It’s the War on I-4, and the budding rivalry between UCF and USF could not hold more importance. The winner would go to the American Conference championship game. Above that, UCF enters this game undefeated and looking for a New Year’s Six bowl game. This is Orlando’s football team, and with all at stake today, Spectrum Stadium became one of the most electric environments I have experienced.
News that Miami had just been upset buzzed through massive swaths of tailgate parties as the realization sunk in that UCF was now one of only three undefeated teams in the country. This game was so monumental that each UCF player had a picture of himself as part of the helmet logo, and each player’s home zip code was on the front of the helmet. Every detail was considered.
On Black Friday, the color black dominated the arena. But, with UCF and USF being only 100 Miles apart, there was plenty of fan support for the visiting Bulls. Still, the home crowd Knights were deafening. From the moment the UCF Knight led the team out galloping proudly on Pegasus, the crowd decibel level remained piercing.
Both teams came equipped with high powered offenses, and both teams delivered in their respective first drives with explosive plays to score touchdowns. Central Florida intensified the offensive pressure, but it seemed like every time UCF made a significant surge ahead, QB Quintez Flowers and WR Tyre McCants would have an answer. The back and forth nature of the game kept this stadium, aptly nicknamed The Bounce House, literally shaking. UCF led by 1 at half.
Darkness fell on Spectrum Stadium for a second half that would pile on more yards and more points. The lead traded sides in the second half sending waves of anxiety through Floridian hearts and minds. Cell phones lit up the around the entirety of the stadium adding even more electricity to the crowd.
The game became a classic within a few moments toward the conclusion. Down by 8, Quintez Flowers connected on an 83 yard bomb and converted the two point conversion to tie. Overtime appeared to be the impending narrative.
Until the ensuing kickoff.
Mike Hughes returned the kick 95 yards for a touchdown that USF could not recover from. Every last held breath was released into the Orlando air with a sonic boom and the Knights would finish the season undefeated heading into the conference championship game.
A historic moment at UCF and in college football lore. A game for the record and memory books. Thrilled that the stars aligned for college football tour to witness this incredible gridiron moment.