On Sept. 3, the UCF Knights played their first game under the leadership of Head Coach Scott Frost. They ran out onto the field at Brighthouse Networks Stadium as underdogs, the result of a disappointing 0-12 season in 2015.
What a difference a year makes. Following a successful 2016 season, the Knights are heading to the AutoNation Cure Bowl on Dec. 17 to take on Arkansas State at Camping World Stadium.
UCF became bowl eligible after a 24-3 win against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Nov. 12. This is the seventh time in the past 10 years that the team has made it to a bowl game, and it will mark the eighth total bowl game in the program’s history.
During the 2016 season, UCF won six games, making this the second biggest turnaround for a winless team since 2004. The only other team to go winless and then reach a bowl in the following season during that span was also the Knights in 2004 (0-11) and then 2005 (8-5).
So how did the Knights get here? Highlights include:
- A 38-0 win against South Carolina State in the first game of the season. This was the first shutout pitched by the defense since a 16-0 win at USF on Nov. 28, 2014 and the 23rd shutout by UCF in school history.
- In a 24-16 win against UConn on Oct. 22, UCF put together their longest scoring drive of the season, going 93 yards midway through the second quarter. They also tied up the all-time series against the Huskies 2-2.
- UCF beat Tulane 37-6 on Nov. 5. The Knights scored three defensive touchdowns in the game, which has never happened based on historical data available to the UCF Athletics Communications staff. DB Drico Johnson scored on both a 30-yard fumble and an 86-yard interception return, and DB Shaquill Griffin scored on a 33-yard interception return.
Frost was a welcome addition for the 2016 season, and UCF fans hoped he could turn it all around for the team. During a press conference following the Knights’ win against the Bearcats, he gave all of the credit to the players.
“I think the key to the turnaround was the players, the players’ attitude,” Frost says. “They were hungry to have somebody lead them and show them a new way. Not that the old way was bad because you know they won a lot of games around here before. But I think after a tough season they were just hungry for a new direction and because of that they bought into everything we’re asking them to do and it’s their work ethic and their character that’s gotten us here.”
“We’re thrilled to be in a bowl game,” UCF head coach Scott Frost said Sunday. “Our guys have done a lot to earn a chance to play in the post-season. I think it’s wonderful that we get to play right here in the great city of Orlando. I think it’s going to give us an opportunity to have a lot of fans. It’s going to make travel and logistics easy for our football team and I can’t wait to give our seniors another chance to play football. I would love to see this team end this season on a good note. We’d love to send our seniors out on a good note. So we’re going to prepare as hard as we can.”
Funds from the AutoNation Cure Bowl will directly fund individual breast cancer researchers through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation where .91 of every dollar donated is spent on research. On game day, fans can receive free mammograms at Florida Hospital’s Cure Village, which will be located adjacent to the stadium.
For tickets, visit CureBowl.com. If you are unable to attend, the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network at 5:30 p.m. EST.
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) December 4, 2016