The fall of UCF football

It was a long time coming.


UCF’s backup QB, Darriel Mack Jr., wasn’t up to the task against LSU.

Bennett Carollo, Staff Writer

It finally happened. The UCF Knights football team’s 25 game winning streak, which dated all the way back to their 2017 season opener versus FIU, came to an end with a 40-32 loss in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl at the hands of the LSU Tigers. Although the score ended up being close, make no mistake; the Tigers were the far superior team throughout the game. They outgained the Knights 547 yards to 195 and gained 32 first downs compared to UCF’s 12. The narrow eight-point final margin can be attributed to a 93-yard pick-six by the Knights’ Brandon Moore in the first quarter and LSU’s inability to score touchdowns (they kicked four field goals in the red zone). LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was impressive, as he completed 21 of 34 passes for 394 yards.

It really is a shame that this loss for UCF was a cause for celebration for me, as I usually tend to root for underdogs and the Knights certainly fit the bill as one. Playing outside of the “Power Five” conferences in college football, UCF was always going to be facing an uphill battle to gain respect, and their journey to attain said respect should’ve been a story that someone like me would be all over. In fact, I was initially a supporter of what UCF was doing. Last season, as the Knights worked on their undefeated season, I became intrigued by their story. However, the situation, in my eyes, quickly grew to be out of control after the Knights defeated the SEC’s Auburn Tigers in the 2018 Peach Bowl. It became clear at that point that these UCF fans were after more than just some simple respect, as they proceeded to deem themselves as the national champions simply for being undefeated. They threw all logic out the window and sought to tarnish the real National Championship that had been won by Alabama. Simply put, the school’s obnoxious and borderline-toxic fans steered me directly to the anti-UCF side, as they showed that they would accept nothing less than being recognized as the undisputed best team in the nation. An outlandish proposition, no doubt.

There are many flaws in what UCF was claiming. That win over Auburn was the only quality Power Five opponent that they had beaten all year and only the second Power Five school they had played. Not to mention, Auburn was likely devastated over missing out on a chance to participate in the College Football Playoff after losing the SEC Championship game to Georgia a few weeks before. In other words, the Peach Bowl was UCF’s Super Bowl, while the Tigers clearly played disinterested football and had a handful of players sit out in order to not risk injury ahead of the NFL draft. This is not to say that UCF deserves no credit for what they’d accomplished, but national champions? Really?

UCF fans’ egos only grew throughout this season, as they boasted about beating Pitt, a mediocre ACC team that finished the year 7-7. They wouldn’t let meaningless things like facts and logic get in the way as they infested Playoff discussions everywhere, demanding to be considered despite having no quality wins and narrowly having escaped a game against 8-6 AAC opponent Memphis. Even as the 2018 season wound down, these UCF crazies were still seen citing last year’s Auburn win as a reason that they deserved respect in this entirely new season. Baffling, to say the least. The Knights’ ranking climbed as high as number seven, which was a ranking that I even deemed to be too high considering their body of work, but still they were not satisfied. Not even close. They unironically believed that they deserved to be number one in the nation, ahead of powerhouses like Alabama and Clemson who were battle tested and play in strong conferences.

All of this led up to the Fiesta Bowl. It wasn’t the Playoff that UCF fans had been clamoring for (and still are), but it was the next best thing. The Knights would get the chance to prove that the previous year’s Peach Bowl result was no fluke, as they squared off with number 11 LSU, one of the SEC’s best teams. Forget the other 25 victories; winning this one game would’ve shut up all the “haters” once and for all and established UCF’s spot as one of the top teams in the nation. However, as we all now know, UCF was no match. Instead, it is they who have been silenced.

Or have they? It didn’t take long for the UCF whining to take a new form: excuses. Clearly, they asserted, they lost only because starting quarterback Mackenzie Milton was injured. Never mind the fact that LSU was literally running out of defensive backs due to starters skipping the game, being injured, or being suspended; only UCF faces adversity. So, there you have it. I present to you the 2018 self-proclaimed back-to-back national champions, the UCF Knights, because obviously losing to the fourth best SEC team by only one score without your quarterback is a championship clinching performance.