted on ABC. Per the AAC:

A matchup of top-25 teams is set for the 2022 American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game presented by RoofClaim as No 19 Tulane will meet No. 22 UCF for the conference title Saturday at Yulman Stadium on the Tulane campus. 
The American Football Championship Game will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT. The championship game will be televised live on ABC for the eighth consecutive season.
Tulane clinched its spot as well as home-field advantage Friday with a 27-24 win at Cincinnati that left the Green Wave atop The American standings at 7-1 in conference play and 10-2 overall.
The Knights, who needed a win against South Florida in their regular-season finale Saturday to clinch their spot, scored a 46-39 victory in the War On I-4 matchup.
Tulane will make its first appearance in The American Championship Game, while UCF plays in the game for the third time. The Knights won the championship game in their previous two appearances, in 2017 and 2018. 
Tickets for the 2022 American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game will be made available through the ticket offices of the participating institutions.
The latest information on the 2022 American Football Championship will be available on the conference’s Championship Central site at http://www.theamerican.org/football

Check out video highlights of UCF’s win over S. Florida, courtesy of the AAC, below:

Monday, November 21, 2022

#25 UCF Knights’ Loss to Navy Complicates Path to Championship

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 16:04

The #25 UCF Knights (8-3; 6-2 AAC) took a 17-14 loss against the Midshipmen of Navy (4-7; 4-4 AAC) on Saturday, ending the hopes the Knights would host the American Athletic Conference Championship game. UCF also now faces an uphill battle to get to the Championship game altogether. If Houston (7-4; 5-2 AAC) loses to Tulsa (4-7; 2-5 AAC) this weekend AND the Knights beat S. Florida (1-10; 0-7 AAC), then UCF is guaranteed a spot in the Championship game.

However, if Houston wins, then there will be a three-way tie for 2nd place in the Conference (UCF, Houston, and the loser of the Tulane at Cincinnati game on Friday). In that scenario, UCF would have to be ranked highest in the composite computer rankings versus Houston and the loser of the Cincinnati vs. Tulane matchup. UCF is currently ranked #25 in the AP Poll and #26 (just outside of the Top 25) in the Coaches Poll. The poll from the College Football Playoff Committee is released tomorrow. It is unlikely UCF will be ranked in that poll.

See video highlights of the UCF vs. Navy game, courtesy of the AAC, below:

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

UCF Knights Catapulted to #25 in College Football Playoff, Coaches, and AP Polls after Defeating #20 Cincinnati

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:09

The UCF Knights (6-2; 3-1 AAC) skyrocketed into the Top 25 in both the AP and Coaches Polls after defeating the Bearcats of Cincinnati (6-2; 3-1 AAC) on Saturday in front of an at-capacity crowd of almost 46,000 fans at FBC Mortgage Stadium. But the real reward from the victory came on Tuesday when the College Football Playoff rankings were released. UCF found itself ranked at #25. The Knights now travel to Memphis to face the Tigers (4-4; 2-3 AAC) before heading to Tulane to take on the Green Wave, which also finds itself in the rankings at #19. Kickoff for the UCF at Memphis game is set for 3:30pm (EST). The game will be televised on ESPN2. The AAC reports on the Knights’ win against Cincinnati below:

RJ Harvey had a 17-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds remaining, sending UCF to a 25-21 win over No. 20 Cincinnati on Saturday.

Harvey’s go-ahead TD capped a seven-play, 75-yard march directed by Mikey Keene. The backup quarterback was 4 for 4 for 57 yards on the drive.

Cincinnati (6-2, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) took a 21-18 lead with 3:04 remaining. Ryan Montgomery scored on a 39-yard touchdown run, and the Bearcats added the 2-point conversion on a Ben Bryant pass to Tyler Scott.

UCF (6-2, 3-1) took a 10-6 lead into halftime on the strength of a 26-yard touchdown run by Harvey. The Knights added a safety in the third quarter when Josh Celiscar sacked Bryant in the end zone.

Cincinnati had won six in a row since a season-opening loss to Arkansas. Bryant passed for 298 yards and a touchdown, and Montgomery had a team-high 40 yards rushing on three carries.

Harvey had 18 carries for 84 yards for UCF. The Knights finished with 258 yards on the ground and 247 through the air.

Following a fumble recovery, Bryant threw a 14-yard touchdown to Josh Whyte to make it 13-12 at the end of the third quarter. Whyte’s TD capped a 10-play, 84-yard drive.

UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was 7 of 11 for 71 yards when he was knocked out of the game late in the first half. He also rushed for 31 yards.

Outside of Montgomery’s touchdown run, the Bearcats couldn’t get anything established on the ground.

Keene’s experience from starting 10 games last year as a true freshman proved to be invaluable. He walked into a tough situation, but one he was familiar with. Keene put together his best drive of the day when the Knights needed it most and kept UCF in contention for the American Athletic Conference championship.

Check out video highlights of the game, courtesy of the AAC below:

Sunday, October 16, 2022

UCF Knights Dismantle Temple in Annual Space Game

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:36

UCF (5-1; 2-0 AAC) celebrated its annual Space Game by completely dismantling the Temple Owls (2-4; 0-2 AAC) 70-13 on Thursday. The game was nationally televised on ESPN. The Knights wore specially-designed, ”Space-U” uniforms which garnered national sports media attention in the week leading up to the contest. UCF hits the road this week, taking on the ECU Pirates (4-3; 2-2 AAC) in Greenville. Kickoff is set for 7pm; the game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Take a look at a recap of UCF’s win over Temple and video highlights, courtesy of the AAC, below:

John Rhys Plumlee accounted for seven touchdown to match a program record and led UCF to a 70-13 rout of Temple on Thursday night.

Plumlee threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns and added another 37 yards on the ground with three scores. All three short-yardage touchdown runs and a 25-yard TD pass to Kobe Hudson came in the first half as UCF (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) jumped out to a 35-13 halftime lead.

Plumlee hit Ryan O’Keefe with touchdown passes that included a 68-yarder on consecutive drives early in the third quarter. Plumlee added a 64-yard TD pass to Hudson that stretched the Knights’ lead to 56-13 about midway through the third.

Hudson finished with four catches for 121 yards receiving and O’Keefe had seven for 111.

UCF put up 737 yards of offense while holding Temple (2-4, 0-2) to 293. It was the Knights’ sixth straight win against the Owls and the third game this season surpassing 600 yards of offense. It was also the Knights most yards of offense since gaining 798 against Memphis on Oct. 17, 2020.

The Knights honored their ties to the Kennedy Space Center, where roughly a third of its employees are UCF alumni, by rebranding as The Space U Citronauts for the game. They wore space-themed, all-black uniforms displaying a Canaveral blue “Space U” wordmark on the front of their jerseys. The Knights are 7-0 in spaced-themed games.

E.J. Warner completed 24 of 43 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown pass for Temple.

Friday, October 7, 2022

UCF Knights Open Conference Play with Big Win Against SMU

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:34
Photo Couresy UCF Athletics

After being postponed twice due to the effects of Hurricane Ian, the UCF Knights (4-1; 1-0 AAC) opened their last season in the American Athletic Conference with a big 41-19 win against the SMU Mustangs (2-3; 0-1 AAC) on Wednesday night. The game was nationally televised on ESPN2. The Knights now enjoy a bye week before taking on the Owls of Temple on Thursday, October 13th at 7pm. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN. Below is the AAC’s report on UCF’s big win over SMU:

John Rhys Plumlee threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the second half to Ryan O’Keefe, and UCF scored 31 unanswered points to beat SMU 41-19 on Wednesday night in a game postponed because of tropical weather.

UCF trailed 13-10 at halftime before scoring four touchdowns in the second half.

O’Keefe made a diving catch in the end zone on a 26-yard throw to extend UCF’s lead to 24-13 with 3:07 left in the third quarter. O’Keefe added a 58-yard touchdown early in the fourth on a shuffle-pass jet sweep.

O’Keefe finished with six catches for 117 yards and two scores, and Javon Baker added 138 yards receiving for UCF (4-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference). Isaiah Bowser had three short touchdown runs.

The UCF defense made three keys plays. Jason Johnson recovered a fumble on SMU’s first possession of the game, Divaad Wilson made an interception to end the first half and Tre’mon Morris-Brash sacked Tanner Mordecai in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.

Mordecai was 28 of 45 for 295 yards with one interception for SMU (2-3, 0-1). Rashee Rice, who entered leading the nation in receiving yards per game at 141.2, had 12 catches for 122 yards.

The game was rescheduled twice due to Hurricane Ian. It was initially scheduled to be played Saturday at UCF’s on-campus stadium before shifting to Sunday.

UCF coach Gus Malzahn guided new SMU coach Rhett Lashlee in high school at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas from 1999-01. Lashlee also served as an offensive coordinator at Auburn under Malzahn.

Check out video highlights of the game below, courtesy of the AAC:

Monday, September 26, 2022

UCF Knights Defeat Georgia Tech Before Heading into Conference Play

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 20:35
Photo Courtesy Orlando Sentinel.

The UCF Knights (3-1; 0-0 AAC) overcame some offensive stalls to defeat the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech (1-3; 0-1 AAC) on Saturday in front of a loud and boisterous crowd at FBC Mortgage Stadium on the beautiful UCF campus. The Knights will move into American Conference play on Saturday against the SMU Mustangs (2-2; 0-0 AAC). Kickoff is set for 3:30pm and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Check out news and video highlights of UCF’s 27-10 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday below:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — On a day when senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed just eight passes, UCF scored on a blocked punt and rode four Colton Boomer field goals to a 27-10 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.

“A win is a win, no matter what it looks like,” said Plumlee, who has produced two games of 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards this season. “What stood out today was our defense and special teams.”

Plumlee did not complete a pass in the first quarter and finished 8 of 16 for 49 yards with an interception and two sacks. He carried 16 times for 100 yards to lead the Knights’ ground game.

Plumlee described his performance as “bad. I think I’ve got to be better and I will be better.”

RJ Harvey and Isaiah Bowser combined for 143 yards on 31 carries, and the Knights averaged 5.1 yards per rush.

“We were having success on the ground so he kept leaning on us,” Bowser said.

UCF (3-1) drove 71 yards on 20 plays, all of them on the ground, on the game’s opening series to take a 3-0 lead on a 21-yard Boomer field goal.

Jeff Sims threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Carter to give Georgia Tech (1-3) a 7-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Knights got field goals from 21- and 31-yards out and, with :41 left in the first half, Jarvis Ware blocked David Shanahan’s punt. Quandric Bullard scooped up the loose ball at the Yellow Jackets’ 29 and scored to send UCF into intermission with a 13-7 lead.

“The big play of the game was the blocked punt right before halftime. It gave us some momentum,” said UCF coach Guz Malzahn. “When you go into the locker room with momentum, that’s really good in football.”

The teams traded third quarter field goals and Plumlee charged 28 yards for a touchdown with 10:37 left in the game, then passed for the two-point conversion and Boomer added a 43-yard field goal with 4:17 left.

Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste sacked Sims in the second half and Tre’mon Morris-Brash returned the Tech fumble 89 yards, only to be stripped at the goal line by Nate McCollum for a Georgia Tech touchback. The Yellow Jackets then drove for a 42-yard Jude Kelley field goal to make it 16-10.

But two big penalties helped UCF on a 57-yard touchdown drive that ended with Plumlee’s touchdown run, which gave the Knights a 24-10 lead with 10:37 remaining.

Sims was 21 of 32 passing for 314 yards and a touchdown for Georgia Tech. He was sacked four times.

Georgia Tech lost its ninth straight game against an FBS opponent but outgained UCF, 452 yards to 333. Eight penalties, some of them prolonging UCF drives, were critical, and linebacker Charlie Thomas was disqualified for targeting during UCF’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

UCF did not post gaudy offensive stats but showed it could win with defense and big special teams plays when Plumleee had an off day. “We did give up some yards,” noted Malzahn, “but once we got in the red zone we came up with big plays time and time again.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Knights Rebound by Blowing Out FAU

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:32
Photo Courtesy UCF Athletics

The UCF Knights (2-1; 0-0 AAC) soundly defeated the Owls of FAU (2-2) on Saturday a week after suffering a rare at-home defeat against Louisville. The Knights now take on the Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech (1-2) at home on Saturday at 4pm. the game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Below is a recap and video highlights of the Knights’ win on Saturday at FAU courtesy of the American Athletic Conference:

BOCA RATON, Fla. – After allowing just 18 yards in the second half, UCF football bounced back in a big way with a 40-14 win against Florida Atlantic Saturday night at FAU Stadium. The Knights defense held the Owls to zero yards in the third quarter and only allowed 18 yards in the fourth quarter.

UCF (2-1) has now won all four games in the series against Florida Atlantic (2-2), including a perfect 2-0 record at FAU Stadium.

Florida Atlantic scored on its opening drive of the game, but UCF quickly responded to knot the score at 7-7. Following consecutive passes to Ryan O’Keefe and Xavier Townsend, Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee called his own number and scored on a rushing play from seven yards out.

The Owls scored a second touchdown with a few seconds remaining in the first quarter, but the Knights defense held Florida Atlantic scoreless for the final three quarters.

A 41-yard field goal from freshman kicker Colton Boomer, making his collegiate debut, cut the UCF deficit to 14-10 and Plumlee scored his second rushing touchdown of the game a few minutes later to give the Knights a 16-14 lead at halftime. The Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native turned in a career performance with 121 rushing yards, a career-high 339 passing yards and 25 completions for three total touchdowns.

The second half was all UCF with the Knights compiling 327 yards of total offense and limiting Florida Atlantic to 18 total yards.

Isaiah Bowser opened the second-half scoring with a 1-yard rushing touchdown, his fifth of the season. The Sidney, Ohio, native has scored a rushing touchdown in all three games this season and dating back to the bowl game last year, Bowser has seven touchdowns in his last four games.

A 3-yard touchdown run from RJ Harvey pushed the Knights’ lead to 30-14 on the redshirt junior running back’s first career touchdown.

Boomer connected on a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to finish a perfect 2-2 on field goal attempts, stretching the UCF advantage to 33-14. Javon Baker reeled in a 20-yard pass from Plumlee for the final score of the game to cap a nine-play, 69-yard drive.

UCF returns to action at home next weekend when the Knights welcome Georgia Tech for a 4 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU from FBC Mortgage Stadium.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

UCF Knights Open Season with Crushing Defeat of SC State

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 23:58
Photo Courtesy Orlando Sentinel

The UCF Knights (1-0; 0-0 AAC) soundly defeated the Bulldogs of South Carolina State (0-1; 0-0 MEAC) on Thursday in front of an almost at-capacity crowd at fbs Mortgage Stadium on the beautiful campus of the University of Central Florida. As reported by the AAC:

John Rhys Plumlee figured in five touchdowns as UCF opened its 2022 season with a 56-10 win against South Carolina State Thursday night at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Plumlee, the former Ole Miss signal-caller who most recently spent two seasons as a receiver for the Rebels, passed for 308 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards and another score in his UCF debut and his return to the quarterback position. Plumlee helped stake the Knights to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter.

Isaiah Bowser rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns to help the Knights rush for 292 yards as a team. UCF gained 600 yards on offense, while the defense limited the Bulldogs to 91 yards (56 passing, 35 rushing). The Knights took a 42-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but Plumlee found Zach Marsh-Wojan for a 21-yard score to make it a 39-point lead before Quadric Bullard capped the scoring when he blocked a punt and dove on the loose ball in the end zone.

The Knights take on the Cardinals of Louisville (0-1; 0-1 ACC) for a primetime matchup on Friday at 7:30pm. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Check out highlights of UCF’s win over SC State below, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference:

Video Courtesy the American Athletic Conference

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

UCF Knights Knock Off Gators in Gasparilla Bowl, Have Record Recruiting Class, Look to Big 12

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 19:56

The UCF Knights (9-4; 5-3 AAC) took care of business last Thursday against the Florida Gators (6-7; 2-6 SEC), winning the Gasparilla Bowl 29-17 in Tampa. As reported by the AAC (via AP):

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Isaiah Bowser ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns, Ryan O’Keefe had 85 yards on seven receptions, and UCF earned Sunshine State bragging rights by beating Florida 29-17 in the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday night.

UCF (9-4) took a 26-17 lead late in the third when Daniel Obarski made a 21-yard field goal and Mikey Keene threw a 54-yard scoring strike to O’Keefe in the span of about two minutes. Obarski then made it 29-17 on a 33-yarder with 2:41 to play.

Florida quarterback Emory Jones, playing in his final game with the Gators before entering the transfer portal, completed 14 of 36 passes for 171 yards. He also ran for 62 yards on 10 carries.

Florida was led by interim coach Greg Knox, who took over when Dan Mullen was fired before the regular-season finale against Florida State. Former Louisiana coach Billy Napier will take over for the 2022 season. Florida (6-7) finished with its first losing record since 2017.

UCF outgained Florida 436-376. O’Keefe also put up 110 rushing yards, including a 74-yard run in third quarter after which Bowser put UCF up 16-10 with a TD run 4 yards out.

Florida regained the lead, 17-16, on its next possession when Malik Davis had a 19-yard rushing TD.

Florida led 10-9 at halftime thanks to Chris Howard’s 26-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the second quarter.

Keene replaced starting QB Dillon Gabriel, who broke his left collarbone against Louisville in September. The true freshman went 14 of 22 for 144 yards on Thursday.

It was the first time the time the two teams played since Florida won 42-0 during its 2006 national championship season. The Gators also won 58-27 in 1999.

The announced crowd at Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a Gasparilla Bowl record of 63,669.

The Knights also pulled in one of the program’s best recruiting classes ever, ranking 41 nationally. With a 9-4 2021 record (especially given the team’s adversity), a win against Florida, and a move to the Big 12 Conference (probable in 2023), the future has never been brighter for the UCF Knights.

Check out video highlights of the Knights’ win over the Gators in the Gasparilla Bowl, courtesy of ESPN, below:

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